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One area parents are often asking for help in is how to read with their child. As a parent, reading with your child is one of the most important things you can do.
But how do you read with your child? How can you improve the way you read with your child?
There are a few simple steps that can help you actively engage your child while reading. It doesn’t have to be too complicated – with just a few handy notes you can enhance your child’s reading experience.
The FLOWERS Method for Active Reading
When you first sit down with your child, you should make a forecast about what the story will be about (also known as a prediction). Look at the cover, talk about what you see on the cover and what the story may be about.
Flip through the pages; look at the pictures. Ask your child, what do you think is going to happen in the story?
Sometimes, I paperclip the pages at the end of the story to make the ending more of a mystery.
Look at the cover above for Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Ask your child, what do you notice on the cover? (a monster, a boat, big trees, water, it looks like he’s in the woods, etc. )
Ask your child, what do you think might happen in the story? Then flip through the pages and look at the pictures. Talk together about what is happening in the pictures and what might be happening in the story.
Leave Words Out
Leaving out the words is a simple technique to get students more engaged in the story. While reading the story aloud, leave some words out. Let your child fill-in-the-blanks (only one word per sentence, every few sentences). They may not always be right and that’s okay!
Leave Words Out Example
Look at the page above from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. Read, “The Sun did not shine. It was too wet to ______.” Have your child make guesses as to what the blank is. If they don’t get it, sound out the first two letters of the word, “pl” and see if they can fill it in.
Ask open-ended questions while reading. This encourages children to make inferences (thinking beyond the text). At the end of this post, I attached some suggestions of open-ended questions to help with this step.
Open-Ended Questions Example
Look at the page above from Jan Brett’s The Mitten. Ask your child, how do you think the animals in the mitten are feeling? What do you think is going to happen next?
Ask “Wh” questions about the story and pictures. Who, what, where, when, why, and how.
“Wh” Questions Example
On the page above in Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, you could ask the following questions.
- Where does the story take place? (a farm)
- Who is writing a note to Farmer Brown now? (the ducks)
- What do the ducks want? (a diving board)
- When did the Ducks write the note? (the morning after the cows got their blankets).
Emote While Reading
Students first learn how to read aloud from listening to you. If you have an old favorite that you read again and again, notice that your child will copy the expression you use while pretending to read it back.
If you read with no emotion and little expression, your child will not learn how to properly emote while reading. In addition, reading with expression provides your child with additional information about the text.
If you sound angry, he will better understand that the character is mad.
While reading this page above from How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, make sure to emote the Grinch’s hatred toward Christmas.
You don’t want to say happily that he hated Christmas. This page calls for lots of expression.
Relate the Story to Real Life
Children love to relate stories to their real life. Ask your child,
- Have you ever felt like the character?
- Has something like this ever happened to you?
- Does this story remind you of anything from home?
Relating the Story to Life Example
After reading above from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, you could ask your child,
- Have you ever felt like Alexander?
- Can you remember having a bad day?
- Have you ever tripped over something?
- Have you ever gotten gum into your hair?
After reading, ask the student questions about the book. What happened in the beginning? What happened at the end of the story? What was the problem in the story? How did they solve the problem?
When you are finished reading, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, you could ask the following questions.
- How does the story begin?
- What are some of the food items the caterpillar ate?
- What did the caterpillar turn into?
- What happened to the caterpillar at the end of the story?
When should I use each step of the method?
Leave words out
Emote while reading
Tips for Teachers
As teachers, we often take for granted the techniques we have learned through classes and experience. During meetings with parents, I find that we often forget that parents do not have the same information as us – and we shouldn’t expect them to.
It is our job to have the knowledge and information to teach their children. Yet, there are still many ways in which we can help parents. This is a simple way to share with parents a way they can help their children at home.
This bookmark with directions is easy to print or e-mail to parents at the beginning of the school year. I especially suggest sending it home with children in preschool through second grade.