My Home Page - Reading Tips for Parents



    By Mrs. Donahue, Literacy Specialist




    How well does your child read?  You may say, “My child reads all the time.” Or “My child reads beautifully,” meaning he or she pronounces all the words correctly.  But, how do you know that your child comprehends or understands what he or she has read?  (This is the true meaning of what reading is....Comprehension.Aside from getting a report card from school, you could assess your child’s reading ability at home and then work on strategies to help him/her.  Where do you start and how do you know what to work on?  You could design a hand written test, but that really wouldn’t help you get on your child’s good side.  Instead you want to “test” his/her comprehension in a fun and informal way.  In the following pages are some activities with tips and suggestions that you could try.  Many of these strategies would apply regardless of the

    age group you are working with.


    The basic Reading Strategies that should be stressed when a child reads are as follows: 

    • Make Pictures in your mind to help you understand what is happening in the story.
    • Ask yourself Questions like:  Who are the characters in the story? What are the characters doing in the story?  Where does the story take place?  When does the story take place? Why does the character do whatever it is he/she is doing?  How does your character solve the problem in the story?  Keep asking yourself different questions to reinforce and recall what you are reading.
    • Make Predictions about what will happen next in the story.
    • Make connections to the characters or situations in the story.
    • Think about the illustrations if there are any.
    • Stop to recap the story before going on to the next chapter or section.
    • Reread the confusing parts over to make sure you understand what is happening.

    (See Sub-Pages for more details about each of the above "Strategies")


    BE A GOOD READING ROLE MODEL.  Let your child see you reading for pleasure as well as for information.  Let him/her know that you value reading.  Whether it is that you are reading the newspaper, magazine, or a good book.  Even looking up information in a dictionary, telephone book or yellow pages is something that children should be familiar with knowing how to do.  Share the experience.  Let him/her help you find the information.         


    TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT THE BOOKS HE/SHE IS READING.  Tell him/her about books you enjoyed when you were a child and ones that you are reading now.


    GIVE YOUR CHILD THE OPPORTUNITY TO READ ALOUD TO YOU, ANOTHER FAMILY MEMBER OR ANOTHER CHILD.  Make the experience a  chance for your child to share his reading skills and practice fluency.  Have him/her read the book silently before asking him/her to read it aloud.  If your child is reading to you, correct mistakes only when the mistake changes the meaning of the sentence and then supply the word without making him/her feel bad for having made a mistake.  If there is a younger sibling at home, have your child select a picture book to read aloud to that sibling.  Encourage your child to read with expression and change his/her voice with the different dialog parts in the story.  Encourage him/her to read smoothly with fluency.  The more practice he/she gets to read, the better he/she will get.  Remember, even though your child may be reading a picture book to a younger sibling and the words may be fairly simple, it is the fluency and expression you want him/her to exhibit.  In this case, it is a win-win situation for both children.


    PROVIDE YOUR CHILD WITH BOOKS TO READ.  Take your child to the library or book store.  Help him/her select books on topics he/she is interested in and on his/her reading level.  A simple rule of thumb for helping your child select books at his/her reading level is to have him/her choose a page in the book (not the first one) and read it.  If he/she doesn’t know five or more of the words, then the book is too hard for pleasure reading.  Many times children will select a book by its cover.  Just try to guide your child into making an appropriate choice.  Also children will select non-fiction books because they like the pictures or topic.  Again, this is fine, as long as the text is appropriate for him/her to read and comprehend and not too technical with many difficult words.

    READ THE SAME BOOK AS YOUR CHILD.  If you can, get a second copy of the book your child is reading, so you can read the same book.  Then take the opportunity to talk about the book with your child.  Discuss the characters, plot, illustrations, themes, etc.  Create your own little book club.  Agree to read the same chapter(s) as your child and then “discuss” it with him/her.  Or read alongside of your child, reading from the same book.  Alternate reading pages aloud to each other, or read them silently and discuss afterwards.  Make reading time fun and a shared experience.  Talk about reading.                                                    


    Instead of bombarding your child with a bunch of comprehension questions, reverse the roles and have your child ask you questions about the story.  Through his/her questions to you, he/she will better comprehend the story.  And…you will know the correct  answers to guide him/her if he/she is incorrect or missed a point.  This role reversal will give you an opportunity for discussion and a chance to check comprehension.  Sometimes you may want to give an incorrect response and have your child “explain” the correct information.  This will enable you to check or reinforce his/her comprehension of the material as well.  Also, by putting your child in the “teacher” role, puts him/her in control and gives him/her confidence without feeling like he/she is put in the “hot seat”.  If your child does not comprehend a part of the story, then the two of you can re-read that section together for clarification.


      Here are some ideas/questions to get your discussions started:

    •  Don’t forget the 5W+H questions words: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How
    • Describe your characters’ personalities.  Give some examples of how your character showed that character trait.  What actions or words did the character express?
    • What do you think the character will do next based on his/her personality?
    • What is the problem that your character has to try to solve?
    • How does your character solve the problem?
    • How does your character change from the beginning to the end of the story?
    • How does your character feel?  (Feelings are very important.  They help you get inside your character’s head to help you know your character more intimately.) 
    • Can he/she compare and contrast two characters in the story?  How are two characters alike and how are they different?
    • Discuss the setting (time and place) of the story and how the setting changes throughout the story.
    • Before reading the next chapter, see if your child can give you a recap of the story thus far by retelling the main events in the correct sequence.
    • Talk about the titles of books/chapters and what they mean. 


    Whatever you do, try to make reading time a fun, shared experience.  Pick a quiet time without any other distractions.  Remember, you are your child’s “first” teacher.  Helping him/her at home with any reading or homework assignment can be a benefit to both you and your child.