Research-Based Help for the Parent-Teacher
Reading researchers Richard Allington and Rachael Gabriel published one of the most comprehensive and easy to implement papers on reading instruction titled, Every Child, Every Day. In their work, they described six simple research-based no-cost practices that educators could implement to improve reading achievement.
The practices noted by Allington and Gabriel are intended for educators however the teacher-parent will find that these practices are completely suited to the home setting. Unlike schools that have been contaminated by mindless worksheets and test prep packages, a child’s home is a place where a young mind can explore new worlds through books for the sake of enjoyment and learning without stress.
The six elements of effective home reading instruction will probably be very familiar to the teacher-parent and probably are a daily part of your child’s life. These practices work for children of all ages and all levels of reading ability.
Six Elements of Effective Home Reading Instruction
- Your child reads something he or she chooses. Children are more motivated to read when they are active participants in book choice. Children are sophisticated consumers of literature gravitating toward fiction, nonfiction, favorite characters, topics, book series, and authors. A good section does not require a huge Amazon delivery. Good books can be found at the library, second-hand stores as well as online sources. Some book vendors are extending free trial periods to parents and educators for online children’s literature. Take some time to look over your child’s library, talk to them about what books are their favorites and why.
- Your child reads something he or she can read accurately. Learning to read is similar to learning to drive a car. Typically we learn to drive in a safe area, country road, empty parking lot, open field. The safe area allows us to build confidence and eventually drive with complete automaticity. Imagine if we had a fender bender every few miles. It would not take long before we decided that driving was too hard. Many children are having fender benders constantly as they attempt to read words that they can not decode. By third grade, many of these children have decided that reading is too hard for them and they have given up. Children need to have access to books that they can read accurately also known as just-right books. A just-right book should be one that the child can read with almost 100% accuracy. The child should also read with fairly good age-appropriate fluency. To find out if the book is just right listen to the child read a short selection. If the child struggles with a word do not immediately tell them what it is. This allows you to see how your child deals with unknown words when they are reading independently. By doing this you can see what strategies the child applies, do they try the first sound, do they skip the word and figure it out in the context of the book, do they get frustrated and give up? This information will give the parent-teacher a starting point for helping the child learn new strategies for decoding unknown words. If you see that the child misses four or five words on a single page suggest a different book.
- Your child should read something he or she understands. The goal of reading is comprehension. Sometimes children can read all of the words correctly but have no idea what it is they have read, this happens with adults all the time! As you listen to your child read for accuracy and fluency ask them a few questions about what they have read. This is not a test! Keep it fun, the goal is to find a just-right book that your child can enjoy independently.
- Your child should write about something personally meaningful. This may be a step outside of what is typical book time at home. Writing is the application of reading, the creation of something unique. This should be an opportunity for your child to express themselves, not give simple grudging responses to a writing assignment. Children will voluntarily work to improve their writing mechanics to more accurately share their thoughts when they have an opportunity to do so in writing. The parent-teacher is in a unique position to make this happen without having to respond to the demands of the curriculum standards established by well-meaning educrats.
- Your child should talk with peers about reading and writing. Adult book clubs are popular, why shouldn’t children be allowed to have the same opportunity? A peer could be younger or older, a family pet or beloved stuffed animal, a teacher-parent, or a grandparent video chatting from across the country. Everyone likes to talk about what they are reading and children are still unselfconscious enough to share books and writing that they are proud of.
- Your child should listen to a fluent adult read. Every parent-teacher is familiar with this activity. It is the job of the teacher-parent to realize that even their older children can benefit from being read to. This is an enjoyable activity for everyone.
The parent-teacher of today has the most important and enjoyable job ever conceived. Make the most of your time with your child, keep reading a fun activity that children will progress through at their own pace. When the children are enjoying the books and the time with their parent-teachers that will be a fast pace!