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Reading at Home with Your Child

September, 2013
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It is a fact that a child’s success in school weighs heavily on reading, a fact which is supported by a large body of educational research that emphasizes a strong correlation between reading and academic success. This life-long skill begins at home, and parents often wonder how they can best support their child’s reading development skills. The good news is that reading does not happen overnight; it is a process, and with consistency and dedication, parents can help their child develop the building blocks needed to become an independent reader while instilling a love for reading.
The National Reading Council (USA) states that that phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension are key elements of reading. This article will introduce those five main areas of reading instruction, and will provide some ideas to guide parents to best help their child strengthen these skills through interactive games and conversations.
ycis_teacher-article_3Phonemic awareness is the ability to segment and manipulate individual sounds and words orally. Developing phonemic awareness is imperative, as it is the foundation for spelling and word recognition skills.
Ways to develop phonemic awareness skills at home:
1. Work with rhyming words by reading poems, rhymes, riddles that rhyme, etc.
2. Say a word and ask which is the first or last letter.
3. Work with tongue twisters.
4. Separate a word into individual sounds and have your child guess the word. For example: you say “c-a-t (cat),” or “m-a-p (map),” and so on.
5. Give your child a word and ask them to separate it into individual sounds. For example: you say “cat” and your child says “(c-a-t),” or you say“map” and your child says “(m-a-p).”
6. Make “crazy words” to practice the way sounds fit together orally.
7. Say three words that start with the same letter, and then have your child tell you which letter they all start with.
8. Do the same as above, using words that end with the same letter, and have your child guess the similarity.
9. Start with a real word and then change the first letter, changing the first word into a new word.
Phonics is the ability to associate letters and sounds, recognizing and manipulating patterns to pronounce words correctly.
Ways to develop phonics skills at home:
1. Help your child learn letters and sounds using visuals or magnetic letters.
2. Using magnetic letters, help your child form consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words.
3. Write words to practice the way letters fit together.
4. Write a word on a piece of paper and ask your child to cut it into syllables.
5. Introduce your child to words that don’t follow regular spelling patterns, and help your child understand the importance of recognizing those words by "sight."
6. Remember that consistency is the key to acquiring, developing, and strengthening any skill. You will notice the benefits of consistently playing these games with your child, and it only takes as little as ten minutes per day.
Fluency is the ability to read words accurately, with expression, and to pay attention to punctuation. Fast reading is not reading with fluency. Children who read with fluency sound as though they are talking to someone, and as though sharing a personal story. Reading stories to your child is the best way to model fluency. The more you read together, the more aware your child will become of how to fluently express words.
Ways to develop fluency skills at home:
1. Read and reread books using different voices.
2. Model fluency by reading to your child as often as possible.
3. Know that reading the same book multiple times has benefits for your child.
4. Ask your child to read to their brother, sister, pet, or stuffed animal. Practice makes perfect, and you will notice the improvements!

Vocabularyrefers to the words that we must know and understand to communicate effectively. A reader must know most of the words, but not all, in the text to fully understand what they are reading.

Ways to develop vocabulary skills at home:
1. Write down two synonyms on a piece of paper and ask your child to tell you why they are similar.
2. Say a word and ask your child to come up with a synonym.
3. Using a piece of paper, make three columns: people, places, and things. Work with your child to classify words from a book in these three columns. If these categories don’t fit with the particular book, make up your own categories. For instance, if you were reading a book about ants, the categories could be: where ants live, things ants eat, what ants do.
4. Help your child to be a ‘word detective’: when your child encounters a new word, help them write it down, write what they think it is, write it in a sentence, write a synonym, and write an antonym.
ycis_teacher-article_1Comprehensionrefers to the act of understanding what a person is thinking before, during, and after reading a piece of text. In order for a child to fully understand what they are reading, they must be able to decode the words in the text, make connections between what is already known and the reading and to be able to think deeply about the text.
Ways to develop comprehension skills at home:
1. Before reading a book, ask your child to describe what they observe on the cover and title page, and ask if the pictures are reminiscent of anything they have seen before.
2. Ask your child “Where would I look if I wanted to know _______?” and have them look in the book to find the answer.
3. After reading a few pages, stop, and make a sheet with two columns: write “I read” on one column and “I think” on the other side. Have your child write down multiple events from the story as well as their reactions to these events.
4. Ask your child to complete the following sentence structure: “Someone… wanted… but… so… then finally.”
4. Divide a blank piece of paper into three columns and label them beginning, middle, and end. Have your child draw or write what happened in those parts of the book.
5. Make a “character web” with stories that have very developed characters. Put the characters’ name in the middle, and any related words, events, and phrases around their name.
6. Ask your child to make the following connections: to compare the current book to a similar book they have read before, and to share how the current book is similar to something in their life, and discuss in detail.
Motivation and Enjoyment

Keep your child motivated and engaged by selecting books that match their interests. The more you read together, and the more your child reads, the better and more confident reader they will become.


1. Pick up books from the library that fit the interests of your child.
2. Find safe, content-rich websites on the Internet that fit the interests of your child.
3. Read the newspaper with your child.
4. Have “reading time” in your house when everyone reads – show your child that you enjoy reading too!
5. Expose your child to a variety of genres, as a way to help develop their interests. Additionally, this will make for a well-rounded child.
6. Offer rewards if they read for a certain number of minutes every day.
Reading is an important academic and life-skill, and the process of improving reading skills is as easy as dedicating time regularly to practicing the activities described above, or by creating your own, unique family reading activities. Enjoy the reading fun ahead!
By Ericka Bergthold,
EAL Teacher, YCIS Shanghai


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