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From PBS’s “Booklights,” Pam suggests three ways to help your child’s reading progress, broken down by the people involved in the process.
1. Helping the Teacher!
Any parent — you — can help with reading skills, even if you’re not in possession of a state-regulated curriculum.
If you’re good at reading aloud, offer to come in and read to the kids once in a while. Or ask about that state-regulated curriculum and find books in your library that can support it.
Pam brought in folktales, when her children were studying Native American culture; How Chipmunk Got His Stripes was a favorite. When they learned about insects, she brought in Farfallina and Marcel.
You can use storytime to bring more depth to issues teachers can’t cover in class.
Or volunteer to select a book and read along with a single student in a pull-out program. Send the book home for them to practice. (You’re giving them a little extra attention; and you need no training.)
You can help with writing practice. Or running small book groups. Or simply preparing materials for the teachers.
2. Helping Your Child!
Helping your child at the beginning reading stage can be laborious, patience-testing, and frustrating. But remember that she’ll benefit most by mixing up the type of reading she does.
Easy books will reinforce the feeling that reading can be fun. Books in her comfort zone give her confidence. Books that are a challenge will push her learning to the next level. And this applies throughout a person’s reading life!
Don’t be one of those parents who tell your first-grader they can’t bring home a “baby book.” A better approach, says Pam, is to let her bring home some books that she chooses and other books that you choose.
3. Helping Yourself!
Avoid the “Reading Game,” says Pam. It goes something like, “We can’t tear Jacob away from Harry Potter! What is YOUR child reading…?”
Parental competition starts early (“Lizzie was smiling at two weeks”) and goes on from there. “Reggie made all-stars again!” “Jamal is going to Harvard, but I’m sure that’s a good school too.”
Competition snakes its way in at many levels of a child’s growth, but verbal skills and reading level seem to dominate.
In my thirteen years as a parent, no one has ever asked me if my kids can do long division or sing in tune or climb a tree. But from the first year, I’ve been asked to compare what words they were saying and then what words they recognized and then what words they were reading until it was all about reading and levels and books.
According to Pam, there is only one way to win this game and that is not to play. Don’t get sucked in, don’t let yourself feel bad, and don’t let yourself push your kid based on these conversations. Also, of course, don’t let yourself get too proud either, because kids have a way of surprising you.
She says it’s meaningless anyway, so don’t take it seriously. Honest exchange is useful and necessary, and you know the difference. One kind of exchange makes you feel connected to another mom or dad; the other makes you feel like a failure. Keep looking for and building connections.
source: Pam’s post on 9/10/09 at “Booklights” on the PBS Parents Web site. http://tinyurl.com/mblcrz
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