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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Reading at home: "You either get angry or you can bribe them"

October 20, 2009

Last week's blog post about Accelerated Reader generated some great comments, both here on the blog and also on our Facebook page. I love that the audience for this blog appears to be a combination of parents, teachers, principals, reading specialists, grandparents, special education teachers, graduate students….

A comment from last week's post inspired this week's title. Alex's comment was a dead-on piece of reality:

From a parent's point of view, when you are sitting with your kid and encouraging them to read, meanwhile they are tired and bored and guessing at words and making up games, what can you do? You either get angry and say, "just read this, I know you can and it's getting late and I'm tired!" or you can bribe them...."if you read this, you'll get some sort of special treat." I really haven't seen a deep discussion of how to help during those little times. No practical tips. I hear things like, "pick a regular time each day, continue to read to the kids, make it fun!" but not a lot of practical advice.

Haven't we all been there at some point with a reluctant reader?

Sadly, the "practical advice" needed isn't quick and easy to communicate, and it really is darn hard work. But, if I were to pick one piece of advice to help during those times, it would be this: make sure your child is reading at his or her independent level at home.

A child's independent level is the level at which the material is relatively easy for the student to read, and can be read with at least 95% accuracy. Books at this level aren't hard for the child to read, and dont require the child to sound out lots of words. Most of the words are read quickly and easily.

When a child spends time reading at his independent level, he's getting a chance to practice word recognition and word analysis skills (the ones hopefully being taught at school). Repeated readings of the same book over and over again enable each reading to become smoother. Soon, the reading will begin to "sound like talking." These are all important steps in becoming a fluent reader.

So, get ready to hear those favorite beginning reader books over and over again. Build up a basketful of independent-level books to be read at night, and then read 4 or 6 a night.

A side note: In our house, we "retire" a book when it can be read with eyes closed.

Related: How to Read with a Beginning Reader


How to help a hearing impaired child increase their fluency, esp when they are reading above grade level?

Helping parents with how to help their children learn how to read is a deep concern and passion of mine. There are many underlying causes for children who appear bored and guess at words when attempting to read. First, in order for children to enjoy reading, the material being read must be something that is of interest to them. A competent reader will read it halfheartedly just to get through it. Imagine a child who struggles to read being required to read something that is as exciting as watching glue dry. Try this, find a book that is interesting to the child, one at their independent level. Let them pick the book. After reading the book of their choice, then let them know "We need to read this book now. I know it is not as interesting as the other one. But it's going to help you become a better reader." As adults, we can even tell when a book is as dry as chalk. I am under the assumption that the book with which the child was bored to pieces was sent home from school. This book is at the child's instructional level. The level at which they can comfortably receive instruction in with support to progress toward. Being so, your child will have difficulty reading some of the words. You could let them read a sentence then, you read a sentence. Or take turns reading page by page. Additionally, to decrease the guessing at words, you could play word games that focus on the phoneme with which the child is having problems. Lastly, don't be afraid to take a break or work in smaller time segments. When your child sees that you are frustrated, they become less apt to try and become frustrated themselves which manifest in many ways. Natasha Moorer, Reading Specialist

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"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan