Reading With Your Child: K-2 Literacy

On September 15Literacy Specialist and Grade 1 Learning Coach Angie Bush hosted a workshop for parents to learn how they can enhance, strengthen and reinforce their child’s reading habits. Angie discussed how to help build the foundation for early literacy and shared techniques for boosting reading skills. Parents walked through a phonics experience with Angie as though they were in one of the classrooms with the students. Additionally, Angie offered several tools (outlined below) for parents to better read with and to their child.

Experts in child literacy are unanimous in their belief that parents should read with their children. The power of the parent-child bond has a positive effect on a child’s attitude toward reading and the child’s ability to read. This emotional space is what best promotes learning. Reading daily with your child is critical to development in many ways. There is no better way to increase vocabulary, teach literacy fundamentals, and expose your child to images and words to which they would otherwise not be exposed.

However, just saying the words on the page, while giving some benefits to your child, will not make the experience as productive as possible. By adding just a few small changes to your read-aloud time, you will be greatly increasing your child’s reading preparedness. Try the suggestions below to help make reading with your child both a pleasure and a learning experience.

  1. Choose the right book using the “five-finger rule.”

Have your child open the book to any page in the middle of the book and read that page. Each time she comes across a word h/she does not know, h/she should hold up a finger. If h/she gets to five fingers before h/she finishes reading the page, the book is too hard. If h/she doesn’t hold up any fingers, the book is probably easy for your child and can be used to build reading fluency. If h/she holds up two or three fingers, the book is likely to be at a good level for her reading to grow.

  1. Before you read the text:
  • Read the Title, Author’s Name, and Illustrator’s Name  It’s important for children to become familiar with what these three things mean. Explain what author and illustrator mean. It’s also great for them to understand that every book is written and illustrated by real people.
  • Ask Your Child to Make Predictions  Read the title and look at the cover, then ask your child to tell you what h/she thinks might happen in the book. Most children will be quite uncomfortable with this in the beginning since they don’t know the answer, and they want to please you by saying only correct answers. Encourage them by saying that there is no wrong answer, but rather you just want them to take a guess. Ask them again in the middle of the book to make a prediction about how the story will end, and you could even make your own prediction and sometimes model that it’s okay to make an incorrect prediction.
  1. Use sound strategies to tackle a new word.
  • Ask your child to sound out an unknown word. Look at the letters in a difficult word and have your child pronounce each sound, or phoneme. Then see if h/she can blend the sounds together to pronounce the word.
  • Ask your child what word or idea would make sense in the plot of the story when h/she gets stuck on an unfamiliar word.
  • Encourage your child to look at illustrations, pictures, titles, or graphs to figure out the meaning of new words.
  • Help your child memorize irregular words. Explain that words like where, hour, or sign are hard to sound out since they don’t follow normal sound patterns; these are Red Words. Point these words out when you’re reading to help your child learn to recognize them on their own.
  • Use suffixes, prefixes, and root words. If your child knows the word day, guide him to define new words like yesterday or daily. Similarly, if they know what pre- means, it’s easy to learn new words like prepare or preschool.
  1. Use the story to help your child learn.
  • Ask Your Child What Is Happening In the Pictures  It may not seem like pictures are as significant of a learning tool as the words, but when your child examines what is happening in a picture and explains it, it develops his/her inference skills. Doing this once or twice during a book will give him/her a chance to practice without completely interrupting the flow of the book.
  • Move Your Finger as You Read  By moving your finger underneath the words as you read, your child understands that you read left to right and top to bottom. It also helps children from a very young age to understand that the words you are saying are those written on the page, not just your own thoughts. Every couple of days, use this trick on a page or two just so that your child will begin to take notice of some very important literacy fundamentals.
  • Ask Questions  Asking a question every few pages is frequent enough to check your child’s understanding without breaking the flow of the story. You can ask basic recall questions, like “What did Mom say she needed at the store?” as well as reasoning questions like “How do you think Mom will get to the store?” and you can also throw in expansion questions like “What would you buy at the store to cook for dinner?” The goal is to engage your child in the story, but beware that if you stop too often you will turn your child off to reading with you altogether because it will become a frustrating situation to him/her.
  • Reread the same books again…and again…(and again)  Most adults like to read a book once, and unless it’s a favorite, they will move on to another one. However, children like to read the same books over and over again. This helps them to make permanent in their mind the words and concepts that their brain is understanding. Regardless of the repetition, it is helping your child learn when you happily read and re-read books.
  1. Give support and encouragement.
  • Challenge your child to figure out new words, but always supply the word before he becomes frustrated.
  • After your child has read a story, reread it aloud yourself so that he can enjoy it without interruption.
  1. Be a good role model. Let your child see you reading, and share your excitement when you enjoy a great book of your own.
  2. Make reading a priority. Whether it’s 10 minutes every night before bed or an hour every Sunday morning, it helps to set aside a specific time for reading. This kind of special “together time” can go a long way toward getting your child interested in books.
  3. Create the right atmosphere. Find a quiet comfortable place to listen to your child read. While you don’t need to build a special reading nook, it helps to ensure that, even in a busy home, there’s a quiet place for reading.
  4. Make reading fun. Kids may not get excited about the idea of quiet time spent curled up on the couch. Why not make it fun by turning reading sessions into impromptu theater performances? Play around with funny voices to impersonate animals or unusual characters in stories. You’ll get to release some tension, and your child will learn to think of reading as fun rather than work.
  5. Keep reading aloud to your child. Don’t stop reading aloud to your child once she learns to read by herself. When you read to her, you let your child enjoy books that are beyond her independent reading level and build her vocabulary by exposing her to new words. Reading aloud is also a chance for you to model reading smoothly and with expression.
  6. Introduce new books. Each year there is one book that seems to steal the hearts and minds of all children. While it may seem like the only book your child wants to read, it’s important to remember that there are millions of books that will suit your child’s interests and capture his imagination. Use these resources to help your child find great books:

Your local library. Get a card and go! Attend story times!

Book stores. Browse the children’s section. What peaks their curiosity?

Scholastic Books Parent Resources

Random House Children’s Books

The Children’s Literature Web Guide

Additional Resources

On-line Book Resources


The Library of Congress

RAZ Kids


Reading is Fundamental

Reading Rainbow

Reading Rockets


Kids Media

Reading Rockets


The National Reading Panel. September, 2015.

Reading is Fundamental. September, 2015.

Angie Bush, 2015.


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