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Educator: Why You Should Teach Families How To Read With Their Kids

Why You Should Teach Families How To Read With Their Kids

 
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Your students spend a lot of time outside of your classroom. And we know the learning that kids do at home can be a game-changer in their education. Kids who read and are read to have an enormous advantage when it comes to literacy.

Now, at this point we can throw up out hands and say, “Parents have to step it up!” or we can roll up our sleeves and figure out how to collaborate with parents better.

Take, for example, Springboard Collaborative. They do summer school a little differently. Instead of just focusing on kids who need to work on their literacy skills over the summer, Springboard enlists the help of families to leverage that crucial out-of-classroom time. And they’ve had promising results. Many of their students actually boost their reading level by 3 months over the summer, instead of sliding backwards.

How does Springboard leverage parents? Well, they don’t just tell them to “read with their kids” or “listen as your kid reads this decodable.” Instead they build relationships, they set goals together, and perhaps most importantly of all--they EXPLICITLY train parents on how to read with their kids and help their kids form strong reading habits. (And they have an app to support parents coming out soon! What a resource!)

This explicit instruction is often missing from our schools (and I should insert here the relationship that makes parents more receptive to explicit instruction is also missing. But that’s another article) So when we wonder why parents aren’t stepping it up! Perhaps they really just don’t know how.

But that can change.

Thinking that we, as educators, can help students become lifelong, thoughtful, skilled readers all on our own is hubris. Families make a huge difference in literacy instruction and we can ensure that the difference they make is positive!

From Day 1 in kindergarten, teach parents the WHY and HOW for the skills they need.

So for example, don’t just say: “Read to your child tonight.”

Instead say something like this:

Read to your kids for at least 15 minutes every day. Did you know that an important part of reading comprehension is knowing what the words mean (vocabulary) and knowing information about the world (we call this “background knowledge”). Families can play a huge role is helping kids develop both vocabulary and background knowledge (and bonus—background knowledge comes in every language!  Entonces lea con su hijo en la idioma que prefiere.)

Here is a list of books you’ll enjoy as a family on __(insert topic)___.

Here is a book from our classroom library. Enjoy it together as a family this weekend. You can read it 3 or 4 times and each time you’ll discover something new! A few questions you might discuss are…

How do you get reading time in? I can be hard! Share your tips so we can learn from each other. Text me your ideas so I can spread the knowledge.

Have a book you love reading together? Donate a copy to our classroom library! We love books en Español.

Don’t just say: "Read this book with your kids."

Instead say:

We’re working on the sound /a/ like in “cat” and “pat.” When your child reads this book to you, ask her to slow down and read each word, sound by sound. Listen for the /a/ sound. Then ask her to read it again, this time saying the words a little faster. If you have time to read it a third time and celebrate how smoothly she’s reading it! (Here is an article to read with more ideas for reading time).

Did you know that playing rhyming games can really help your child hear the different sounds in a word? If they can’t “hear” the sound, they will have trouble reading the sound. So play “What Rhymes With…” this weekend. Start with easier words like “bat” and “take.” Say each sound in the words. If you can, move on to words with /e/ (like “egg” and “free”) and /o/ (like “pot” and “coat”).

Here is a list of more games you could play. Copy the image to your phone. What other games do you play at home? We always need more ideas. Have any questions? Text me!

You get the idea. Give some specific instruction, explain the why, provide some different ways families can practice the skills, and leave the door open for collaboration. Have some faith in the families.

What about upper elementary?

Parents of older kids can provide different support and will likely have different questions than parents of beginning readers.

  • Start by asking what questions or concerns they have with their child’s reading. Figure out what to do next from there.

  • Continue to support reading at home by giving suggestions for books their kids might enjoy reading on their own (I know from experience that elementary kids can be voracious readers and staying ahead of them as a parent is not easy. Thank goodness for the 8.3 million pages in the Harry Potter series!)

  • Help parents have a vision for what reading looks like and sounds like at this level. Greatschools.org has a series of good “milestone” videos to help.

  • Explicitly encourage them to read aloud to their kids and on a variety of subjects. Let them know what you’re studying in class and give them ideas of how to strengthen that background knowledge. (We’re studying deserts—check out X and Y videos and read Z together.)

  • Assure parents of reluctant readers that there are things they can do at home to help. (Link coming soon) Especially encourage rereading. Many parents might not know that rereading is so beneficial for struggling readers.

  • Help parents know what questions they can ask their children about the books they are reading. Give them a list. 

  • Model, model, model. In the Toolbox, I have some videos you could share.

What about middle and high school?

Families still make a big difference in the academic lives of their children and literacy in particular. Middle and high school parents need to know that they can continue to help their children learn new words and new concepts by talking with them about what they read (and what their parents read) every day. They should also know what it expected of a middle or high school reader (they likely have forgotten.)

Here are a few other literacy skills that parents can help with:

Reading and taking notes

Navigating a textbook

Deciding what’s an important “take-away” in an article or text

Making time for reading

Persevering through a difficult text

Being able to explain to someone what you read.

Remember the formula from the earlier grade: Give some specific instruction, explain the why, provide some different ways families can practice the skills, and leave the door open for collaboration.

Thinking that we, as educators, can help students become lifelong, thoughtful, skilled readers all on our own is hubris. Families make a huge difference in literacy instruction and we can ensure that the difference they make is positive!

Start here: Share some resources with families to help them be a more effective literacy partner. You might start with Common Myths for Helping Your Child Learn to Read (found in the Toolbox).

Challenge yourself: Share the link to the Milestone video that corresponds with the grade you teach. Ask families to watch and share any concerns or questions.

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