*Parents as Reading Partners*

12 March 2003
By Stryder

All parents, if they home school their children or not, realize that reading is very important, if not THE most important aspect of an education. A handy memory gimmick that parents can keep in mind when working to improve their children’s reading ability is to think about TALES.

T – Talk about the cover, the pictures, the story, and any words, ideas or information in what you will be reading that may be completely new to the child. We all need some kind of "context" to fit what we are reading into or we can’t interpret it. Young children, because they haven’t lived as long, have less experiences to fit things into. That is called in education "having a smaller schema."

You can expand your child’s schema by playing little games with your child. Make up a sentence and leave out a word such as I went to the doctor because I was __________. Ask your child to fill in the blank and ask why they used the word they did. Or read poems and nursery rhymes and leave out a rhyming word. Have your child guess the missing word and explain how they got the answer.

A – Ask what your child thinks and expects the book to be about. If the name of the book is Rocket Soup and the cover has a picture of a young girl sitting in a high chair throwing a bowl across the room, ask what that might mean the book will be about. Remember that this a thinking exercise as well. Not a simple yes or no - will this book be about throwing a soup bowl? but a higher order of thinking – could a soup bowl be like a rocket if you threw it hard enough?

You can help develop this skill as well. As you read aloud make a silly mistake that affects the meaning of the sentence. See if your child notices and corrects you. If not, stop reading and think aloud about what you said and correct your mistake. For example, "No, they aren’t playing ketchup – that doesn’t make sense. They have mitts and a ball, they must be playing catch." This is called self–monitoring reading.

L – Look again at the cover, inside pages and pictures in the book as you read it. "Oh no, he dropped a frog in the soup. Didn’t the cover have a picture of a boy with a frog in his pocket? Let’s see."

E – Encourage your child’s’ reading experience. Just this morning my 2nd grader was supposed to make pancakes for our family breakfast. She’s also just starting to really enjoy ‘chapter books.’ What I heard was - "But Dad, Harry and his dog Mudge are just getting to a good part about a mud puddle in my new book and I want to keep reading." After thinking a few seconds what I said was - "OK, just this once I’ll let you off the hook and make breakfast if you will come into the kitchen and read out loud to me about the dog."

S – Share your love of reading. If your children see you reading, they will want to read themselves. Mention what you are reading as well. At dinner you can mention that you are reading a new book about fly fishing and it reminds you a camping trip you took to Maine or that the book you are reading about WWII gives you a different perspective on current world situation.

Again, reading is all about putting things into context and seeing how they fit into, or expand what we already know. This is true for adults as well as young readers. Some other tips you might use with beginning readers that fit into this idea are:

In general good beginning readers (and older reader if the truth be told) have a number of common habits that we sometimes take for granted. Good readers THINK about what they already know about a topic before they start reading about it. They PREDICT what will happen in the story. They ASK questions about the story as they read. They "KNOW" when they don’t understand. The STOP and reread when they don’t understand something. They "KNOW" when what they are reading doesn’t make sense. And they USE the context to solve words they don’t know.

Happy reading!

Get out and train!


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