Welcome to the first blog in my next series focusing on the older child in Primary school. There is so much information for parents and educators on how to help children in the younger grades achieve their potential but it seems to taper off when a child reaches 9 or 10 years old. In this series, I aim to give lots of practical advice and tips to help parents of children aged 9 - 12 years old to be able to support the learning which is going on in the classroom, at home.
This first blog “How to read with your older child” will outline 5 ways that parents can support the reading development of their child. All children in the middle to upper grades of Primary school are given mandatory reading each night as part of their homework task. Most parents are at a loss, as to how to support their independent reader to ensure that their child is understanding the information from their more complex texts.
Like with a younger child, the love of reading needs to be the focus. Unfortunately as children get older, support for reading at home gets less and less as parents expect that children sit and read independently without any interaction. Reading is seen as a solitary task and any difficulties the child is having may go undetected. If they find reading difficult, especially comprehending what they are reading, they will begin to dislike this task and it will cause bigger issues in the future.
A great quote I always refer to is that “comprehension, floats on conversation”. This is very true for the older child. They need many opportunities to discuss the harder themes, more difficult vocabulary and more complex sentence structure that becomes present in their harder texts they are given to read.
Below is a list of 5 activities that you could do with your child when they have the homework task of reading for a specific amount of time. They are all engaging and aim to help your child have a better understanding of what they are reading. Maybe you can try these with your child every second night.
1. The child plays the role of predicator
Whether your child is about to read a new text or start a new chapter, it is very important for them to be able to predict what could happen. This skill will give you an indication of whether they understand how texts work, can use information of previous texts or chapters to guide their thoughts and to see if they are understanding the plot or themes occurring in the text.
- Get your child to tell you verbally what has happened (the events) in a previous chapter and what they predict could happen next.
- Get your child to tell you what a character has been like in previous chapters and what they predict they could be like in the next one.
- Get your child to give you examples to back up their prediction. Eg I predict the main character will get detention for not handing in homework because in the previous chapter the teacher said that if he forgets his homework again there will be consequences.
- After the child has read a chapter, get them to come back and let you know if their prediction was right.
2. The child plays the role of clarifier
As the child gets older they will be exposed to more challenging texts which will have a higher level of vocabulary. It is essential that children learn the skills to be able to work out what a word means by the context that it is in. A dictionary can also play a role, but we want the child to problem solve first and use it to check what they think.
- Give your child a sticky note and get them to write down three words or phrases that they find difficult in the text while reading. After reading for the specified time, get your child to tell you the words/phrases. Encourage them to read the paragraph aloud to you that contains the difficult word or phrase and get them to have a go at explaining what it could be.
- Get your child to try and put any difficult words in their own sentences to see if they understand what it means.
- Have your child think of synonyms (words that mean the same) that the author could have used instead. Have a discussion with them as to why the author may have chosen that word. Eg despised instead of not liked.
- Discuss any issues or difficult topics that may have come up during the chapter. It could be the emotions associated with a character dealing with a situation eg bullying, death, sickness, loneliness. Get your child to see the situation from a variety of character perspectives. A parent could ask them, why do you think the character acted like that?
3. The child plays the role of Questioner
Being able to ask a “good” question will give you an understanding of the comprehension skills of your child. A child needs to be able to ask questions that require a deeper understanding to answer them. Asking the right questions in life will indicate that the child knows his/her weakness and can get clarification to keep developing their understanding. Starting questions with “how” and “why” will encourage this deeper understanding.
- Get your child to read a chapter aloud to you. After that, get them to read it again independently. They can then form 2 or 3 questions about the plot, issues or characters that start with how or why. Have a discussion about the chapter using the questions as a focus.
- Encourage your child to research about a particular issue or topic that may come up in the text, relating to a question they have. Eg finding out more information about conditions in the depression that might impact of what people did to survive. This research could come about from a question like “Why did the main character steal a loaf of bread, when he knew he could go to gaol?
- Encourage your child to ask two questions about why an author has used a particular format or character to convey a message. Eg Why does the author use diary entries in the book? Have a discussion about how authors have their own perspective and that impacts on how the text is written.
- You can also answer their questions by referring to the text to show your child how you need to use what is written and your understanding about the world to form your answer.
4. The child plays the role of Summariser
- Get your child to retell what they just read. Ensure that they give you lots of information as you have not read it.
- Get your child to write a summary of the text that they have read that is less than 60 words. (a, is, I count as words). This will help them to become more succinct.
- Get your child to explain the changes in a particular character during that chapter. Ensure they tell you how and why they have changed. Ask them how they are like that character and how they are unlike that character.
- Get your child to tell you the purpose of that chapter or text. Why does the author include it or write about it. Your child needs to give evidence from the text justifying why they think that.
5. The child plays the role of Applier
A child needs to be able to understand what they have read and use this knowledge to apply it to another aspect of their lives. This is a very difficult concept as it requires two steps for children to undertake.
- After your child has read the chapter or entire text get them to write down 2 new facts they have learnt that they did not know before. Get them to share their discoveries with you.
- Get your child to suggest ways that they can use their new understanding in their own lives. (eg Cyber bullying is a really big problem now - The child says to protect themselves from it they will not go on the internet after 8pm to reduce the risk)
- Have a discussion with your child about issues that have come up in the text and how to solve problems if they do arise.
All Primary school children need to be engaged in three different reading experiences. The three experiences are modelled, guided and independent. When a child gets older (9-12 years old), they tend to be only involved in independent reading at home. We need to ensure as parents and educators, to give as many modelled and guided reading opportunities as possible to lay a really strong foundation of reading skills. Older children still need to hear adults read, as they will hear the fluency and reading strategies needed for more challenging texts. Read a variety of texts aloud to your child as much as possible. Continue to get your older child to read to you now and again and praise them for their developing comprehension skills.
I hope this blog has given you some practical ideas on how to continue to guide your child’s reading skills when they are older. Please continue to share, comment and spread the word about CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. I really appreciate all your support and feedback.
Kelly PisaniClick here to email this post to yourself or a friend