Your job now is to be a book buddy. As your child learns to read, she needs plenty of practice — with you and teachers by her side.
Connect With the Teacher
Attend open-house events to learn class goals and policies, and communicate regularly through notes, phone calls, and conferences. If your child suddenly seems stressed or loses enthusiasm for school, he could be struggling with class work. The teacher can suggest games to reinforce weak skills.
It's essential to catch reading problems in the early grades, before kids fail. According to the National Institutes of Health, 95 percent of poor readers can catch up to grade level if helped before 2nd grade.
Questions to ask:
- Has my kindergartener been assessed for knowledge of letter sounds, rhyming, and other reading readiness skills? Are her skills on track?
- How does my child's reading and writing compare to those of her classmates?
- What level books should she be reading? Can you send home samples or titles of what's read in class?
- What words should my child know by sight?
- What resources are available for advanced readers?
- Is there a reading specialist for children who struggle?
What to do if there's a problem:
- First have your pediatrician do a thorough medical checkup to rule out hearing or vision problems or other health-related issues that could be impacting learning.
- If your kindergartner or 1st grader is having difficulty rhyming; recognizing letters; identifying sounds at the beginning, middle, and end of words; breaking words into sounds; or blending sounds together to form words, he will need extra instruction in letter sounds. Ask that the teacher or school reading specialist work with your child individually or in a small group.
- Monitor your child carefully in 1st grade. If you don’t see substantial improvement after remediation, you should have her fully evaluated for a learning disability. You can arrange this through the school’s child-study team or committee on special education.
Get Involved in School
Ask if you can donate a book to the class in your child's honor. Or, if your school has a publishing center, volunteer to help produce students' books or offer to help with book-binding at home in the evenings.
Things to Do at Home
- Play word games: Have a race to make up words with magnetic refrigerator letters. You could start with the word "dog" and see how many new words you can make by substituting different consonants at the beginning.
- Be a writing coach: Encourage your child to write letters, stories, thank-you notes, and shopping lists.
- Keep reading aloud: Include non-illustrated chapter books to challenge children to visualize what's happening.
- Listen to your child read: If she stumbles on a word, help her sound it out, but don't let her struggle too much. Tell the child to tap you when she's ready for you to provide the word. If your child is reluctant to read alone, read along with her, or take turns reading a sentence or paragraph at a time. Start with simple preschool favorites, such as Dr. Seuss' Hop on Pop, and move on to easy readers and simple chapter books as your child gains confidence and competence.