It was announced in early April that schools in California would be closed for the remainder of the school year. These closures have led to many families across the state adopting new routines that are similar to the school day so that children continue learning despite the closures. In a previous entry, we shared the importance of routines for children of all ages. In this post, we will look at one important aspect of routines for school-aged children that fell under “academic time” in our previous entry: supporting children with their learning of English language arts, through reading.
Reading is a critical skill to develop for children of all ages. While young children might be learning their letters or the sounds of simple words, older children might be developing their academic vocabulary and reading about complex topics like science and history. It is important that children of all ages read regularly and build their skills no matter how old they are.
The Common Core standards for English language arts were developed to guide what students should know and be able to do at each age. As examples:
- In first grade, students should be able to answer questions about the details in the stories they read or hear and should be able to describe characters or major events in a story.
- In sixth grade, students should be able to explain the themes in a story or explain how an author presents their story. In ninth grade, students should be able to analyze key subjects or scenes in a story.
Families can help their child continue to develop their skills at home by encouraging their child to read, and by asking the following types of questions that support reading comprehension. If you do not have easy access to age-appropriate reading materials, please consider contacting your child’s teacher or your local library branch (during the COVID-19 pandemic, many libraries are making reading materials available digitally).
For children 3-5 years old, parents can
- Ask children questions about key details in a story
- For example, “What does the bunny rabbit eat?” or, “How many baby birds are in the nest?”
- Ask children question about the kind of text
- For example, “Is this a story or a poem? How do you know?” or, “Does this story seem like real life (non-fiction) or make-believe (fiction)?”
- Ask children questions about the illustrations in a story
- For example, “What is happening in this picture?” or, “By looking at his face, how do you think Max feels?”
For children 6-8 years old, parents can
- Ask children more detailed questions about the characters in a story
- For example, “Are the bunny rabbit, the sheep, and the cow friends? How do you know?” or, “Why did the bear leave the woods? How do you know?”
- Ask children questions about how they feel about a story
- For example, “Do you think the bunny rabbit made a good decision when he visited the farm?” or, “How did it make you feel when the little girl lost her favorite toy?”
- Ask children questions about individual words, phrases, and their meaning
- For example, “What do you think the word ‘nervous’ means?” or, “What does it mean when the book says ‘the bear woke from its slumber?”
For children 9-11 years old, a parent can
- Ask children to find specific examples from a story or text
- For example, “What did you read that told you that Mary and George are friends?” or, “How do you know flowers and plants need water and sunshine to grow?”
- Ask children to compare and contrast two or more characters in a story or text
- For example, “Did Mary and George feel the same way when they learned they were going to a new school? How do you know?” or, “How are bald eagles and hummingbirds similar? How are they different?”
For children 12-14 years old, a parent can
- Ask children to identify the central themes or ideas from a text or story and how they change over the course of a story
- For example, “How did cars change the way people lived from the time they were invented today?” or, “How did the effects of pollution change the way people felt about large factories over time?”
- Ask children to identify the tone from a story or text
- For example, “Does the author have a positive or negative view of cars? How do you know? or, “Do you think the author is in favor of or against new rules for the Internet? How do you know?”
For children 15-17 years old, parents can
- Ask children to identify how characters in a story or text change over time and how the language used in a story or text is used to explain those changes
- For example, “Did Mary and George start out as friends? Why did their friendship end? How did their friendship change over time and how do you know?” or, “How did the relationship between Romeo and Juliet change from the beginning of Shakespeare’s play to the very end? What language was used to show the changes in their relationship?”
- Ask children to identify evidence in a story or text that the author uses to make a point
- For example, “What are three pieces of information that the author used to show that cars have helped people live better? What are three pieces of information that show that cars have caused harm to the way people live?” or “What evidence does the author use to show that the main character feels sorry for the little boy?”
By making time for children of all ages to read every day, families can help make sure that their children’s ability to read continues to grow. Asking age-appropriate questions is a great way for families to engage in their child’s literacy development and help children build valuable reading skills. Because reading is required in all school subjects and by adults, as they go on to college or careers, it is very important for all children to develop the skills appropriate for their age. Families can help their child by reaching out to their child’s teacher and asking about what their child should be reading and what other skills they should be developing.