Your child is reading that? Why Isn’t Mine?
At my son’s school we are about to be given a snapshot of how the children are doing so far this year, and with this comes the inevitable question – why is your child doing so well with reading and mine is not? This comparison happens at all levels, but more especially in the early years as children come to grips with learning an important skill they will need to master to do well at school. This seem to be the main focus of parent’s worries.
Many teacher will tell you that children learn at different rates, and it takes some longer than others to master reading and comprehension. While assisting with reading in the classroom I have certainly seen this in action, and I love to see children finally feel comfortable with reading and start talking about the books they are reading outside of school. There are a small minority who need additional assistance, and if you have any concerns that your child might need extra help then your teacher is the first person you should be discussing this with.
The problem is there are so many conflicting ideas on where your child should be at what age when you discuss reading in the school year, or even with other parents from other schools. I know of one parent whose son was put into remedial reading in year one because he had not met the school reading level target. My son would not have made that target after kindergarten either, yet at his school he was seen to be doing well. It was very confusing!
I only recently learnt that there were resources online to help you understand where teachers are expecting your child to be, so I thought I would look around and find out more so I could share them. Some guides are better than others, and for some states I could not find anything very useful, so maybe ask your teacher where to find your state curriculum guidelines. And I stress these are guidelines children really dollars at different rates.
While looking around I also found this blog and thought it might be helpful for parents new to school, it is called What K-2 Teachers want parents to know about reading levels.
As an opinionated person I also thought I would add my 2c worth and share with you the three things I think most important when a child is in their early reading years.
1) Read with your children
There is no one way is best to help your child to read. Although there is one thing most experts agree on is that learning is helped when children sit with someone and they read together. I know that home readers are not the most interesting things to read, especially after day four of the same story, but the repetition does help children even if it stretches your sanity. I found eventually after a couple of days I was saying we can read one home reader and then you can choose one of your books and we can read together. First we would do one sentence each, then it was one paragraph each, then a page, and soon I was not required to read those books with him anymore. If you need other ideas to get your child interested in reading talk to your teacher, I am sure you will not have been the first to ask them the question! I do know we live in a time poor society, with so many conflicting pressures on out time and attention it is hard to find time to read. But if there is one piece of advice I would give it would be make a little time to read with your children.
2) Reading practice can be done anywhere
I used to love getting my son to read signs and the back of boxes and even menus. That was until he spent some time reading the menus at one restaurant and decided that if he ordered off the children’s menus he was getting short changed. He could have fish and chips and ice cream on the kids menu, or he could have fish and chips and chocolate brownie off the adults one. I was proud he could read enough to figure that out, but not quite so happy at the increase in the food bill! The good thing about these impromptu reading activities is that children do not even know that they are learning and they can be fitted in around other activities! Click here to find some fun reading activities.
3) Reading is Fun
Where I grew up the local librarian would not allow comics in the library as they were not literature. So they are not War and Peace, but they are a valuable tool in helping some children get comfortable with reading. Within the bounds that you feel comfortable let your children choose their own reading material. It is easier to get them to read something rather than something you want them to read. I have made some epic fails when choosing books for my son, so now I let him browse the library, wander through book shops and look online for the things he wants to read. I do edit his choices if I think the context is too old or not appropriate but apart from that I let him go. If your child is not enjoying what they are reading talk to your teacher about alternatives.
Finally, I seem to have written talk to the teacher a lot in this blog, and I guess that is because we all talk amongst ourselves and let our fears for our children and their future run riot. I mean reading is the key to success in so much in our childrens’ school lives. But while I have an opinion I am not an expert, the teachers teaching your children reading are. If it we a health issue you would go to an expert, so in this instance you need to go to the reading expert. They are as keen to help your children and deal with your fears as you are to be supported.
Image from pbs.org