How Parents Can Help Their First Graders Learn to Read?
You are your child's first and most important teacher. Use this article to help your young child learn to read.
- As you read "A Parent's Story" about the parent of a first grader, watch for ways that the characters work on reading skills, like when they find words that begin with "H" or when they take turns reading.
- Build your child's reading skills by trying activities like those related to "The Golden Horse" story.
- Use the checklist at the bottom of this article to think about your child's reading
A Parent's Story
"H" is for Hallie
Helping my daughter learn to read is an important part of being her mom. It's right after keeping her safe and making sure she eats and sleeps enough, in my book. Hallie just started first grade. It will be an important year for both of us. I know if she can read by the end of first grade, she should do well in school.
I know I can help Hallie practice what she learns in school, so I try to make reading a big part of our life. I've learned that there's a lot we can do while reading. Just doing everyday things will make Hallie an even stronger reader. I hadn't thought of some of the ideas before, but now they make sense.
She needs to know "sight words," like "and" and "the" that you need to know when you see them. So we'll flip through a magazine together just to find words like that--"was" and "to" and "by."
She can already find a lot of H words. It's her favorite letter, because it starts her name. And it's the beginning of "horse," her favorite animal, and "hamburger," her favorite food. Sometimes on the way to the school bus stop we make up tongue-twisters, like "Horrid Harriet Hated Hats, Had Halloween Hair." That gets us started on all kinds of games, like thinking of other words like "ghastly" and "hideous" that mean the same thing as "horrid."
I'm thrilled that she knows the meaning of words like "horrid." It's an unusual word. When I read Hallie a word I think she doesn't know, I ask her about it. I want her to know as many words as she can, so she's never at a loss for words.
Hallie is beginning to write actual words, although her spelling can be funny, like hors for horse and blak for black. I can see that she's sounding the words out, and getting the sounds in the right order, even if she doesn't get all the letters. And she's starting to notice when words aren't exactly right, and ask for help spelling them.
Playing silly word games helps me feel close to her. If she's helping me in the kitchen, I might start with "you can catch a catfish, you can catch a flea," and she'll go on with "you can catch a chicken, you can catch a bee," then I'll say, "you can catch a BUS--but you can't catch me!" I'm glad I can still make her giggle.
She and I have always loved rhymes, but now I see how they make you notice the sounds in words. I have heard that the more she notices about sounds, the easier it will be to match those sounds to letters--and she can use that when she's reading.
At dinner, we talk about the day. It helps me remember what I did, and reminds me of what's important. And Hallie tells me about what she read at school and about playing kickball with her best friend Joey at recess. Talking like this helps her reading and writing because she has to use words, not pictures, to make me see something.
I know Hallie reads aloud at school, but I still make sure she reads to me for five or ten minutes every day. I help her sound out the words she can't read yet. Sometimes we take turns reading pages so she can hear me saying some of the harder words. Now that Hallie's older, I can read her longer books, like chapter books. I didn't hear a lot of books as a child, so it's a treat for me, too. I get so caught up in those stories! We chatter away about the characters, and what she or I would do in their places.
Hallie's crazy about horses, even though we live in a city. Someday I hope I can take her to ride one. But meanwhile, we read about them. We go to the library, and Hallie chooses books she can read to herself. Some nights, when I check on her after she's asleep, she's still holding one of those books about horses.
I don't visit Hallie's school often, because I work, but I go to evening meetings when I can. I'm glad her classroom has plenty of books. Almost everything's labeled, from the reading rug to a plastic elephant, and there are letters and words up on the walls. The teacher puts the kids' writing up on the wall, too. I look for Hallie's first, of course. She doesn't write as well as some of the other kids, but she's definitely writing!
What I like best, though, are the questions the teacher asks: "Who is in the picture?" "Why did the boy draw monsters?" "How do you think the story will end?" It shows me that he is asking them to think, not just know words. With his questions, the teacher is encouraging Hallie to be the smart person she is.
Some days I leave work early so I can pick Hallie up at school and talk with her teacher. I want to know how she's doing. The last time I visited, the teacher said Hallie could practice writing more. So I've been asking Hallie to write me notes sometimes when she has a question, and every month we write a letter to her grandfather together.
Today on the way home from school Hallie and I stopped at the corner grocery. I picked up some cookies--for later, I told her, after dinner and some practice writing. But it was still early, so Hallie asked if we could walk home the long way, through the park. The trees were soft and hazy. The leaves weren't out yet, and the flowers hadn't begun to blossom yet. But they will. And so will Hallie.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Institute for Literacy.
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