Quality Educator






Help your Child with Reading

Welcome, Parents!

This page is designed to help you meet the needs of your developing and/or fluent reader. I hope it can serve as a terrific resource for you in supporting your child. As you think about your child and how to help, please keep the following in mind:

  • Reading is thinking. “Getting meaning” is the goal, not just being able to read the words on a page.

  • In grades 4-8 (and beyond), your child will be asked to read more and different kinds of text. This requires new skills. In this sense, they are still learning to read – even if they read words (decode) very well.

  • Every child is unique. These suggestions are general and not meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution. You know your child best!

  • Your child has a team of teachers working for their success. This website is not meant to replace them or your communication with them in any way.

  • Your involvement makes a difference! There is a huge body of research supporting parental involvement. Please follow this link for specific research.

This site is divided into five sections: Fluency, Comprehension, Vocabulary, Content Area Literacy (under construction), and Technology and Literacy (under construction). The first three are identified in the National Reading Panel Report, and the last two are additional areas that will become more important as your child moves through school. Below you will find some General Suggestions and links to each of the five sections.

Another great resource for parents is Esme Raji Codell's book How to Get Your Child to Love Reading published by Algonquin Books, ISBN 1-56512-308-5. It is filled with book titles and suggestions for children from birth through eighth grade.

General Suggestions

These suggestions will help you support your child in school, as well as specific support for literacy development.

  • Provide a quiet place for your child to complete homework (no TV, radio, or other distractions).

  • Ask your child what they learned in school today.

  • Be sure your child eats a healthy breakfast every day.

  • Help your child break down large projects into smaller steps with intermediate deadlines. Talk through the process as you do this. Children need to hear us thinking out loud.

  • Model reading and writing. Your child should see you reading and writing for real purposes. (Think about cards, letters, and emails, reading for work purposes, reading for enjoyment, reading directions, schedules, etc.)

  • If your child doesn’t have a public library card, get them one!


Fluency includes not only speed, but prosody (phrasing and expression). Fluency is especially important for children who struggle in reading, and research shows a high correspondence between fluency and comprehension (understanding).

Why is speed important? If your child is reading too slowly, they will have forgotten what they read at the beginning of a sentence or paragraph by the time they get to the end. This means that they will lose meaning. Additionally, students who can recognize words quickly enough to read with reasonable speed can read with less effort on decoding (identifying words) and more effort on comprehension (thinking and getting meaning).

Why are phrasing and expression important? Phrasing and expression help students gain meaning. Imagine having a conversation with someone who speaks entirely in a monotone voice. It’s very difficult to understand what they are saying. Reading without appropriate phrasing and expression does the same thing to words on a page.

Suggestions for Improving Fluency

  • Continue reading aloud to your child. No one is ever too old to be read aloud to. Read aloud books may look different for your child now than they did when your child was younger. Consider reading aloud a chapter book or a magazine or newspaper article.

  • Ask your child to read aloud to you. Practice makes perfect! If they make a mistake, try asking, “Did that make sense?” Or make it a challenge for them to do better and try again. (Remember, you know your child. Some kids respond well to a challenge while other children freeze up and become unproductive.)

  • Listen to books on tape. This could be done as a family activity in the evening or in the car on the way to school, soccer practice, or piano lessons.

  • Make it okay for your child to read “easy” books. (Yes, there are times when your child should stretch him- or herself, but easy reading should be okay sometimes. You wouldn’t want to take that instructional manual for work to the beach with you, would you? If it seems like your child is only reading “easy” books, talk with your child’s teacher.)

  • Try to provide opportunities for your child to read to younger children (siblings, neighbors, etc.). This makes it okay for even middle-school students to read picture books and do “voices” (reading with expression). (They might even practice them a couple of times before reading them aloud or be asked to read favorites over again. Repeated reading of a text has been shown to increase fluency.)

  • Remind your child to “read the punctuation” or “pay attention to commas and periods.” An interesting exercise to demonstrate the importance of punctuation is the Dear John letter. Read the letter without any punctuation and try to make sense of it.

    Now read the letter with two different sets of punctuation marks.
    http://paul.merton.ox.ac.uk/language/punctuation.html (You decide if this is something you want to share with your child, or if you think this would only make them groan.)

Links on Fluency

http://www.itrc.ucf.edu/other/seirtec/parentpages/fluency.html A great site defining fluency and listing many online sites to hear storytellers or online books.


The more students read, the more their vocabulary increases, the more they are able to read, the more their vocabulary increases, the more ....

Vocabulary and reading go hand in hand in the same cycle. It can be a barrier for some children, but it can also be the key to opening up new worlds and many successes.

Vocabulary Suggestions

  • Encourage your child to READ! After third grade, most vocabulary words are learned through reading or listening to words in context. Remember, a child needs to see new words often to really learn them. The more they read, the larger their vocabulary will be.

  • When your child encounters a new word while reading, try the following:

    • Ask them to look at the context clues. Can they figure out the meaning by reading what’s around it? (Remind them that they might have to read the paragraph, not just the sentence that the word is in.)

    • Ask them to look at the word parts. Are there any parts they know? Can prefixes or suffixes help them?

  • Be careful about saying, “Look it up!” Try to have your child make a guess about the definition first (see above suggestion) and confirm it by looking in a dictionary. Or look the word up with your child to help them choose the correct definition.

  • When possible, point out connections between words. This can include any of the following:

    • Two words have the same base or root word.

    • A word in your child’s foreign language class is similar to a word in English.

    • The same word has two (or more) definitions.

    • Two words are synonyms.

  • Play word games with your child. This can include:

    • Playing commercial word games, such as Scrabble or Taboo.

    • Doing crossword puzzles or word searches.

    • Speaking Pig-Latin or making up your own language.

  • Have contests relating to words. See who in your family can list the most homophones (words that sound the same, but are spelled differently) or who can list the most verbs that start with j.

Fun Word Websites

Word Games


Comprehension is understanding what you read. There are several strategies that good readers do as they read a text. And readers use different strategies depending on what they are reading and why they are reading it.

I have broken comprehension suggestions into three sections: Fiction, Non-fiction or Informational Text, and Strategies. The Strategies section includes general reading strategies that can be used in any type of text, although specific applications may look slightly different. Most readers this age read fiction fairly well and already use the strategy suggestions automatically. However, if your child struggles in reading, reinforcing these strategies at home is important. What causes many children trouble in school beyond third grade is NOT reading stories. It’s reading informational text. It requires different strategies, and most students have simply not had as much exposure to these types of texts.

Remind your child to think about what they are reading and why they are reading it before they begin. Then they can make better choices about pace (how quickly they read) and what strategies to use.

Comprehension Suggestions: Fiction

  • Try reading a book as a family or as parent and child. Then discuss the book like you would at a book club with your friends. Talk about the characters, what you liked and didn’t like, what you thought of the ending, etc. You know if your child read the book or not, so DON’T ask “teacher-like” or “test-like” questions (e.g. Who was the main character?). Instead focus on ideas and good discussion.

  • Encourage your child to read a book and see the movie and compare the two versions. (HINT: For reluctant readers, seeing the movie might be enough motivation to read a good book.)

  • Listen to a book on tape (or CD) together and discuss it chapter by chapter.

Comprehension Suggestions: Non-Fiction or Informational Text

  • Remind your child that informational text does not have to be read cover-to-cover like a story, although it can be. Help your child use the table of contents and/or index to find the information they need.

  • Be sure your child thinks about what they already know about the topic BEFORE they begin reading (activating prior knowledge). As they read, your child should think about how what they are learning adds to or changes what they already knew.

  • Help your child use the unique features of informational text to aid their comprehension. These include captions, headings and subheadings, and charts, tables, and graphs.

  • Help your child think about how a text is organized (text structure). Is the text comparing two (or more) things, describing or defining something, explaining cause and effect, or giving a sequence of events? Knowing how a text is organized helps a reader to read it more effectively and summarize it more efficiently and accurately.

Comprehension Suggestions: Strategies

  • Making Connections – Have your child make a connection from what they’ve read to something else they know. This could be something from their own life, something else they’ve read, or something they have seen or learned elsewhere (think current events or social studies/science topics).

  • Summarize – Ask your child to verbally summarize things they have read the way that you might tell someone about a movie if they asked you what it was about. In teacher language, a summary is different from a retell because a retell asks the student to retell the whole story (usually including as much information and detail as possible), but a summary asks for just the main points.

  • Making Predictions – Have your child verbally tell you what they think will happen or what the text will be about. Stop periodically during reading and revise predictions based on what you’ve read.

  • Questioning – Remind your child that good readers ask questions before, after, and during reading. Some questions are answered in the text, and some aren’t. If a question isn’t answered in the text, it might be one that could be researched or just a good question to think about. You can even question an author by asking things like “Why did (character name) do that?” or “Why would the author include this information?” As a parent be alert to questions that show understanding versus those that show LACK of understanding. If a question shows lack of understanding, encourage your child to use fix-up strategies. (See next point.)

  • Fix-up – When a reader notices that they didn’t understand something, they use one of several fix-up strategies to repair their understanding. These include going back to reread, slowing down, reading ahead slightly to see if the text clarifies itself (especially common for unknown words), and talking to another reader about the text. Ultimately, you want your child to independently notice when they need to use fix-up strategies and choose which one is best for their situation, but you may need to provide guidance if they are struggling with a text or reading a new type of text for the first time.

  • Word Attack – Your child will need to use different word attack strategies when they encounter unknown words in a text. First be sure they have a variety of strategies in their repertoire; then help them think through which strategy is most appropriate for a given text/situation. Many times good readers use several strategies at once. Strategies include 1) getting meaning from context; 2) looking at known word parts (root or base words and suffixes and prefixes); 3) asking someone for the definition; 4) using a dictionary; and 5) using a glossary.

  • Imagery – Good readers use imagery when they read. For narrative texts, this can be compared to a movie in your head. For informational texts, this includes charts and graphs as well as other visual images related to the content. Ask your child what they see/hear/smell/taste/feel as they read.

Comprehension Links

Content Area Literacy - Coming Soon!


Literacy and Technology - Coming Soon!


Note to other teachers:

This website has been designed for parents and is a product of my accumulated knowledge and interest in literacy. While the suggestions on this page are not necessarily attributable to specific works, I would like to list some resources that have been valuable to me as a teacher.

Irvin, Judith, et. al. Reading and the High School Student: Strategies to Enhance Literacy. Boston: Allyn, 2003.

Johns, Jerry, et. al. Improving Reading: Strategies and Resources. Kendall: Dubuque, 2001.

Morrow, Lesley M., et. al. Best Practices in Literacy Instruction. New York: Guilford, 2003.

http://www.ncte.org/about/over/positions/category/read/118622.htm (accessed April 29, 2006).

http://www.reading.org/downloads/positions/ps1036_adolescent.pdf (accessed April 29, 2006).

http://www.reading.org/downloads/positions/ps1052_supporting.pdf (accessed April 29, 2006).