By: Whitney Haynes
The school year is in full swing, and if you are like every other parent in the continental US, you are still rejoicing. That is until you see those dreaded words: “Homework tonight: Read!” Fear has struck you down! Anguish has entered your soul! Like every other parent, I too have a child that has resisted when I have said, “Time to read!” Well, to soften the blow, I have provided you with some tips on how to make reading at home less painful for everyone involved.
First of all, it starts with you. Everything with your child always does. You must get involved. Reading homework does not mean lock your child in a quiet room and launch a book at them. Here’s the secret: teachers really do want you to read with your child. As a matter of fact, when your child sees you having fun reading, they will enjoy it so much more.
Have you ever given much thought to the kinds of books your child is reading? I have found, that parents often times believe “reading homework” means they must read some kind of story book from the library. In actuality, there are so many different types of texts your child could be reading. Magazines, comics, EBooks, plays are only a few types of texts you may not have thought of sharing with your child.
The topic of the text is just as important as the type. Take into consideration what topics your child enjoys. I always tell my students, “If you don’t like cats, please don’t choose a book that documents the life cycle of the domestic feline.” If your child likes basketball, choose texts about basketball. If your child likes Star Wars, find a Star Wars text.
The level of text your child really makes a huge difference. If a book is too difficult, the book just won’t be that much fun to read. When children struggle to figure out every word they’re reading, they really don’t have enough brain power to figure out what they’ve read. If your child is reading below grade level, it can be really frustrating to get them to read a book that is on grade level. The book just simply may be too difficult. Don’t frustrate your child and yourself. It will only make them dislike reading that much more. Worry more about making reading fun, than making them read at a certain level.
Here is a really easy way to determine if a book your child is reading is an appropriate reading level for them. Try the “Five Finger Rule.” While they are reading a book, hold up one finger for each word your child struggles with. If they only hold up one or two fingers, and can read the page pretty easily, that book is most likely a “Good Fit Book” for your child. If they struggle significantly while reading, and hold up three to five fingers; that book is just too difficult. Put that book away for a while, and try it again at a later time.
Honestly, the goal of reading homework is to extend the love of reading outside the classroom. Here are ten ways to become a better reader: read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read. Above all things, try as hard as you can to read with your child every night. I understand that is sometimes impossible, but even reading five minutes before bed is better than no time spent reading at home. At the end of the day, show your child the best you can, how to love reading. After all, this is a skill and love they will use for the rest of their lives.
Whitney Haynes is a National Board and Google Certified educator, and currently teaches 2nd grade at Deer Park Elementary. She has an amazing husband, who is also a teacher, and two wonderful daughters.