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5 Tips for Reading at Home with Your Kids During Coronavirus

5 Tips for Reading at Home with Your Kids During Coronavirus

Well—it’s been an interesting few weeks to say the least. As we’re all staying home and doing our best to practice social distancing to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, I’ve been trying to stay positive and practice gratitude. One theme that I’ve noticed popping up on my social feeds is that parents who are staying home with their kids and taking on the role of home school instructors seem to have found a new appreciation for teachers. As a retired public elementary school teacher of 32 years, nothing makes me feel more vindicated! If ever there were a time for teachers to get the recognition for the tireless work they do, both inside and outside of the classroom, it’s now. I’ve been amazed at the ways everyday people are stepping up to serve their communities during this time of need, and in the spirit of wanting to pitch in and support families at home right now, I thought I’d share some practical advice for parents who are home helping their children with their reading skills.

  1. Be a Reading Role Model—Positive reading behavior starts with you! Model the kind of behavior that you want your children emulate. Make sure your children see you reading. Talk to them about what kind of books you like to read and keep up a personal library of your own. Involve the whole family in storytimes, including siblings, pets, stuffed animals, you name it! You can even video chat with family members who live near and far to have them join in on the fun. Bottom line, if you develop a culture of reading in your home, children will follow along in your footsteps. 

  2. Make a Word Box—This is one of my favorite tips from the classroom, and it’s something you can do using any book, with any level of reader, using simple items you have around the house. Create a personalized “word box” with your child, and give them a red, yellow, and green marker or crayon  and some index cards. Every time you read together, choose a few words from the book and write each word down on an index card. Color code them according to the level of difficulty (green=easy, yellow= medium, red =challenging). Practice reading these words and talk together about what the words mean. Over time, celebrate when “red” words turn to “yellow” words, and eventually become “green.”  

  3. Read Every Day—This is a tip that you’ve probably heard before, but I can’t stress it enough: carve out a time to read with your child every day. Consistency is key! Set aside at least thirty minutes a day for dedicated reading time, and choose a time of day that works best for you and your child.  If your child is still practicing reading on their own, read for thirty minutes together. If your child is starting to read independently, set a timer for thirty minutes and designate some quiet time when both of you can sit down to read your own books. 

  4. Make Real World Connections—The more we can show our children the ways books connect to our real lives, the more they will begin to see the value in reading. For example, if you’re reading a book about flowers, go outside afterwards and do a nature walk together. If you’re reading a book about a big family, pull out family photos and build your own family tree. If you’re reading a book about friendship, write letters together to your child’s friends and put them in the mail. Simple activities like these will connect the story to your child’s life and will go a long way to improve their reading comprehension.

  5. Preview & Predict—Finally, here’s a simple activity you can do every time you read a book. First talk about the cover together, and then do a “picture walk” through the pages to preview the story. Make some predictions about what you think the book will be about. By familiarizing your child with the settings, characters, and topics on the pages, they will be better prepared to comprehend the story.

Be well, and try your best to enjoy this time you have to spend with your children, because it really is a gift. Check back on the blog soon for more tips, tricks, and ideas for making the most of this time reading at home together.

Patty McGuire (M.A. Ed.) is a retired public school educator with 32 years of experience teaching first and third graders how to read. Her professional studies in early childhood literacy inform her personal teaching philosophy that reading begins at home, and that birth to age 3 are some of the most crucial times in a child’s education. She lives in Fair Haven, New Jersey with her family and her very smart dog, Boulder.