by Caroline Pryor, First Grade Teacher
If you're like most families, those few hours between picking your child up from school and putting them to bed at night are probably a frenzy of activity. Between sporting practices, dance lessons, laundry, and trying to put some semblance of a healthy meal on the table, it probably seems like there's little time for anything else.
However, despite hectic schedules, carving out 20 minutes a day to read with your child can reap long-term benefits. As a first grade teacher, I know first-hand how vital it is to spend a few minutes each night reading with your child. As a matter of fact, research shows that students who read 20 minutes a day are not only more fluent readers, they also score higher on standardized tests, are better writers, and have a much larger vocabulary than students who read 5 minutes or less each day. Plus, these children are often better listeners. I can't think of any parent that wouldn't want a better listening child! You can help your child become a more confident, successful student by intentionally setting aside time to read with them. Not only will your child reap the academic benefits of reading, but think about what it could do for the relationship between you and your child.
If you're up for the challenge, here are a few pointers to help you get started.
- Schedule reading time like you would any other activity. You and I both know we're far more likely to do something if we schedule it as opposed to just "hoping" we'll get around to it. Set aside a consistent time each day so your child will come to expect it.
- Find books that are of interest to your child. While you may not care to know every detail of how a snake sheds its skin, if your child loves snakes, go along with it! Kids are far more likely to enjoy reading if they get to choose the books.
- Choose "good fit" books. A "good fit" book is one that's not too hard and not too easy. A general rule of thumb is that if a child can't read more than five words on a page, the book is too difficult. Reading books that are too difficult will frustrate you and your child.
- Take turns reading pages of the story. If your child is a young reader, they need lots of practice being the reader. However, it's equally important for them to hear what a fluent reader sounds like. When it's your turn to read, go all out! Exaggerated expression, fun voices, and sound effects make the reading experience way more fun!
- Ask questions while reading. Check your child's comprehension by stopping every page or two and asking a question about what you just read. While being a fluent reader is great, it's only a piece of the reading puzzle. Reading without being able to understand doesn't do much good.
So, go ahead and turn a blind eye to that ever-growing mountain of laundry. I promise - it'll still be there tomorrow! Invest in your child's academic growth by reading with them daily. And who knows, you might even have some fun along the way!