Before you read this post, be sure to check out parts one and two of this mini-series, Making the Most of 20 Minutes – Six Things to do with your child before reading and Six Things to do with your child during 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.
Your child has only been reading for 15 minutes and has finished the book, so what do you do? Reading doesn’t end when the words do! Extending the learning after the book is completed allows children to explore ideas, extend on the concepts presented in a text and deepen their knowledge based on a certain book. It also helps to reinforce comprehension, or an understanding of what they read, which is a key component of literacy. Here are six ways your reader can take their understanding of a text and their literacy experiences to a more advanced level:
- Re-read: Many of us frequently re-read books that we’ve enjoyed and children can do the same. Not only will children develop a love of reading, but re-reading familiar books helps to build a reader’s fluency. As they become more familiar with the words in a book, they are able to think about their expression while reading, making the story much more interesting. Furthermore, the more they read a book, the better they come to know it, which is a major confidence builder. It is okay to let children read a favorite book for the tenth time, as the repeated reading can benefit the child long after the book ends.
- Talk about it: Now that the story is over, the questions that can be asked are multiplied. In school, children will be working on skills such as sequencing, inferencing and comparing. You can help by asking your child questions like, What happened in the beginning/middle/end? How do the characters feel? How is this book the same/different as the one we read last night? When you ask your child to tell you the story again in their own words, they are able to practice language skills and remember details from the book.
- Make connections: After reading any story, it is important for students to draw on their own knowledge and experiences to make connections between the book and their own lives. Readers who make real connections while reading are better able to understand the text. As they are connecting, they are thinking, which makes them more engaged in the reading experience. Try referencing a time your child had a similar experience to that of a character, such as making a new friend, or asking questions such as, what does this story remind you of?
- Write: The practice of writing helps children to build their literacy skills and to gain a deeper understanding of the printed word. Simply put, practicing writing makes you better at reading and vice versa. For a quick and easy writing idea for all reading levels, have your child write about their favorite part of the story. The youngest children can draw a picture and write a sentence or two. For more extensive activities, write a letter to a character in the book, write an extra chapter, or compose a letter to the author. Scholastic offers great information about writing to their featured authors
- Become an illustrator: For children who are more artistically inclined, use art to extend the story. Many students will have to complete projects like dioramas, poster boards and models for book reports, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Children can illustrate their favorite character, scene, or place in the story. Making a comic is always fun, too. To make even more connections, consider having them write about what they drew.
- Remember to have fun: After your middle-schooler has seen the movie The Hunger Games, why not read the book? Many movies and television shows have books that are written specifically for children who enjoy those characters. You can find ample books about Minions, Arthur, Transformers, and more. Make a game out of predicting which version will be better, or what event will come next in a series. Reading takes a lot of thinking and a little bit of work, but it should still be a fun experience for you and your reader to enjoy.
There are too many new readers out there who do not possess the love of reading that we want them to maintain for the longevity of their educational careers and beyond. Reading is challenging, and even more so for some readers than for others. By making reading about more than simply reading the words on the page for those twenty minutes, we can help children really enhance their literacy skills at home.
Jennifer Mazzola is an elementary reading specialist in Lynn, MA and has a master’s degree in K-12 Reading and Literacy.