How Parents Can Help Their Second & Third Graders Learn to Read
How To Use This Article
You are your child's first and most important teacher. Use this booklet to help your young child learn to read.
- The "Old Red Chair" is about the parent of a 3rd grader. As you read it, watch for ways that Jason's mother helps him learn to read, like listening to him read and reading a map together.
- Build your child's reading skills by trying activities following the "Mummies of Anxiety Egypt" story.
- Use the checklist at the bottom of the article to think about your child's reading skills.
A Parent's Story
The Old Red Chair
Our old red armchair has seen better days! The stuffing's coming out of the arms and one leg wobbles a bit. But Jason, my nine-year-old, has made it his special reading place, so I guess we'll keep it. I can tell it's a magic place for him. He sprawls across it, opens a book--and it's like he's in another place.
Sometimes he even seems like he's in another time. Lately he's been reading about ancient Egypt. He tells me he wants to be an archaeologist when he grows up. He wants to find artifacts from thousands of years ago. I was impressed that he knew the world "artifact." He said he found it in one of his books and his older brother Andy had helped him sound it out. It means things made by people, rather than natural things, he told me.
His vocabulary is growing so fast! From reading about archaeology he's added words like "excavation" and "observation." I know they're just fancy words for "dig" and "look," but they're more exact. It seems like the more words he knows, the better sense he can make of the world.
Jason's interest in Egypt started last fall. The school librarian had gone on a real "dig" over the summer, in Mexico, I think. When she got back and the school year began, she showed the students how real archaeologists work. Then the students did their own dig. They marked an area in the schoolyard, dug it up carefully, and made a note of everything they found. Jason came home nearly bursting with excitement. He had found an old-fashioned skeleton key!
"It was so cool, Mom," he told me. "There was so much in the dig! You know, leaves, and rocks, and bugs--and then I found this real key! At first I thought it was just another rock but I kept digging. When I found it, even Mrs. Stevens got excited. It's a real artifact!"
The stories he made up about that key! First he decided the Pilgrims had left it, but his teacher told him that the Pilgrims didn't travel this far west. So he decided pioneers had left the key behind on their way west. "I'm sure there's a story about it," he said.
That night, I took the boys to the library after dinner. Andy, who's crazy about baseball, took out a biography of Satchel Paige. Jason met me at the checkout desk with a musty-looking book that turned out to be an early history of our town. "That's a grown-up book, isn't it?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. "Can you help me with it?" I told him I'd try.
The book was pretty hard reading, so the next night, I read part of it aloud to my boys. I still read to them when I can. Our days get so busy it can be hard to find any time for the three of us to be together. So I read most nights, even if it's just for fifteen minutes.
Reading to them is like having them little again, except now they talk more! As I read about our town, Jason wanted to know where the oldest house was. Andy was amazed to learn that the early settlers just laid out the streets of our town and built a flour mill. "Just like that?" he asked.
"I think so," I said. I didn't know much about our town, either. The flour mill must have been torn down a long time ago. There is no sign of it anymore.
We came to a map and looked at that for a long time. The boys tried to match places on the map with places in town they know. I can see why they call it "reading" a map. They even found the place where our house is now! It was just fields in the old days. So was Jason's school--no clues there about his skeleton key! But he decided to write his own short story about his pioneers idea and where that key came from. He just had to know!
This school year will be an important one in Jason's life as a reader. His teacher said that next year, in fourth grade, students begin to "read to learn" rather than "learn to read." That means the teachers will expect Jason to know how to read pretty smoothly so they can begin to teach more complex ideas.
I'm sure Jason will be a strong reader by then. He's starting to get the habits of a good reader. For example, when he comes to a word he doesn't understand, he reads me the whole sentence and tries to figure out what it means. If I don't know, we look it up.
Then he goes back to the red armchair, stretches out over it, and goes back to his book and the place he goes when he reads. I don't know if he'll stay interested in archaeology or if something else will seem "awesome" to him later. Whatever it is, I think he'll start by reading about it.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Institute for Literacy.
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