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Before you can help improve your child's reading skills, you must first understand what students at this level are expected to do before, after and while they are reading. Below is a list of reading skills a 4th grade student should posses:
- Independently read 4th grade level text
- Self-select text that is at a "just right" level
- Be able to identify and distinguish different genres - for instance being able to distinguish fiction from nonfiction or realistic fiction from fantasy
- Separate fact from opinion
- Analyze both literary and informational text
- Identify the elements of a story such as setting, characters, problem, events and resolution
- Compare and contrast the settings, characters and events in and between stories
- Identify main ideas and details
- Make inferences, draw conclusions, extend, and make connections about the text
- Define a character's point of view, actions and motivations
- Understand how to use reference material to learn unfamiliar words
- Use context clues to infer word meaning
- Understand antonyms, homonyms, synonyms and multiple meanings of words
- Use a variety of strategies in decoding unknown words
- Read aloud with appropriate fluency - including rate, accuracy, expression and attention to punctuation
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it gives a general impression of the basic reading skills every 4th grade student should strive to achieve.
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What You Can Work on at Home
If your child is behind, or if you would like to simply reinforce and build on the skills he or she already demonstrates, there are plenty of things you can do at home. Here is a list of suggestions:
- The most important thing you can do to help improve grade 4 reading skills is to encourage your child to read, read, read! Children this age should strive for 30 minutes of self-sustained reading time daily.
- Model good reading habits yourself.
- Have your child orally summarize a chapter or story he has read.
- Provide a variety of materials at home - not just books, but magazines and newspapers.
- Rent a DVD of a book that your child has read. Together, orally compare and contrast the movie and the book.
- Read the same book your child is reading and take time to discuss the plot, vocabulary, characters in a daily or weekly "book chat" to check and improve comprehension.
- Involve your child in reading directions, recipes, and instructions.
- Encourage your child to listen to audio books as a way to model appropriate fluency.
- Read aloud to your child to model appropriate inflection and attention to punctuation.
- Encourage your child to make connections between what they are reading and their own background knowledge or experiences.
- Facilitate a book club for your child and his or her friends, or participate in a parent/child book club.
- Have your child keep their own reading log.
- Encourage your child to read aloud to younger siblings. This will give you an opportunity to check their use of rate, fluency, expression and attention to punctuation.
- Give your child the opportunity to write book reviews. There are several online sites like SpaghettiBookClub.com which give students the opportunity to write and share their own reviews.
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Working on reading skills takes daily effort. For your child, the reward is having the confidence, knowledge and skills to achieve through reading. For you, the reward is knowing you helped him or her to get there!