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Aren't You Glad You Can Read?

by Sheila South, MEd

a The Kids & Me contributor

Reading is an essential skill for life. Most learners are able to read by 3rd grade and instruction shifts from 'learning to read' to 'reading to learn'. Children who have not mastered reading skills by grade 4 will likely struggle in other academic areas as many assignments will require the ability to read and gather information in order to be successful.

What can you do as the parent to enable your child's reading? Glad you asked!

1) Model reading. Model. Model. Model.

Read to your child. Out loud. Daily.

Read something fun! Does your child like non-fiction/ scientific/ true writing best? or fictional, made-up stories? Read what delights her!

2) Listen to your child read out loud.

20 minutes a day is a worthy goal.

Make sure you are using books on your child's reading level (or just above) if you want your shared reading to be a success. More info on reading levels below.

Make great friends with your public library. It's free and they have the resources to grow with your child!

3) And lastly, you as the parent can demonstrate the usefulness of good reading skills.

Point out to your child things you are reading for fun or things you need to read for work or things you read for life like job applications, doctor notifications, or instructions for how to bake a cake. Show your child reading is necessary.


How do I know my child's reading level?

The most obvious way is to know your child's reading level is to observe your child reading: Is there constant stumbling over words or frustration in figuring out words? Is the meaning of the writing lost for trying to figure out the words? That level is too advanced. Does your child zip through a resource with never a challenge in decoding a word or even a challenge in understanding a concept in the writing? That level is too easy. Neither of these situations is desirable because one brings frustration and the other brings boredom and we do not want either of these words associated with a child's reading experience. Once you listen to your child read a bit, you will get a feel for what the actual page should look like to be on your child's level. For example, you will notice how many words should be per page, how big the type should be, and how long or how many syllables the words should have. You can then estimate by thumbing through a book if it will be the right level. If he starts reading, and it is not the right level, toss it!

Example from Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff

Your child's teacher can also give you a reading level based upon standard grade-level expectations.

Early readers and elementary-level books in the library are often labeled for difficulty.

You can look for these labels to direct you to books appropriate for your child's reading level; a librarian will be happy to demonstrate where these are found.

If you would like to assess your child's reading level yourself, you must find at least one sample that your child can read with only stumbling on one or two words every so often and that he has good grasp of the overall meaning and details. Then you can apply this chart.

Find a starting place and count 100 words. Mark your beginning and ending with a pencil dot. Then count how many sentences occur in that 100 words. (Writing with shorter sentences/ more sentences per 100 words is simpler/ easier reading.)

Lastly, count the number of syllables in that 100 words. (A syllable is a small unit of the spoken word: California has 4 syllables Cal-i-for-nia.)

Find the corresponding number of sentences up the right hand side of the graph and find the corresponding number of syllables across the bottom of the graph. Where do they intersect? That number in the middle of the chart where those two points intersect indicates your child's reading level by grade level.


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