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The Informed Parent

Fostering Independent Reading At Home, Part II

by Catherine S. Tolnai, M.A.T.
Published on Mar. 11, 2014

This article originally appeared on February 13, 2012

2. Is your child reading a book that is at an appropriate reading level?

Again, your son’s classroom teacher has probably assessed his reading level and if so, now’s the right time to talk to her about where your son is most comfortable reading independently. Here’s a basic breakdown of different reading levels your son may have been assessed on:

  • Independent Reading Level: This is the level in which your son can confidently read the text aloud or to himself and fully comprehend the content without outside support. He would not struggle to pronounce the words or answer any questions regarding the text after he has read it.
  • Instructional Reading Level: This is the level in which your son can read the text aloud or to himself and comprehend the content with some instructional support from his teacher or another adult. He should be able to pronounce the words in the text but may need some support understanding the underlying message or connections the author is making within the text. These texts may become “boring” or “too hard” if your child attempts to read them on his own without asking for help or looking words up for meaning in the dictionary.
  • Frustration Reading Level: This is the level in which your son may be able to read the text aloud or to himself but may struggle to comprehend the content even with the support of a teacher or another adult. So, he may give the allusion that he can read this text, but the reality is that he is not understanding a significant amount of content. Therefore, he may have difficulty pronouncing some words and he will struggle to answer comprehension questions after reading the text. These texts are often considered “boring” and “too hard” and can be abandoned by readers. Also, if your child makes a habit of choosing to read these books independently, he might develop an overall lack of interest in reading altogether. Can you blame him?

Highly-qualified teachers with current multiple-subject credentials in California have most likely been trained to assess your child in the elementary grades by conducting a variety of assessments. Your best bet would be to have a conversation with his teacher to find out his reading levels; they will range in grade levels and months in the year. If you have some of this vocabulary in mind it will make for a fruitful conversation with his teacher. Once you know his grade levels, you can help to make sure the books he reads are indeed appropriate for him as a growing and changing reader.

3. Is your child exposed to an environment that prioritizes reading regularly?

One reason I loved reading as a child is that I used to watch my father read his racing magazines in the living room each evening as we waited to eat dinner. When he got home from work, he chose to catch up on some reading to unwind from his day. Another reason I loved reading was because my mom made the time to read books to me at bedtime--books like “Little Women.” “Black Beauty,” and the “Little House on the Prairie” series.

Reading was considered a worthwhile use of time in our household and that has translated to my interest in reading as an adult. Therefore, it is important that you make reading a priority in your household as well. In the classroom, we are trained to model good reading habits in order for our students to pick up on them. When the students have free reading time, so do the teachers. The classroom is alive with reading and we talk about our books as well as review them with each other. If your child isn’t getting that at school, make sure to offer it at home. Children will mimic their parents---you might as well set them up for success.

There are so many components to consider about your child as a reader. You cannot successfully do that without involving his teacher and any other support staff on campus. While the ideas above offer a starting point for the conversation, you may need to elicit some professional help if your child continues to struggle with reading comprehension. Again, this is where your school and classroom teacher can step in to help. Additionally, you need to get involved with your child’s choices and show him that you are invested in this part of his learning. Finally, make a point to show him that you value reading because that communicates more to him than any words you say. Becoming or staying a reader yourself will inspire him to see the value in reading over and over again.

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