Making the Most of 20 Minutes: 6 things to do with your child during reading

Before you read this post, be sure to check out part one, Making the Most of 20 Minutes: 6 Things to do with your child before reading. This three part series is designed to give parents ideas on how to make that nightly 20 minute reading homework more meaningful, without excessive work or elaborate materials.

So, you’ve set up the perfect home reading spot and have chosen just the right books for your child to read. Now what? There is a common misconception that reading is simply opening the book, reading the words, and closing it again, never to look back. Educators everywhere will tell you this simply isn’t true. Even adults frequently re-read favorite books and take notes while they read. Reading a book doesn’t have to be the same every time. Try one, two, or a combination of any of these strategies while reading.

Here are six ways to make the most of those twenty minutes while your child is reading:

  1. Look at the pictures: Other than the words on the page, the pictures are the most important part of any story. Consider having your child take a “picture walk” through a book before they begin reading. Here, they go through the pages without reading any of the words and simply look at and think about all of the pictures. This way of previewing a text allows them to familiarize themselves with what they will be reading. The pictures are also extremely helpful for children who need to make connections, or who need to figure out a difficult word. Make a picture walk a part of every reading experience.
  2. Mix It Up: Instead of always reading to your child, or always listening to him read, change up how you read a book. For example, try echo reading or choral reading. For echo reading, read a page or a line of text, and have your child repeat your reading. For choral reading, read the words together at the same time. Your child will have you as a model to follow and will gain confidence from having difficult words read to them. Then, have them read to someone else!
  3. Point to the words: No matter who is reading, make sure your child is pointing to the words as he/she goes. You can model this by pointing to the words as you read. With the youngest readers, this method helps them understand that each word carries its own sounds and meaning. As readers get older, this method helps them identify familiar word patterns and assists them in keeping their place in a lot of text.
  4. Take Turns: For every page your child reads to you, read one back to them. Or, if there is more print on the page, take turns reading different lines. Your child will benefit from hearing you, a fluent reader, read to them as a model. Additionally, this valuable time spent taking turns makes reading a more meaningful experience to share with you.
  5. Help with difficult words: When your child gets stuck on a difficult word, help and encourage them to figure it out. This can be done many ways. If your child knows letters and sounds, have them slowly say each sound and blend them together to make a word. If this doesn’t work, skip the word and try to think about what makes sense in the context of the sentence. Lastly, look at the picture to see if that can help. Students need a variety of strategies for identifying challenging words they encounter while they are reading. Try these fun animal strategies for ideas to help with difficult words.
  6. Talk, talk, talk: One of the most important things you can do while reading is talk about the book. As you go through the book, have your child make predictions. For example, ask them questions like, what do you think will happen next? Or, why do you think [character] did that? Discuss the pictures, characters and events in the story. Don’t wait until the end!

Enjoyed reading this post? Keep a look out for the final post in this three part series, Making the Most of 20 Minutes: 6 things to do with your child after reading. You’ll discover how to talk, what to say and other extension activities to make the most of your 20 minutes of reading!

Jennifer Mazzola is an elementary reading specialist in Lynn, MA and has a master’s degree in K-12 Reading and Literacy.