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“Read pages 36-38 in your reader to a family member. When you finish, answer the questions in the margin."
If you’ve ever seen this line in your child’s assignment book, you’ve probably wondered what your role is supposed to be. How can parents help their children read? Should you just sit there and listen to your child read? Should you drill her to make sure she understands what she’s read to you? Should you help her if she stumbles over the words? These questions and others plague many parents when their children bring home reading homework. Here are some reading tips and think aloud strategies for parents to use while helping with homework.
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Before You Begin
Show excitement about listening to your child read to you. Announcements like “Wow, that seems like a really interesting book!" or “Oh, good, I love to listen to you read, and I can’t wait to hear what the story is about" are great ways to show your children the importance that you place on reading and books. Make sure that he has had a healthy snack or meal beforehand so that he will be able to concentrate on the story. Take him to a quiet place, make sure both of you are comfortable, and smile at him before he begins. Besides encouraging a love of reading, you’ll be preparing the perfect atmosphere for quality time with your child.
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How to React
As your child reads, you may be wondering how to react. There’s a possibility that you won’t need to react at all. If you’ve created a positive atmosphere for your child, she may be so involved with her reading that she won’t seem to notice you. If this is the case, don’t interrupt their concentration by asking questions or inserting comments about the story.
Many children, however, enjoy positive feedback from a parent as they read. If your child looks up at you for approval after every few words, reward her with a smile and a nod. If she stops at the end of a sentence or a paragraph, feel free to offer her a comment: “Can you believe that Marcy did that?" or “I would have felt horrible if that had happened to me."
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When a child is reading to a parent, it can be tempting to correct every mistake – but it’s often best to hold back. As long as your child understands the general idea of the book, correcting him can make him feel like he’s being tested, which can discourage him. Instead, wait until he finishes the sentence and ask him to summarize what he’s read. If he cannot do this, reread the sentence for him, leaving out the word that he mispronounced. Then let him fill in the correct word.
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The most important part of reading isn’t sounding out the words; it’s understanding the message the author is conveying. That’s why it’s essential that you talk with your child and think aloud about what you’ve read, both during and after reading. Stay away from questions that seem like “quizzes" or that imply that you don’t trust that s/he understands, such as “Who was the main character in the story we just read?" Instead, discuss the parts of the book that you found most interesting, or tie a part of the book into your child’s daily life. For example, you might say, “Wow, Tim did a lot of fun activities in this book. Which do you think would be the most fun?" With an older child, you might ask a question like “Do you think Tim did the right thing? What would you have done differently?"
Once you discover the best way you as a parent can help your children read, you will really begin to enjoy reading time more and more. These reading tips and think aloud reading strategies will certainly help as well. Who knows, maybe you can even learn something from them reading to you!