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Parent: 5 Tips for Reading with Beginning Readers

The Teacher Asked You To Read With Your Child—5 Tips for How To Do That


Picture this: Your child comes home and says, “My teacher says my homework is to read with you.”

So you sit down, listen for a few minutes and think…”What am I doing here exactly?”

Knowing how to support a young reader is not complicated but it's also not something we are born knowing how to. Most of us can't remember learning to read so it's helpful to have some tips of things you can do to help your child become a better reader.

TIP #1: Ask questions while you read together.

Why it helps: In order to read and understand a book, your child’s brain is working overtime. But he probably doesn’t realize it. You can make that thinking more visible and more likely to continue, by asking questions.

How to do it:

Before you start reading “prime the pump” by asking things like:

What will this book (or article or text) help you learn?

What do you think this book will be about? Why do you think that?

What do you already know about these characters (this topic, this type of book)?

While you’re reading help your child think about how their reading:

  • What do you think will happen next? Why?

  • What are you picturing in your head?

  • What questions do you have?

  • What does ______mean?

  • What word was difficult on this page? Why?

After you’re done reading help your child put it all together by asking:

  • What was this book (article, poem, paragraph) mostly about?

  • Hint: If it’s a book you can use the “five finger summary” Use the fingers on one hand to remember these five prompts—1. SOMEONE (name the character) 2. WANTED (name what the motivated the character) 3. BUT (name the conflict or problem) 4. SO (name how the character overcame the conflict) 5. THEN (name what happened in the end).  

TIP #2: If your child is still sounding out longer words, cover each part of the word with your finger as she goes through each sound.

Why it helps: In order to read words, kids have to be able to put all the sounds together. So for example, the word “together” is actually “to---geth---er.” Some kids have a hard time doing this automatically but covering up parts of the word helps them slow down and digest it bit by bit.

How to do it: When your child comes to a word she needs to sound out, pause and have her concentrate on each sound by covering up the other letters. VERY IMPORTANT: After she has mastered the word, have your child go back and reread the sentence from the beginning. That way she can hear how the word works in the sentence. In reading, slow and steady wins the race. Help your child learn to not rush through the tricky words.

TIP #3: Read aloud with your child

Why it helps: When a knowledgeable reader (you) reads aloud alongside a learning reader (your child) it helps them hear and understand how reading should sound. Think of yourself as training wheels.

How to do it: Read slowly, with as much as expression as you can. Invite your child to read along with you and match your tone. Sometimes when I’m doing this I’ll go silent for a phrase or two so I can hear my child try it on his own.  

TIP #4: “Echo Read” with your child

Why it helps: Like reading aloud with your child, you are helping your child learn what fluent reading sounds like.

How to do it: Similarly to reading aloud with your child, read with as much expression as you can. Pay attention to punctuation. Read a phrase or a sentence and then ask your child to echo it back to you, using the same tone and voice inflections. You can also do a combination where you read a sentence, you and your child read it together, and then your child reads the sentence on their own. Once again, slow and steady. Sometimes struggling readers want to rush through and finish the book. But the goal is to practice reading skills, not race through the book.

TIP #5: Ask your child to read and reread the same passage every day for a week.

Why it helps: Rereading helps beginning readers (and struggling readers) cement some reading skills and try out new ones (like paying attention to punctuation). If they are always reading new material, they are always reading in a heightened sense of stress. No one likes that.

How to do it: Have your child select a short book (picture books work great for older kids) or a page out of the longer book or even just a paragraph. Then ask him to read it and reread it once a day, each time trying to read with as much expression as he can. At first, he will concentrate on getting the right words. Then he can work on paying attention to punctuation. Next he can think about making his voice match the meaning of the words better. By the end of the week it should sound like he is just talking or telling a story instead of reading.

Check out some common Myths of Reading with Beginning Readers in the Toolbox.

Start here: Wondering what your child should sound like at this stage? Check out the Milestone videos on

Challenge Yourself: Set up a conference with your child's teacher to talk about your child's progress. Ask the teacher to model some specific things you can do when you read. 

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