Parent’s Survival Guide to the Quarantine Reading Slump
How to renew your child’s love of reading
Every parent knows that it is there lurking somewhere within their child. A passion for books and reading, but for some reason the desire to read is hidden. Summer is here and this is typically the time that a parent really notices that their child does not read enough or any, however many of you have probably seen much more of your child in the last three months and have noted this deficiency in their behavior much earlier. No doubt you have already acted on this and if you have succeeded in getting your child to read that is fantastic, please write about your success. If you find that your child still has not spent as much time doing what should be the pleasurable experience of reading then I hope to provide some easy to follow strategies to help you and your child enjoy reading together. Now a few prerequisites about the strategies:
Age doesn’t matter.
These strategies are for children of any age, you as a parent will know best how to work with the maturity level of your child.
Reading ability doesn’t matter.
We begin doing any task with the skills that we bring to the table. All children are different and your child may be a gifted reader or a struggling reader. All children will benefit regardless of their reading ability.
Parent skill doesn't matter either.
You do not need to be a reading expert to use any of these strategies. Parents are natural teachers.
Why does my child dislike reading?
I am a firm supporter of our educational system, I have been a special education teacher, administrator, director of a special education consulting agency and I currently have the privilege of helping teachers teaching reading. Teachers work hard to teach all of the curricula that they are required to teach for their grade level. However, it is hard to teach a love for a subject and to allow for individual growth in areas such as reading. I barely would look at a book for years after I received my doctorate. I was sick of reading. Students can feel the same way.
Unfortunately, children may also be struggling with reading. Students are exposed to grade-level content and books that are at the instructional level. If a child is reading one or two grade levels below the one they are in now that child will feel like reading is just something they can not do well and they give up. A good analogy is learning to drive a car. Typically you learn to drive an older, safe car in a very remote area, country road, field, empty parking lot. You practice at a safe level where you can develop automaticity and confidence. The more you practice the more challenging driving challenges you face with ease and confidence. Generally, a parent would not take their novice driver on a car trip pull over on a busy interstate highway and tell their child, “This looks like a good place to practice, get behind the wheel.”Children need to start with books that are safe and on their level. This leads to the first strategy:
Help your child find books that they like.
Children read best when they have books that they enjoy, can read fluently, and understand. Matching these books to your child may take a little work. Talk to your child about books that they like, characters or subjects they enjoy, authors, and book series that they are familiar with. Do they have access to these books at home? This doesn’t require a huge Amazon order, maybe a trip to the library or a thrift store. If these options are not open yet in your area consider sources for free books available online. Many publishers are extending free trial memberships to families and educators. If your child can have an option in choosing what they read they are more likely to want to read.
Help your child find the just-right books.
Help your child find books that are just right. A just-right book is a book that is on your child’s independent reading level. In other words, the child can read the book and correctly read almost 100% of the words without struggling. The child should also sound fairly fluent, keeping in mind a kindergarten level of fluency sounds much different from a 4th-grade level. The child should also be able to tell you a few things that are happening in the book. For example: Who is the main character, did something funny happen in the book, where or when did the story occur?
There are many great book leveling systems out there, Fountas and Pinnell is one of the most widely used systems. If you are interested in a more formal approach that is a good place to start, however, if you find that the child can successfully read a selection, sound fairly fluent, and tell you a little about what they have read then you should have a just-right book!
Help your child find some independent reading time.
There are various suggested reading times for children based on their age. Let your child start where they are at. Reading is like any other form of exercise you have to build stamina. No one begins running the full length of a marathon. If your child has a good selection of books that they are interested in and that they can read independently then it is more likely they will read which is the goal we are trying to achieve. Your child will increase the time they spend reading naturally. The parent and child may want to arrive at a mutually agreed upon challenge time such as 10 minutes a day for 5 days a week. The reward may be more books and then a new challenge can be set.
Talk to your child about what they are reading.
In education, we call this conferring. At home, it should just be a pleasant moment between a parent and their child. Ask your child to read a short selection to you. If you notice that the child is struggling with a lot of words, (4 or 5 on a single page is a good indicator the book is too hard) then help them find a book that is closer to their independent reading level.
Pro Tip: We all want to help a child by telling them what a word is, but it is okay to let the child struggle to decode a word. This lets you see how they deal with unknown words while they are reading to themselves. Sometimes just asking them to skip the word is helpful as they may be able to figure it out later. If the child is very frustrated or if the word is a strange proper noun just tell them what the word is.
After they read compliment them on something that you noticed them doing, for example: “You were making your voice sound like the character! That is what good readers do!” Keep the compliment as specific as possible, but if you can’t think of anything just tell them they are a fantastic reader!
Teach only one thing.
You could end the conference at the compliment, however, if you feel you have to teach something then it would be a good time to point out a skill that would benefit the child to make them a better reader. Keep the lesson to one single skill, keep it short and easily replicated by the child. For example, “I noticed that when you were reading you didn’t slow down when you got to a period.” At this point model how it sounds when you read a book without any pauses. Make it sound funny and exaggerated. Then ask the child to read a short paragraph making sure that they pause between the sentences. When you can see that they can do the skill ask them to practice pausing at the end of sentences as they read independently. The next time you confer with your child you may ask if they have been pausing. When you get them to read you may find that they are doing what you asked consistently or you may find they need to continue to practice. It may take several times for a skill to become permanent.
Help your child find books that they want to read and can read. Allow them time to read, whatever amount of time they start with is fine. Then talk to your child about what they are reading, give them a quick and easy tip to help with their reading and let them go. Reading at home should be a fun activity for everyone, not a chore, or an extension of school. Children need time to read books at their independent level, this builds phonemic awareness skills, phonics skills, vocabulary skills, fluency skills, and comprehension skills. When school starts back you will have a child that has avoided the summer slump and probably has increased their reading achievement without any specialized expensive reading programs. Good luck and enjoy your time with your child!