Teaching Reading

Bringing Kids Up to Grade Level in Reading

Read Aloud to Kids

When reading aloud to a child, the adult models fluent reading and the child learns proper intonation. Children benefit from being read to by increasing vocabulary knowledge, reading comprehension and the ability to decode words, according to Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S. of Family Education.com. Because a struggling reader is at a disadvantage and is likely to choose material with simple vocabulary that doesn't support vocabulary growth, choose read-aloud material that is above the child's reading level and explain difficult words and concepts to further his comprehension.

Understand Child's Reading Progress

Parents who are engaged with a child's academics and communicate regularly with teachers are more likely to understand and support the reading goals of each grade level. Discuss your child's reading level with her teachers and listen to your child read aloud often so you can recognize a problem before it become serious. As your child reads, ask yourself: Does he read without many errors? Can he decode text and comprehend concepts?

Discuss What's Being Read

Some children may have difficulty concentrating when reading independently. Ask questions throughout the text to help comprehension. Pause after each section to model questioning and answering strategies. Your reader will begin to understand that this is a natural part of the reading process, used to retain information. With frequent modeling and practice, he will begin to silently ask himself questions about the text to further his understanding.

Re-Read Text

Reading text more than once builds fluency. By re-reading content with which they're already familiar, children practice reading with smoothly and fluently, enhancing their ability to decode unfamiliar vocabulary words in the context of what they're reading. Going over a passage or a book and reading it again improves word recognition and comprehension.

Provide Variety of Reading Material

Reading is more enjoyable when the reading materials are interesting to the reader. Visit the local library to let your reader choose his own books. This creates ownership and builds excitement. Play books on tape so your child can relax and listen for entertainment, while following along with the story in a book. Children who grow up seeing the adults around them read are more likely to become proficient readers themselves, so surround yourself with books and let your child see you read during leisure time.

Strategy for Reading Fluency in Teens


Talk about what your teen is going to read. If she's flummoxed by the prospect of tackling Homer's "Odyssey," spend time talking to her about quests and those that everyday people undertake daily. Discuss the history behind the book. If your teen is reading "To Kill a Mockingbird," you might talk about some differences between life in the 1950s and today. Having background knowledge helps teens to focus and maintain their interest, according to an article in the October 2005 journal "Educational Leadership." It also increases comprehension, which is linked to increased fluency.

Model Fluency

If your teen tends to trip over words while reading, one way you can help him is to read out loud, letting him hear the cadence of your words and how you pronounce them. Any struggling reader needs the opportunity to listen to a fluent reader, according to the National Institute for Literacy. Read a book out loud to your teen that might otherwise have inaccessible vocabulary. It'll be an alternative to television and an opportunity to spend time together.


Encourage your teen to read out loud as well. Practice makes perfect, and reading out loud is preferable to reading silently when it comes to developing fluency, advises the National Institute for Literacy. Allow your teen to out loud by herself in her room, if she feels embarrassed reading in front of family members. Occasionally insist that she read for you so that you can gently correct mispronunciations and assess her progress.

Select Appropriate Material

If you notice your teen is stumbling over every other word, the text he is reading is too difficult and he is likely to become frustrated. Whenever possible, choose materials that address a topic that he has background knowledge of. Choose books that are at a level that he can read with minimal assistance. For example, having difficulty with three or four words on a page is OK, but not being able to pronounce or identify 20 words will have him yanking out his hair.

The Best Time to Teach Formal Reading to Young Children

Love of Reading

A child who learns to read earlier will not necessarily love reading more or read at a higher level than a child who learns to read a little bit later. If your child sees you reading books or magazines he will learn that reading is important to you and he will want to learn how to do it. If you read books to your child frequently, she likely will learn to love storytelling and will look forward to being able to read her own books. From the ages 4 to 7, your child should start to show the signs of being ready to learn to read.

Prereading Stages

Children progress toward reading readiness in recognizable stages, according to a publication published on the University of Notre Dame website. At around the age of 18 months, most kids can say between five and 20 words. By about 2 years of age, vocabulary expands to as much as 300 words including pronouns. Children at this age will often have a favorite book and will pretend to read it. At age 3, most kids can speak simple sentences and write some letters. At 4 or 5 years of age, kids start to tell their own stories and can remember portions of stories they have heard. By about 5 years, kids can usually recognize their own names in written form.

Reading Readiness

Your child will let you know when she is ready to learn to read. If your child can correctly identify the first sound in common words such as ball or dog, she knows how to recognize phonemes or individual sounds. If he can name the letters used to represent phonemes, such as the letter D for the first sound in dog, he has the phonic skills needed to connect written words with spoken sounds. These are signs that your child is getting ready to start learning to read, according to the Concordia University web page.

Reading Together

When your child seems ready to start to learn to read, you can start by reading books together and helping her sound out each word so she can see how words are put together. Take her to the library with you and let her pick out her own books. Kids are usually much more excited about reading books they picked out themselves. Whether your child starts to read at age 4 or age 7, making it a fun and exciting activity is the key to a lifelong love of books and reading.

Guided Reading Activities for First Grade

Reading Preparation

Introduce your students to vocabulary they will encounter during your reading. First-grade reading vocabulary will consist of simple words such as cat, hat, truck, boat and other simple three- to five-letter words. New vocabulary words should be added with each new piece of reading. A good preparation can be vocabulary games, such as vocabulary match cards or vocabulary quizzes. You should also focus on the syntax, pronunciation and phonics of each of the vocabulary words. Whole-class oral pronunciation will get your students mastering their pronunciation. Sound out the words slowly, syllable by syllable, in order for the students to master the more difficult words.

During Reading

Read out loud as a group so that you can guide your first-graders as they read. Try simple focusing activities to keep them going. For example, if your student gets stuck on a word or fumbles a sentence say “try it again for fun!” After she reads through the sentence, give the student a point. Students earn points for each sentence they read and if the class earns a set number of points, reward them with a pizza party. You should also give them clues as they read. For example, tell them to “look at the neighbors.” Students can use the words that surround the word they are struggling with in order to create a context for the meaning and pronunciation of the word. Be gentle and kind as you guide.

After Reading

Praise your students after they have finished their reading. Ask them what kind of strategies they used to get through the reading. Discuss these strategies with the whole class so they can consider trying these strategies themselves. First-graders who struggle to read in one method may achieve better reading comprehension using a different strategy suggested by a friend. Ask them questions about what they read to gauge their comprehension of the material. Praise all your students for their reading efforts but gauge each student’s progress to focus on how to improve their reading.

At Home

Send home an assessment of each of your student’s reading progress in their Friday Folders at the end of the week. Give each student individualized guided reading lessons to complete with their parents. This should include vocabulary exercises for words the students had problems pronouncing as well as games parents should play with their kids. Games include “I Spy” or “Spell It.” These games are perfect for car rides, boring days around the house or even while watching television. Parents should do these activities with their kids and send them back in the Friday Folder so that you can evaluate the student’s progress further.

What Literacy Skills Can Parents Model for Their Children?

Predictions and Retelling

Predicting what will happen is a literacy skill that helps with comprehension of the story. As you read, discuss what you think will happen next and what clues you used to figure it out. You might say, "I think the little girl will get lost because she's not staying with her mom. The picture on the next page shows the girl alone and crying." Retelling the story after you read is another way to improve understanding of the story. Give a recap of the major events in the story. Acting out stories is another way to retell what happened.


Literacy isn't only about reading. The process of writing strengthens the understanding of words and their meanings. Writing also shows the connection between the written and spoken word. Instead of always reaching for the computer or your smart phone, grab a pen and piece of paper. Scholastic.com suggests writing lists and thank-you notes with your kids to show how writing is useful in daily life. A white board in the kitchen serves as a communication center and gives you another authentic writing opportunity. You can encourage writing in your child by keeping writing materials available.


After reading his favorite book 100 times, you probably don't make too many mistakes, but stumbling over words offers a learning experience for your child. Seeing an adult make mistakes while reading shows your child that he doesn't have to read perfectly the first time. Model sounding out difficult words to help your child figure it out. When you come across a difficult word, talk through the context to guess the meaning, or reach for a dictionary. These skills demonstrate how to become a better reader with a better understanding of the text.

Pleasure Reading

When your child reaches school, he reads many books and passages because his teacher requires it. Some kids look at reading as a chore instead of an enjoyable activity. By reading on your own just for fun, you show your child that reading isn't always boring. Check out a few of your own books the next time you take a family trip to the library. Browse through your favorite magazines or the newspaper. Showing that you value reading can encourage your child to read more on his own.

How to Get a 4-Year-Old Ready to Read

Read books that your 4-year-old enjoys out loud together. The National Association for the Education of Young Children says that this is the single most important activity for building the skills that your child needs for reading success.

Use funny voices and make sounds when you read. HealthyChildren.org says that being a bit of a ham when you read can make reading fun and get your child excited about reading. Use different voices for each of the characters, point emotion in your voice to match the tone of the story and make the sounds that the animals make. Consider yourself a one-person play, acting out all the parts.

Ask questions about the pictures you see or what's happening in the story as you read. The NAEYC says that this encourages children to get involved with the story and to make connections between what they're hearing and the words on the page. Stop to answer any questions your child might have as you read.

Run your finger under the words as you read them. HealthyChildren.org says this will help your child learn to associate the words on the pages with the words that are being spoken.

Sing nursery rhymes and read rhyming books. The NAEYC says that rhyming activities help to build phonemic awareness, or an understanding of the sounds of words, which is an early indicator for literacy. Practice singing these nursery rhymes together and have fun thinking up rhyming words together.


Watching fun but educational shows like "Sesame Street" or "Baby Einstein" may help your child learn about letters or sounds, which can help when it comes time to learn how to read.


Do not use flash cards or phonetic games with your child. These may make reading seem like work, which could make children resistant to learning how to read.

Helping Teens to Comprehend What They Read

Distraction-Free Zone

With cell phones, computers and TVs nearby, it's no wonder your teen doesn't retain everything she reads -- especially when she's texting a friend when she's supposed to be learning about book themes. Help your teen comprehend what she reads by providing her a space in your home completely free of distractions. It should be a room that is comfortable and quiet, with her phone in another room. It may also help for your teen to listen to music while she reads. Experiment and come up with an environment that is more conducive to reading and concentrating.

Read Together

If you notice that your teen is having a hard time concentrating on and understanding what he's reading, form your own book club. Make a commitment to read whatever book he's currently reading for school or pleasure so that when he does have questions about what he's reading, you're on the same page -- literally and figuratively. It also gives you an opportunity to ask questions about the book and discuss various themes and characters so your teen absorbs even more.

Use The 5 Ws

Who, what, where, when and why -- five important questions that are answered by each and every book that your teen reads. Create a worksheet for your teen where the basics are answered for each story. While you may have to coax your teen to think about the basic questions for each book she reads, the exercise should help her to make it a habit, according to Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts in an article for FamilyEducation.com. Soon, deciphering what is happening in a book will come more naturally.

Find a Connection

One way to help your teen comprehend more of what he reads is to help him find a personal connection with one of the characters or theme, suggests the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. A disconnect between your teen and what he's reading can cause him to lose interest or read without really thinking about the book. Ask your teen questions about which character he likes the best or which theme he thinks is the most important to help create that personal connection and get even more out of reading time.