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In fourth grade, the focus of reading shifts. In the early years, reading is about sounding out words and reading short books with lots of pictures. Now, kids are expected to read chapter books.

Now that your child is reading longer books in English, is your role in your child’s reading getting smaller? Not at all! Your ability to support your child’s reading this year is just as important as ever.

Here’s why: a focus for strong fourth grade reading skills is building each child’s “knowledge bank,” which means the amount of information that kids know. You can help just by having conversations with your child in your home language! But not just any sort of talk. Not, for instance, “Don’t forget your backpack” or “Please take out the garbage.” While there’s nothing wrong with this kind of communication, it won’t help your child with reading this year.

For your conversations to help your child with reading skills, you both need to be sharing ideas, listening, and responding to what each other has said. Your child needs you to share your knowledge and wisdom. For example, a lot of children only learn about current events (news, politics of the day, and community controversies) if a teacher makes it part of a lesson. But you can supercharge your child’s reading by helping him understand more about the world he’s growing up in. As you converse, don’t be afraid to use grown-up words (and explain them if your child has trouble figuring out the meaning from the context).

A few topics of conversation to get you started

Get political

Do you have a political opinion? Share it with your child. Most importantly, share why you think or believe what you do. Talk about how your opinion about a certain issue has changed over the years and why. Talk about why some people disagree with you and what their position is. Conversations like this will help your child understand that there are many opinions about every issue.

Back in the old country

Did your home country have different rules or ways than the U.S.? Share memories with your child that illustrate how some of the laws or customs differ. How does the law change how people behave? How does it change society? Just helping your child understand how different countries can be will help your child better understand how society works.

On-the-job learning

Help your child understand your work life. Is there a union? How big is the company you work for? Who is your boss, and your boss’s boss, and so on? Whether you’re self-employed or work in a restaurant, a small business, or a big corporation, help your child understand these different work environments. You likely know things that will help your child understand more about jobs, employment, and how the economy works.

Whatever your topic, remember to offer information and ask lots of questions. Your child will be more intrigued — and learn more — if you have a true conversation (and don’t accidentally give a lecture).

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