Listening and Learning
From kindergarten through third grade, kids' ability to read
grows by leaps and bounds. Although teachers provide lots of help,
parents continue to play a role in their child's reading
A child first learning to read gets more information from
listening to books than from reading them independently. This is
especially true of vocabulary - your child will learn more about
what words mean by hearing books read aloud and discussing words
with you than from reading on his or her own.
And even as a child's reading skills improve, reading aloud
together can foster a sense of closeness and help improve
vocabulary and reading skills. Encouraging kids to talk about
characters or share reactions to books reinforces the connection
between books and their own lives. You also show that you take
their reading seriously and care about what they read. Positive,
loving attention from you helps your child feel safe, accomplished,
Your Growing Reader
Here's how reading usually progresses from kindergarten to
Most kindergarteners are on the cusp of becoming readers. They
"read" stories by looking at pictures and relying on
memory. By the end of the school year they will probably know most
letters and their sounds and start to read and write simple words.
They might be able to read simple text as well.
In this year, most kids learn to recognize printed words. They
sound out words, recognize some by sight, and know what they mean.
Most first-graders can read simple books independently by the end
of the school year.
Second and third grade.
By this point, kids should be reading independently, using books to
explore new words, learning about the world around them, reading
aloud more expressively, and enjoying specific authors and types of
books. Kids who are not making good reading progress may have a
reading disability, such as dyslexia.
If you have concerns about your child's reading level, talk
to your child's teacher, school counselor, and doctor to find
out ways to address the situation.
What to Read
As your child becomes a more confident reader, continue to
introduce a wide range of books. When it comes to reading aloud,
look for two types of books - those that could be read alone and
those that are above your child's current reading level. With
this mix, your child can re-read some of these books independently,
while you'll have to do the reading (or at least help) with the
challenging ones that allow your child to enjoy a more
sophisticated story and learn new words.
Let your child's interests lead the way when you are
choosing books. Sports? Music? Dinosaurs? Look for books on topics
you know are of interest and ones that relate to these things. For
example, if you know your child is interested in whales, look for
books that talk about famous explorers or historical fiction set on
whaling boats. As your child gets older, you will find that he or
she enjoys increasingly complex books that can each about the world
and introduce social and ethical issues.
Talk about the books your child is reading independently and for
school and about favorite topics and authors. If the author writes
a series of books, encourage your child to read them all. Some kids
enjoy keeping a checklist of favorite authors' books.
Other types of books your child may like include:
- biographies of famous people
- books about kids dealing with challenges
- books containing plot twists or language play
- science fiction and fantasy
Another way to grab your child's interest is to pick books
that have a personal connection. Introduce your childhood favorites
and talk about why you love them. Your child may also like to read
junior versions of the same magazines you read.
When and How to Read
The school-age child's schedule can be a busy one. You may
be having dinner on the go as you scoot from soccer practice to
music lessons. But if you can find 30 minutes a day to read with
your child, you will help ensure future reading success.
Use the same strategies you did when your child was younger -
talk about what you read before, during, and after, asking
open-ended questions that encourage your child's involvement.
Read expressively and with enjoyment.
But at this age, be sure to let your child read a book to you.
Or you might choose to take turns reading.
If your child is reading and can't sound out a word,
encourage him or her to skip it and read the rest of the sentence
before deciding what word would make sense. As your child becomes a
strong independent reader, you might allow some mistakes while
reading, then ask questions to reveal them ("Do you think that
word makes sense in this sentence?"). If your child seems
discouraged or tired while reading, offer to take over.
If you are reading a longer chapter book over time, here are
some tips for maintaining your child's interest:
- Save questions for the end so your child can simply enjoy the
story, but before you begin the next chapter, talk a little bit
about what happened in the previous one.
- Re-read lines your child found funny.
- Let your child read too (if he or she wants to).
- If a block of text is too challenging for your child,
don't be afraid to summarize or skip over it.
- Ask your child's opinion about a character's actions
or decisions. What would he or she do in the same situation?
- Offer your own honest opinions about what you've read,
and ask for the same from your child.
Making Time to Read
Reading aloud isn't the only way to encourage kids to read.
Provide other chances during day-to-day life, like cooking together
and having your child read you the recipe. Or when you play a new
game, ask your child to read the directions aloud.
Buy a dictionary for kids so that your child can look up
definitions of new words, and help him or her look up the answers
to questions in an encyclopedia or online.
Kids should have a library card and lots of opportunities to use
it. Let yours make selections or ask the librarian for help finding
As your child gets older and spends less time every day with
you, reading together can be a way for you to connect on a daily
basis. Talking about books gives you a window into a child's
imagination and thoughts about the world.
Laura Bailet, PhD
Date reviewed: April 2006
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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