In fourth grade students face the challenge of reading their first textbooks. Where once their schoolbooks were simple narratives with illustrations, now they are filled with bold print, bullet points, photo captions, tables of contents, subtitles, headings, indexes, and glossaries.

The first time a fourth grader sees a textbook, it can be dizzying. This is Big-Kid Land, and students are treated like little scholars. How do you keep yours from panicking?

Try this: Ask your child to pick a topic he loves and write about it using bullet points of fun facts — he can also illustrate his ideas and write captions for the pictures. Whether he writes about whales, outer space, soccer, dancing, or chocolate, all topics can be described using chapter headings, subtitles, bullet points, and illustrations with captions. (Many kids actually enjoy writing the table of contents, which helps them imagine an outline for their essay.)

When 9-year-olds become familiar with the features of textbooks by writing them, they will find it much easier to read them.