Answered by Nathalie Paquet-Bélanger
Learning to read is a crucial part of school learning; often, a positive experience of learning to read helps a child to stay in school later on. Educators who support parents’ efforts at home increase the likelihood that their students will succeed. Here are six tips for teachers who want to support parents to become involved in their child’s acquisition of reading skills.
Tip Number 1: Instil a love of reading
Literacy is an integral part of school learning and communication generally. There are many ways in which to promote the importance of reading. These include a reading circle at school; an author-of-the-month activity; a book award for a favourite book that the group or class picks; and video clips in which staff members and parents talk about books that have had an impact on them.
Tip Number 2: Introduce activities that develop phonological awareness
Good phonological awareness is a prerequisite for learning to read; it is also one of the best predictors of the likelihood that a student will stay in school later on. When educators make parents aware of the importance of phonological awareness as soon as their child begins school, they can involve parents in their child’s success at school, focussing on fun activities, such as rhymes and alliteration, that everyone can participate in and enjoy.
Tip Number 3: Give parents tools for reading at home
Reading at home is an accessible way to have a positive impact on reading fluency and comprehension. To make reading at home as effective as possible, educators can provide parents with tools.
Where fluency is concerned, children must enjoy the activity. Educators can remind parents that certain simple behaviours make reading more enjoyable. These include using different voices for different characters in a story; creating a mood in the room; acting out some of the parts of the story; and imitating sounds through the use of onomatopoeia. Educators should emphasize that children also learn by listening to a good reader; parents should therefore read parts of a story or the entire story aloud to their child. Some parents wonder what to do when their child makes a mistake: should they correct the mistake or ignore it? Educators can help parents with these questions.
Where comprehension is concerned, educators can provide parents with a list of simple questions for their child to encourage reflection before, during, and after story time. This will make the activity interactive and support the development of comprehension strategies. For example:
Before: let’s look at the pictures together. What do you think this story is about?
During: what do you think is going to happen next? Why?
After: if you were a character in this story, would you have behaved that way? Can you tell me why?
Tip Number 4: Share a reading list with parents
Educators are good at judging the complexity and suitability of a book. Providing parents with a reading list, appropriate for their child’s reading level, is a winning strategy; share information such as the level of complexity and the topic (detective story, adventure, animals, etc.), and where the book can be found (library in the classroom or the school, public library, etc.). Create a column where young readers can use stickers to say whether they liked the story or not.
Tip Number 5: Share the schedule of learning around reading with parents
A simple way to support the retention of learning around reading is to review concepts that have been studied. Educators can provide parents with a calendar that summarizes the key graphemes and types of words studied during the year. On the back of the calendar, educators can provide parents with suggestions of simple activities, with examples.
Tip Number 6: Special considerations
Some parents may have their own difficulties with reading, or with reading in English. Educators should be sensitive to parents who are reluctant to read with their child. On possible suggestion is for the parent to find a ‘reading buddy’ such as an older sibling or other relative to read with the child or do some of the suggested activities, with the parent present as well.
Nathalie Paquet-Bélanger is the French Learning Disabilities Consultant of the LD@school team. She is completing a Masters degree in education science at the University of Quebec at Rimouski. She holds a bachelor degree in special education from the same university and a certificate in ICT integration in education (TELUQ). She is also a sessional instructor for the integration of ICT in education at the UQAR. Her current position is special teacher at the Charlesbourg Public Secondary School where she enjoys working with teenagers and a diversity of learning difficulties. Nathalie is glad to bring her contribution and expertise to the LD@school team and to network with teachers sharing the same passion for the success of students with learning disabilities.