Rev up reading for third graders

Simple tips and activities to help your third grade child master essential reading skills.

By Catherine Ann Velasco

Beginnings and endings

Skill: Decoding

Recognizing prefixes and suffixes is a key reading skill, so practice with your child next time you read together. Go on a prefix/suffix hunt, and see how many words on the page have a prefix or a suffix. Help your child find the root word, and talk about how the prefix or suffix changes the word's meaning.

(Check out these worksheets for more prefix and suffix fun!)

Wrestling with words that just don’t play

Skill: Decoding

There are some words English that you don’t want your child to try to decode! Why? Because it's easier to memorize them than to learn the complex language rules that govern their crazy spelling. (Examples: would, though, through). It’s worth your child mastering these words with flash card games – whether it’s "My Pile Your Pile" or "Concentrate." Here is a list of some sight words every third grader should know.

High drama!

Skills: Fluency

Pick a book with lots of dialogue and divide the reading according to character. (You can read the narration if this keeps the pace.) Or check out the free scripts available online at Reader's Theater. Ask your child to read with extreme expression and you follow suit. Explore how much you can add to a story just by changing your intonation. Have fun doing this throughout the book, expressing fear, glee, boredom, etc.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Skill: Fluency

Have your daughter read her favorite book aloud as if she was reading to a group of younger kids. Video record her and watch it together. Have her practice a few times, and then read it on camera with her best expression and fluency. We can’t promise the video will go viral on YouTube, but you’ll have a priceless keepsake.

Buy this book!

Skill: Comprehension

Have your child write a blurb of a book she just finished. What's the book about? How did it make her feel? What type of reader might like it? Is there anything about the book she didn't like? Make the project more fun by adding your child’s book review to an online site (your local library's website, for example).

Mixed media

Skill: Comprehension

Read a book with your child and talk about it afterwards. Ask your child about the characters, the main themes, what he liked and didn't like. Next, watch the movie version of the book together, and talk about that. Encourage your child to make connections between the book and the movie. Which did he like better? How were the book and movie different? Were major themes or characters missing from the movie? (Some suggestions for books that have been made into movies: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Secret Garden, Beezus and Ramona, The Borrowers, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.)

Test your knowledge

Skill: Knowledge

Let your child pull a role reversal and give the adults a test for a change. After she finishes a nonfiction book, have her create a test on the topic by coming up with a list of ten questions. Let her correct your test, and point out where she found the questions and answers in the book.

Eat this book

Skill: Knowledge

Read a book set in another time or place and use the book as a jumping off point for a feast (and culture lesson). If it’s Little House on the Prairie, make homemade corn bread or maple syrup poured onto snow. If it’s a Magic Treehouse story that takes you to Shakespeare’s time, make a chicken pie and raspberry pudding. Have your child read through the recipe, and make a list of the ingredients you'll need. Back in the kitchen, guide your little chef through the recipe, but let him take the lead. Ask him questions like "What should you do first?" "What comes next?" Then sit back, relax, and savor your creation!

Catherine Ann Velasco has covered education and children and family issues for more than 22 years. She's won numerous awards, and served as a fellow of the Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families and the Education Writers Association’s Statistics Boot Camp. Velasco lives near Chicago and can be reached at cathyannvelasco@yahoo.com