First of all, don’t panic. Most of these mistakes parents make with young readers, even in combination, aren’t detrimental. The good news is that even if you’re making all of these mistakes it is because you are supporting reading in some ways. Pat yourself on the back for that. Now see if you can avoid any of these mistakes with beginning readers and start choosing the even better path to raising successful, eager readers.
Reading mistake #1: “I want him to sound out all of the words.”
Of course we want them to sound out of all the words but the reality is that if beginning readers are missing more than three words per page (which only has two to three sentences to begin with) or seven words per page in chapter books, they start to lose comprehension of what is really happening in the story. Sounding out words on word lists is great and sounding out words in books is important too- to a point. That’s right up to the point where the comprehension or even the confidence is being lost.
Be willing to challenge new readers but recognize when it’s time to throw them a bone. One idea is to offer “tokens.” For example, if your child seems to be missing about six words per page, split the difference and offer three help tokens. That means three times they sound out the word and three times they hand over a token and you offer the new word so they can continue reading.
Reading mistake #2: “I choose only books on her grade level.”
Choosing the right books for your child’s reading level seems simple enough. After all, many book publishers put a grade level such Pre-K through 1st and 2nd through 3rd grade right on the book. Also many libraries color code library books for pre-readers, early readers and first chapter books and so on. Still, here is what I hear from parents. It is three weeks into the new school year and a mother of a second grader will say, “I checked out a bunch of 2nd grade level books and she can’t read them.” Remember, she’s just started the second grade. The books she should confidently read (assuming she’s reading on grade level) will be those labeled for 1st grade, the grade she just completed. By the end of the second grade, she’ll probably be able to read these with no problem but for now made need more help. Of course others may read above grade level and there’s no reason to hold them back either.
It’s best to choose a combination of books around your child’s reading level so that some are easy and build confidence and others are a bit challenging and increase opportunities for learning.
Reading Mistake #3: “I don’t read at bedtime anymore now that he’s reading chapter books to himself.”
Even though kids are reading more independently there are many good reasons to keep reading to your new readers, and only a few of them have to do with benefiting them with their reading. It’s a time of undivided attention, a time of special routine and even physical closeness but continuing to read aloud to your young readers also continues to model the skills of reading aloud, builds context clues for when they are reading on their own and builds vocabulary too.
Given the option to choose picture books or fun holiday books, most elementary kids (and middleschoolers in my experience) are still interested. Another option is to read aloud a chapter book together, a few pages or a chapter at a time, that you might both enjoy.
True story: This article had written recently written itself in my head after numerous questions from and conversations with well intentioned parents who wanted to raise good readers. As I added the title to the list of articles to written during my afternoon writing time, I made a note that I would need a photo. Before I could finish the note, a bounding sound started down our steps. (Tigger has nothing on my 6 year old son.) My son presented himself wearing a button. “Hey Mom,” he says, “Remember my button I won from the library?” I looked. It said “I love reading.” I could mark the photo off of my list.