Minding their p’s and q’s
Up to the end of first grade, children often reverse letters when writing. Why? Shanahan explains that kids are oriented to a 3D world, but reading requires kids to learn the conventions of a two-dimensional world. Think of it like this: no matter which way you turn a phone – right side up, turned 90 degrees, flipped over – it’s still a phone; but if you start “turning” the letter b, it turns into something else — d when reversed, p when mirrored upside down, q when turned 180 degrees. If your child keeps doing this consistently late into first grade, it may be a sign of a problem, Shanahan notes, and parents should talk to the teacher.
See this discussion at 12:12.
Read in your home language
Even for parents who might not read English fluently, it’s still important to read with your children — and it doesn’t have to be in English, Shanahan says. “I know the parent wants the youngster to learn English, so this sounds counterintuitive, but I would really encourage the parent to do some reading to the child in the home language. That’s beneficial, too.”
See this discussion at 13:27.
To assess whether your child is on track with reading, have her read a page of her school book aloud to you. Without making a big deal out of it, count the mistakes and stumbles; also, ask questions to gauge your child’s comprehension. You can get an idea whether or not your child is struggling by the percentage of words they get right and the points they understand.
Audiobooks are an option, too
Sometimes parents are worried about their own reading fluency — whether it’s a question of ability or a thick accent or something else — and that’s okay, says Shanahan. You can try audiobooks. When you do, he suggests listening to these stories with your child. It’s important to guide the process by asking questions and talking about what you’re listening to, he says, not a time for parents to check out and let the technology take over.
See the discussion at 15:16.
Reading more than a story
To get kids ready for reading in upper grades, college, and the real world, almost all schools, even those not following Common Core Standards, are requiring more informational reading — a wide range of material beyond fiction, literature, and poetry, such as newspaper stories and editorials or fact-based books about history or dinosaurs. Common Core caused a stir by putting time guidelines in the requirements. For example, under Common Core, elementary schoolers should spend 50 percent of their time reading informational texts. People seemed to not realize that all reading, such as science and social studies textbooks, count toward that 50 percent time goal. In middle school, that figure rises to 70 percent of time reading informational texts in science, math, and social studies, for example, with 30 percent of time devoted to reading literature.
See this discussion at 31:08.