Tips for Helping Your Child Learn to Read

Green Eggs and Ham

Reading: The Cat in the Hat knows a lot about that!

First grade is ON for Jasper, which means we are in the thick of learning how to read. In kindergarten, it was all about letters and sounds and connecting the two — now we’re down to the serious business of putting it all together and learning to read a book.

And, I have to say, just over one full week into school, he (finally!) seems ready for it. He brought home a book from school yesterday and reported happily that he was going to read it to us that night. And when it was time for stories, he climbed into bed and said with a big smile on his face that he got to sit in the middle (the moms and Magnolia on either side) because he was the reader. We read “Worm Smells” by Kathy Caple. It was awesome.

He had to have help with some of the words — he couldn’t do it all by himself — but he did pretty well. And he WANTED to read it which, after some resistance over the summer (“YOU read it, mommy!”), was great.

I’ve been looking around for tips on how to reinforce what he’s learning at school and how best to encourage and support him. Here are some highlights from learning to read tips I’ve found at Scholastic and PBS Parents — I’ve chosen the ones that, as we’re trying to teach Jasper, feel most relevant.

  • Of course, we all know the first one, it’s a given — read aloud to your kids. It’s not only good for them to hear the sounds, inflections, and rhythms as you read, but you’re showing them it’s FUN. OK, we’re all reading to our kids. But what else?
  • Play games! Language games, board games, make up your own word games — help them learn to read through activities beyond sitting down with a book. Sing songs, make up rhymes, clap out syllables, point out words in your surroundings, talk about words on a board game. Pick a letter and have them come up with words that start with that letter. Or pick a topic — food, clothing, other kids in their classroom — and have them come up with the words or names that fit it.
  • Help them write, write, write — reading and writing go hand in hand, and learning to recognize letters and the sounds they make will help him get there with sounding out entire words. Again, make it a game — Scholastic recommends playing “restaurant,” and, since Jasper is way-motivated by and interested in food, I’m going to try this one with him. He’ll get to be the “waiter” and I’ll have him write down my order. I’m sure he’ll be into it.
  • Have your child read books that are “just right” for him — simple, beginner books with words that have just a few letters and short-vowel sounds, such as cat, run, sit, and hat. I think we made a bit of a mistake with this one, often trying to get Jasper to sound out bigger words in more complex books that we were reading over the summer for pleasure. Now I’m getting it — short and simple does the trick, which must explain why he has been so thrilled that his teacher is reading Green Eggs and Hamto his class. He’s been walking around the house reciting it, and when Chrissy brought home a copy for us to read at bedtime, he was delighted.
  • Talk through the books you read together. — Again, you’re helping your child learn to read through an activity other than dead-on reading. Talking about what happened in a story or what your child’s favorite part was will help him make sense of the story, which in turn will help with reading.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher. — Your child’s homework will show you a lot about how he’s being taught in class, but ask questions, too, so you have more ideas about how to reinforce things at home. And ask about your child’s progress and areas of concern. The longer I’ve got kids in school, the more I see how the teacher and I are working in tandem, and I know we’re both invested in him doing well.

Jasper is supposed to bring a new book home from school everyday to read to us and he told me this morning he’d be bringing home Jake’s Car today.

I can’t wait!

For more on first graders and learning to read, see all of the Scholastic tips and all of the PBS Parents tips.


Tips from a Kindergarten Teacher

Holding Kids Back in School

Public vs. Private School

Would You Home-School Your Kids?

Back to School: Slow Food in Schools Projects


3 Responses to “Tips for Helping Your Child Learn to Read”

  1. 1 alicia September 24, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    I LOVE the restaurant idea! That’s totally cool and fun… and it’ll help him as he sounds out words to write your orders down.

  1. 1 Cool Parenting Links of the Week | The Culture Mom Trackback on September 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm
  2. 2 October 23 – 24: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas « Shiny Brite Trackback on October 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

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