So, your child can read independently? Great! 🤩 But that doesn’t mean their reading education is over. Reading is so much more than decoding the words on the page.
Students need to really understand what they are reading. This includes the ability to write and talk about what they read.
So how can you help students learn to read at an advanced level? We’ll take you through a bunch of strategies that your child can use in their reading. But first, let’s talk about why it’s so important for your child to keep improving their reading skills.
Why reading is important for children
In the early years, students need to learn to read well. They do this by studying phonics (letter sounds and combinations of letters), plus learning exception words that don’t follow common patterns.
After students master the basics, they move from learning to read to reading to learn.
When does this happen? It varies for every student, but the goal is for all students to be reading well by the end of primary school. For some students this will happen sooner and for some it will take more time. The important thing is that your child continues to make progress on their own path! 🌈
Reading to Learn
Every school subject requires reading skills. As students advance in their studies, they need to be able to read and understand a variety of texts. A science book will explain complex concepts, a history lesson may involve reading a novel or a newspaper article, even maths requires reading in word problems!
The better a student can read, the easier it will be for them to focus on their studies and gain the knowledge they need. 💪
How to get kids to read at home
Reading is a great independent learning activity! But it can also be a family affair. To encourage reading at home, everyone at home should read regularly.
Of course, your child will have required reading assignments from school, but you should also allow time for them to choose books they want to read! Reading for pleasure is actually one of the best ways to ensure a student is successful with their reading growth.
Not sure what your child will like? There are lots of lists of suggested books for different age groups. Take your child to the library or let them browse online to find the perfect book for them. Now that they are able to read anything, the sky's the limit!
👉 Your child doesn’t need you to help read anymore, but you should stay aware of what they choose. Do a quick skim (or read some reviews online) of any books you aren’t familiar with before your child reads them. You want to make sure you are comfortable with the content and prepared for any questions that come up.
Speaking of questions, ask your child about what they are reading! You can use some of the tips below to help you get started. As kids get into more complex novels, encourage them to ask you questions too.
How to encourage kids to read 20 minutes a day (or more!)
Teachers often recommend that students read for 20 minutes a day at home. For some students, that’s easy peasy. But others have a harder time.
Now that your child is an advanced reader, you can help them set goals so that they can be independent in their reading. Talk with them to see what they think might be helpful. They are more likely to be successful if they make the plan themselves.
Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your brainstorming session:
- Schedule a specific time every day for reading
- Set a timer for 20 minutes to help them keep reading
- Got a maths lover? Create a chart or graph for them to track the minutes they spend reading
Set a SMART goal with your child to help them find success!
⭐ Just a note - Try focusing on the number of minutes as a goal rather than a number of pages or chapters. This is because everyone reads at different speeds, and students can easily get caught up in whether or not they are “fast enough.” But some kids prefer to go by chapters. Try both and do what works for your child!
How to improve reading comprehension skills
“Good comprehension draws from linguistic knowledge (in particular of vocabulary and grammar) and on knowledge of the world.”
Basically, the more a student knows, the easier it is for them to learn to read and to understand what they are reading. 🌍 So, expose your child to lots of different experiences! These can be in real life, through an educational television program, and (of course!) through reading aloud to them.
Build a strong vocabulary!
- Use the precise term for things whenever possible.
- Use a dictionary to look up unknown words, then practice using them in real life
- Use a thesaurus to find the perfect word for what you mean.
- Read aloud to your child - yes, even the older kids! This will expose them to new words that they can’t necessarily read on their own yet.
- Talk, talk, talk to your child.
- Encourage your child to read a wide range of topics.
- Watch educational videos or television shows, like a nature documentary.
Sometimes, students develop a bad habit of just reading the words on the page as quickly as they can. Don’t let this happen! 🚫
Good readers stop and think about what they are reading as they go. At the end of the section or chapter, they should try to say what happened in their own words. They should also pause to look up any words they don’t know before they go on.
You also need to make sure the book is at the right level for your child. The 5 finger test can help a child independently decide if a book it right for them to read on their own.
Reading comprehension strategies
These strategies will help your child understand their reading. Each school may have slightly different strategies or call them by different names, but the basic idea is the same across the board.
These skills are meant to be used within the context of reading.
Activating prior knowledge
Warm up that brain! 🧠 Ask your child to think about what they already know about the topic before they start reading. This is especially good for non-fiction texts.
Making inferences is a tricky skill for some students. They need to be able to read between the lines and make assumptions and predictions about what is going on.
A basic example would be a line from a novel that says, “He grit his teeth and scowled. ‘I don’t want to,’ he said.” From those clues I can assume he is angry, even though the text did not directly say so.
If that line said something more like, “He blinked back tears. ‘I don’t want to,’ he said,” we would infer something totally different, right? This sounds much more like he is sad. Inferring is a skill we do all the time, but we need to make it explicit for students!
Does this make sense? Do I know what that word means? Students should be thinking about what they are reading as they go. Even as adults, we sometimes get to the end of a page and realize we have no idea what we just read! Teach children to monitor themselves for this, and to go back and re-read whenever they need to.
You’re probably used to the idea of answering questions after reading something. And this is definitely important! But kids also need to learn to create their own questions as they read to deepen their understanding.
Have you ever asked your child about a book or a movie and gotten a play-by-play of the entire thing? That’s because summarizing just the main points is hard to do! A good summary gives the main points.
For fiction, try using “Somebody wanted but so then” to teach summarizing. In most stories, there is a character with a motivation who encounters a problem. With this strategy, students fill in the details to create a basic summary.
Somebody: the main character
Wanted: what was the character trying to do in the story?
But: what was the problem they faced?
So: what did they do?
Then: how did the problem get solved?
Encourage your child to create a mental picture as they read. This engages the brain in a different way and helps with understanding. They can also draw a picture or make a list on paper of important parts of their reading.
Often, teachers will use a graphic organizer to help students organize their thoughts. Physically writing things down helps students remember it better.
How to improve reading test scores
If your child has strong reading skills, they will be well-prepared for success with tests. ✍ Make sure they know how to use all the reading comprehension strategies to check their own understanding of what they are reading.
Many tests have written directions. Remind students to read all directions twice, and make sure they understand what they say before they get started. We don’t want them to make simple mistakes because they didn’t read carefully!
Does your student struggle with reading comprehension? Sometimes it takes a little extra instruction from a teacher for students to grasp the concepts.