How to grow a reader (Fifth Session)

How to grow a reader (Fifth Session)
By Peg Tyre
Once your child has figured out how to decode words and can actually read in a sustained way,
then a chunk of his schooling should be focused on helping him squeeze meaning and richness
out of the experience. You may remember the whole-language ideas about exposing kids to print
through fiction, poetry, newspapers, and drama? It is the wrong way to teach kids to read. But
getting kids excited about the written word is a great way to turn fledgling readers into voracious
And here's where all parents should step up to the plate. You've been reading to your child, great.
Don't stop. Books on tape in the car work, too. But now that she is a reader, surround her with
print. Get a newspaper delivered. Get her a library card and make the library a regular stop, like
the grocery store and the dry cleaner. And get over your view of what "proper" book reading
looks like — fiction, nonfiction, comic books, how-tos, mysteries, sports biographies, magazines
about current events, fast cars, sleek airplanes, or video gaming. Open the door wide. Find ways
١ to bring what she is reading into the conversation. Ask questions like: What kind of book is it?
What is the setting? What happens? What do you like/not like about the way the author writes?
Similar but more formal versions of this should be happening at school, but parents can reinforce
this learning at home. Watch for it. If your child is reading and sampling a wide enough variety
of material, he will be encountering a lot of words in print that he doesn't know. He should be
able to sound out unfamiliar words. First, encourage him to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar
words from their context, for example, what could propulsion mean based on the words that
came before and after it? Then, see if he can tease out the meaning of the word by finding its
root. For instance, the word propel is hidden in propulsion and gives a strong hint for the
meaning of the word.
Teachers help students build comprehension through the systemic study of words. Yes, weekly
vocabulary words. Kids who study words — by this I mean systematically learning their
meanings — have larger vocabularies but are also better readers. It's not too effective for the
teacher to hand out a list of ten words and have kids look them up and then take a test. They need
to hear the words, see them, speak them, and write them that week and in the weeks that follow.
Word lists alone, though, aren't enough. Kids encounter an average of three thousand new words
a year — more than eight a day. Unless the entire school day is going to be given over to word
study (and no one thinks this is a good idea), teachers must instruct children on how to shave off
٢ chunks of an unfamiliar word and tease out its meaning by studying suffixes, prefixes, and the
meaning of common root words.
Comprehension, fluency, and stamina should be growing steadily stronger as your child moves
through school. Schools need to ensure that happens. So do parents. Do your part.
Reading tips for every grade (Sixth Session)
Sometimes kindergartners skip an important step when learning to read— a crucial step that, if
missed, makes reading harder later. In teacher speak, it’s called phonemic awareness, and it
means learning that every word is a combination of sounds. Before kids learn to sound out words
on a page, it’s best if they first get that every spoken word — big, small, or silly — is made up of
Do this: Practice breaking some spoken words into sounds. “What sounds are in cat?” you might
ask your child. “Let’s say the word slowly together. Cat: kuh-a-tuh. Cat.” Don’t even worry
about connecting this to the spelling of the word. (That’s another lesson.) After you’ve practiced
with a few easy words, try some harder ones like breakfast or window. Again, don’t worry about
٣ linking this to a spelling or reading lesson. The important thing is for your child to feel confident
in his ability to hear the sounds in words.
For many kids, it’s a difficult transition to go from recognizing a few sight words to being able to
sound out words in a simple but unfamiliar book. Teachers tell parents to have their children read
with them every night, but how do you read with your child when she gets frustrated after
painstakingly sounding out a single sentence? How do you get through a whole book?
Try this: Pick a storybook (not necessarily an early-reader book) that your child knows extremely
well and have her read it to you aloud. Some of the book will no doubt be memorized, but she’ll
also need to fall back on her decoding skills. Rhyming stories (like any of the Madeline series or
Dr. Seuss books) work great because they have a musicality that makes them easy to memorize.
This can give your early reader a taste of success, especially when even the simplest “I can read”
books are mostly lessons in frustration.
٤ Secondgrade
At this age, children’s story comprehension may far exceed their technical reading skills. For
instance, at this point your child probably knows a lot of sight words and has some general
decoding skills, but she may not be able to read fast enough to really enjoy the story or even
understand it.
How can you smooth the transition to reading for pleasure? Help your child jump to the next
level by working on her automaticity. What does that mean? Help her grow her list of sight
words, so that she’s not sounding out quite so much. You can start with a list of second grade
sight words from us . Better yet: make your own based on your child’s reading.
Do this: Tell your child she’s going on a word hunt. Explain that the hunt will begin by her
looking for (and catching) some of the sneaky words that give her trouble. Have your child read
a few passages that may be just beyond her reading ability but are in stories she enjoys. Write
down between ١٠ and ٢٠ high-frequency words she has trouble with (or simply has to slow
down to read). They might be strangely spelled words, like again, which, or knees, or longer,
multi-syllabic but everyday words like because, necessary, and sometimes. After you’ve caught
these wild words, capture them on flash cards to “tame” them. Have your child spend a little time
٥ every day studying these words until she gets to know them and they don’t give her trouble
For reading, this is a big year. Third graders are expected to go from “learning to read” to
“reading to learn.” It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? As if by spending enough days sitting at their
desks, third graders will magically make the switch. One day they’re soldiering through
sounding out words, and the next they’re using books to conduct research, enjoy literature, and
learn about the universe! For most kids, though, the transition from reading being the focus of
learning to a tool for learning other things means a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. (Well, maybe
not blood, but you get the point.)
What can you if your child finds this transition tough? It may be tempting to stop reading to your
child and fixate on his “learning to read” weaknesses — by making him read aloud or by
himself. But research suggests this would be a mistake. One study found that kids improve their
reading faster by having challenging conversations that build vocabulary rather than by focusing
only on decoding strategies.
Do this: Make sure your child doesn’t fall behind when it comes to reading to learn. Sure, he
might not be able to crack open a reference book and find the right information for a science
project, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn the same information as the kid who’s already
٦ comfortable reading advanced texts. During this period, read challenging books aloud to him, use
words he doesn’t know in conversation, and talk about big topics: world affairs, history,
whatever he’s interested in. In other words, make sure your communication packs some serious
learning power. That way, when his decoding skills finally catch up, he won’t be behind in
learning what teachers call “context” — all the words, ideas, and information we need to become
The reading demands on kids jump a level this year. Suddenly there are reports, multi-week
projects, and — at the end of the year — anxiously anticipated standardized tests. It’s also the
year that marks the rise of what’s sometimes called “shut-down learners.” Kids who, for
whatever mixture of reasons, have decided they hate school.
What does this have to do with reading? You might be surprised. At this age, kids begin to notice
that reading groups have different levels of readers. They may be sensitive and feel that these
learning tracks are unfair. This can happen even if children are basically on track with their
reading. In fourth grade, reading abilities can vary widely — from kids who are just beginning
the simplest chapter books to those who are reading novels aimed at teens. It’s also the point
٧ when most kids have a huge potential to learn about a topic in-depth. With the right mix of
books, encouragement, and projects, fourth graders can become little scientists, gourmet cookie
chefs, devoted artists, or thoughtful storytellers. The key is to help your child tap into his
Try this: Spend a weekend morning finding the right books — this could mean a trip to a great
library or bookstore or approaching someone with the same interests as your child for book
recommendations. At this point, it’s not enough for your child to read only the stuff assigned at
school. Nor should he just read the hot book all his friends are reading. He needs access to books
that allow him to dive deep into his own special view of the world — and to see that, whatever
happens in school, books are there for him.
Suddenly, this year kids are asked to read a wide range of materials, synthesize ideas, and
formulate arguments in essays or reports. For a lot of children, this leap to analyzing reading
material reveals weaknesses in their reading comprehension. In fact, even kids who seemed to be
great readers (in terms of fluency and decoding) when they were younger might now confess that
٨ they understand little of what they read. So what can you do to boost reading comprehension at
this age?
Try this: Have your child write a summary of everything he reads. For instance, if your child
reads ٢٠ to ٣٠ minutes a night, have him spend the last five minutes summarizing what he’s
read. If he balks at this, have him report to you what happened in the book and ask him a few key
questions. This will make reading comprehension not something he only does when a writing
assignment comes along but a daily, almost instinctual habit.
Is your child reading at grade level? Are there any gaps in his phonics or comprehension? Since
learning to read is a long and complex process, some students hit college only to discover their
skills aren't where they should be.
How do you know if your child's on track? Our grade-by-grade guidelines give you all the details
you need to assess his aptitude.
Fifth-graders are expected to read complex text fluently and with strong comprehension. They
spend much of their time discussing, reflecting on, and responding to a wide variety of literature
and informational texts. By doing critical analyses, they can gain a deeper understanding of what
they're reading. They may also read for pleasure, choosing books based on personal interests,
genre, or author.
٩ Researchthroughreading
Fifth-graders continue to improve on the research skills they learned the year before. They gather
information from a variety of sources, including the Internet, encyclopedias, textbooks, maps,
and other resource materials. They should be able to use different features of a book (such as the
index, glossary, title page, introduction, preface, and appendix) and take notes, highlighting
important sections and making outlines. They also begin to evaluate and cite sources. Fifthgraders are expected to produce research projects on a variety of subjects, such as animals and
their habitats or early U.S. explorers.
Fifth-graders critique significant works of literature, delving deeper to find the meaning in what
they read. They learn about the elements of a plot, including the setup, rising action, climax, and
resolution. By engaging in a more critical look at the characters, settings, and themes, students
can analyze the author's purpose for writing and understand how that purpose influences the text.
They also learn about the use of such literary devices as imagery (the use of vivid language to
create a picture in the reader's mind), metaphor (a comparison between two seemingly unrelated
subjects), and symbolism (the use of an object to represent something else).
Through discussion groups, keeping journals, and other activities, fifth-graders have many
opportunities to respond to what they read. And they demonstrate their understanding through
book reports, skits, illustrations, and time lines.
١٠ Answeringquestions
Fifth-graders use different strategies to help them identify main ideas, make inferences, and draw
conclusions from the text. A common method is the question-answer relationship, or QAR.
Students are asked to tell where they found the answers to questions. They discover there are
"right there" questions (answers are found easily in the text), "think and search" questions
(answers are found in several places in the text), "author and you" questions (students read the
text and call upon prior knowledge to arrive at an answer), and "on my own" questions (answers
require using prior knowledge).
To prepare for state tests in reading, students read passages and answer open-ended short-answer
questions as well as multiple-choice and true-false questions. To see if your state releases its test
questions, search your state Department of Education online.