Are you a parent finding yourself suddenly in charge of your child's learning due to school closures? Yikes!

While it can be daunting since many of us parents expect the schools to fill this duty for us, their IS some good news:

First, up until the 20th century when compulsory schooling took hold, parents mainly filled the role of teaching their own children. You know a lot more than your child: you can do this!  

Second, there are wonderful resources available to you online to help you support your child's reading. Companies with digital resources for education are throwing open their doors at little or no charge.

But since all the options can be a tad overwhelming, this article will show: 

  • the 5 most important things you can do to support your child's reading (the most important school skill). 
  • I'll also point you towards the best resources. So stay tuned for links, PDFs, and mini-training videos...

Ready? Carry on for the 5 proven ways for you to support your child's reading...



5 Proven Ways for You
To Support Your Child's Reading

1

Flood Their Day with Read Alouds

Reading aloud to your child will benefit their brain, their achievement in school and future careers, as well as their bond with you. Read aloud as a family. Help your child find opportunities for listening to other read alouds. See links below...

2

Coach Your Child's Reading Aloud 

Sit with your child, listen to her reading, and coach her on how to improve her word reading strategies. The 2 quick videos below with help you know how to coach her.

3

Play Games with Sounds in Words
(AKA Phonemic Awareness)

We learn to read words by deeply understanding how each SOUND connects to specific SYMBOLS (i.e., "sh" or "k" or "ay"). Play games with your child where he segments, blends, and manipulates sounds in words. See video and app suggestions below for "how-to's!" 

4

Encourage All Kinds of Writing

Across the day, ask your children to write words, sentences, and paragraphs. They can write about their day, their reading, and their learning. Encourage younger learners to say each sound as they write. Proper handwriting formation practice is smart, too. See links below.

5

Help Your Child Learn Knowledge About the World

Strong reading achievement and reasoning skills are built upon a base of LOTS of knowledge of the world. Through books, online articles, games, videos, podcasts, and conversations, children will benefit if they learn about science (What is a virus?), history (What was life like during the 1918 Spanish Flu?), geography (Where is New York? Italy?), art, music, math, and more. See below for fun ways to make it happen!


silhouette of mother reading to child

# 1 Flood Their Day with Read Alouds


School may be out, but children can still learn vast amounts of vocabulary words, concepts, and information via the Read Aloud. Indeed...

The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.

-- Federal research report, Becoming a Nation of Readers

Don't worry. YOU don't have to read all day long and grow hoarse. 😉 Keep these 3 ways in mind for expanding your child's world through listening to great books and more...

3 Types of Read Alouds

black father reading aloud to child on couch_cropped

Parent reads aloud to child


If possible, gather the whole family and read aloud a great book every day at the same time. Or read to a few children at the same time. Other family members may be able to read to your child, too, in person or via phone, FaceTime, or Facebook Messenger.

Oprah Winfrey_Storyline Online

Child watches a read aloud online


Thousands of books read aloud are available for free online. Most show the pictures in the book. Some even highlight the words being read aloud, which can help build word reading skills, too. See my fav sites below. 

child reading and listening along to book outside_cropped

Child listens to a read aloud

Don't forget the audio book!

Even more books are available to listen to online. Many are free and others are low-cost. Children still enjoy powerful benefits from listening to a book, so add this to their daily "diet!" 



black father reading aloud to child on couch_cropped

Parent Read Aloud Resources

child and mother in library looking at books_reduced

Your Local Library (or home)

If your library is still open, ask the children's librarian for advice for your child. Check out books as you practice social distancing. (!) If your library is closed, they still likely have ways to help you access books digitally with services like OverDrive. If you have a collection of books at home, hunt down your own childhood favorites! Or borrow from a neighbor.

Project Gutenberg logo

Project Gutenberg

Find classic books like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Little Women, or Kidnapped at Project Gutenberg as free e-books. 

Amazon kindle website

Amazon Kindle...or Nook

Amazon Kindle has a small selection of e-books for free. Amazon Prime Members can get hundreds of books for free as part of Prime Reading. And, if the whole family is looking for e-books, joining Kindle Unlimited for a month or 2 ($9.99 after a free month), may be a great value! {Purchases through this link can support ongoing work at Reading Simplified.}

Oprah Winfrey_Storyline Online

Child Watches Read Alouds Online Resources

Storyline Online home page

Storyline Online

Who better to read aloud a great book to your child than an actor? Let your child enjoy watching actors read aloud online with the free resources at Storyline Online.

Epic books sample screen

Epic

Epic is a teacher favorite because of the thousands of books it hosts for read-alouds, student reading practice, quizzes and more. If your child does not already have an account through his teacher, you can now sign up for a free account through June 30. Thanks Epic!!

vooks example screen

Vooks

Vooks is similar to Epic with focus on the read aloud experience with animations. Mostly for younger children. Your teacher could access a teacher accout for free. Or, they offer a free 30-day trial for parents 

child reading and listening along to book outside_cropped

Child Listens to a Read Aloud Resources

raz-kids read along website

Raz-Kids 

A popular site for teachers and students alike because they provide all the options for reading practice: listen along, read-your-self, and even record yourself! Plus the motivational system motivates some kids to keep reading. The texts in Spanish and French are another big plus! Raz-Kids is currently free due to school closures. 

Children's Stories at Audible for free

Audible 

Audible is generously offering free streaming of audio books for children to teens as long as schools stay closed. These professionally recorded are usually superb. Plus, amazon's reviewing system helps you determine if the story is worth the time. Can your child spend at least an hour on audible every day? So worth it!

Pinna podcasts and audiobook home page

Pinna 

Pinna is offering 2 months' free access to their beautiful podcast, audio stories, and more app platform. Allow your child (3 to 12) to download the app on his/her own device and possibly direct his/her own learning. Check out Brains On for your first podcast listen!

child and mother in library looking at books_reduced

Your Local Library

Even if your local library is closed, it may still offer access to hundreds, if not thousands, of children's books to listen to digitally, with services like OverDrive or Hoopla.


Teacher reading a text with a child

Coach Your Child's Reading Aloud


The 2 traits of great readers that research consistently points to are

  1. wide knowledge of the world, including vocabulary knowledge, and
  2. accurate, fluent word recognition.

Children can gain #1 above through conversations with adults, read alouds, and other knowledge gathering.


But they can't really improve #2 without reading practice on their own. Children who become good readers do a lot of it.

When you coach your child as she reads aloud a book to you, she has the potential to grow much more rapidly in her own word recognition skills.


If you coach her like the suggestions in the video below, she won't just learn a single word from each point of feedback from you. Rather, she will likely improve her overall strategies for reading more and more words in the future. 


Guided practice of reading aloud--One of the fastest levers for boosting your child's reading...and overall school...achievement!

Quick Fix When Your Child Has Difficulty Blending Sounds to Read Words


Children earlier on in their reading development, as compared with the video above, may also benefit from a more mature reader helping them blend the sounds together in a word, continuously.


In other words, if your child deletes or adds sounds in words regularly, or he says each sound separately and then forgets what he's said, he likely needs the Blend As You Read decoding strategy.


With Blend As You Read, we coach our child to put each sound together in the word, from the beginning, continuously.


Instead of allowing the child to say, 


/c/   /a/    /t/


we coach the child to say,


/ca-----/     /cat/.



See how the child in the video below puts the sounds in "slap" together as he reads. (He does not say them individually, or separately, first.)


Need more info about Blend As You Read?

Here's the Ultimate Guide to Teaching Blending Sounds in Words!


mom and son laughing outside

#3 Play Games with Sounds in Words

We learn to read words by deeply understanding how each SOUND connects to specific SYMBOLS (i.e., "sh" or "k" or "ay").

Play games with your child where he segments, blends, and manipulates sounds, or phonemes, in words.

(Reading may seem like a purely visual activity, but research since the 60's consistently demonstrates that good readers perceive the individual sounds in words and can manipulate them. Kids with strong "phonemic awareness" generally become good readers...and spellers.)

Enjoy the following games with your child! Easy and quick, but another powerful lever for improving word recognition.

2 Sound Games Parents Can Play with Younger Students to Boost Reading Achievement

The first video example below has an adult calling out simple, 1-syllable words to a child and challenging him to segment, or separate, each sound into its smallest parts. 

In other words, we would aim to have words such as "train" be segmented into /t/ /r/ /ay/ /n/ because those are the smallest units of sound (phonemes) in the word.

Similarly, the word "stomp" would be phonemically segmented as

/s/  /t/  /o/  /m/  /p/,

NOT

/st/  /o/  /mp.

In the second video example, the adult is doing the reverse. She is saying the individual sounds with a second or two separation between them. 

The child's challenge is to see if she can blend the sounds back together again to hear a real word. For a real challenge, play the game with nonsense words!

Read more about the following 2 games with sounds here.

A FREE App to Develop Advanced Phonemic Awareness

If the above 2 activities are too easy for your child, then she may enjoy a harder sound game. The free app What's Changed? is my new favorite app to develop advanced phonemic awareness (the strong ability to manipulate individual sounds in words).

When we're sitting with kids we play a similar game with actual letter-sound tiles called Switch It. If you want an alternative to the app, head here to learn more about Switch It.

What's Changed? is available for iPhone or Android and in US English and Australian (iPhone). 

I prefer to just have kids use the first and last column of the game--and skip the center activities which add extra markings onto letters.

What's Changed? App

What's changed app screenshot

Below is a sample activity of Level 1 of the What's Changed? app. Notice how the nonsense words force the child to really listen to each individual sound (phoneme) in the "words."

And here is a more advanced level that ends up having the student manipulate sounds in 5-sound words.

Five minutes a day with the What's Changed? app can make a profound difference in a child's ability to perceive and process rapidly the individual sounds in words (giving that "advanced phonemic awareness ability" mentioned earlier).

This skill is a huge help for decoding new, unknown words. Your child will be better able to match up specific sounds with specific spellings so the "inside parts" of words are noticed and processed more deeply.


#4 Encourage All Kinds of Writing

Across the day, ask your children to write just words or a couple of sentences or even paragraphs. 

They can write about their day, their reading, and their learning. Encourage younger learners to say each sound as they write. For instance, when writing the word, "mouse," they would say, /m/ /ow/ /s/, as each spelling was written.

See the short video below for how we can coach our children to learn more about words through guided dictation, like this activity we call Write It.

It's less of a spelling test and more of a way to see what your child already knows. And what he can learn in the process.

Write It to Improve Reading (and Spelling)

You can focus on a specific spelling pattern, like words with the /oa/ sound, or words with special endings as the "tion" example above. You can also focus on words from a story that she has just finished. 

Or, she can compose her own ideas and you coach her as needed. Here are just a few ideas for writing topics:

  • Write a 2-3 sentence summary of a book or story she just read;
  • Write a letter to a family member, or to those in a nursing home;
  • Record what the family dinner "menu" will be tonight; 
  • List grocery items the family needs; or
  • Create a news story from the day's news.

Writing can be challenging and frustrating to many students so try to keep the assignments, if any, light, playful, and brief. 

A little bit of writing practice is better than a blow up.  😉

Usually, when a student composes her own work, teachers focus first on the ideas as well as the good things we notice. I might only "correct" a few words that are most likely to be used again so as not to discourage my child. Perfection in writing for young writers is a tall order. 

boy up close writing in notebook

Handwriting to Improve Reading and Writing


In addition, proper handwriting formation practice is smart, too, so if your child isn't yet automatic with handwriting, 5 minutes a day of high-quality handwriting practice can help good handwriting to become a habit.

Additional time at a computer during school closures will likely mean that actual handwriting may happen less than typing. But we know that handwriting is a powerful support for learning word recognition and remembering information, so don't forget the pencil and pen!

First ensure that the lowercase letters are formed properly and quick. I find it's easiest to teach the proper strokes of common letters. For example, these letters start in the same position between the lines: a c d g o q.


Thus, you can group letter instruction like this:


a  c  d  g  o  q

b  h  k  l  t

i  j  m  n  p  r  u

(variable start positions) 
e  f  s  v  w  x  y  z 


After his writing of lowercase letters is pretty smooth, then move to uppercase. 

Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten has some clever tricks for possibly speeding up handwriting learning as well as a free page of proper formation of the letters.


map of the continents

#5 Help Your Child Learn Knowledge About the World

Strong reading achievement and reasoning skills are built upon a base of LOTS of knowledge of the world. 

Through books, online articles, games, videos, podcasts, and conversations, children will benefit if they learn about science (What is a virus?), history (What was life like during the 1918 Spanish Flu?), geography (Where is New York? Italy?), art, music, math, and more.

Wide knowledge lays the foundation for good reading comprehension, as educational journalist Natalie Wexler writes in Forbes and in her significant book, The Knowledge Gap​, [link to Amazon helps in a small way to support Reading Simplified's work]

See below for some of my favorite resources--other than great books--for helping children learn about their world.

How to Build Reading Comprehension

“[A]s cognitive scientists have known for decades, the most important factor in reading comprehension is how much you know about the subject. So the best way to boost kids’ comprehension is to expand their knowledge about things like history, science, and the arts..."

Natalie Wexler

Fun, Knowledge-Building Resources

Brain POP image

Brain POP

website

In a class of its own, Brain POP teaches core concepts for children and teens via animated storytelling, quizzes, and more. Now FREE for anyone during school closures. Find something for just about every content area, from COVID-19 to Cleopatra. Irresistible learning!

wonderopolis site image

Wonder-opolis

website

Always free and beautiful, Wonderopolis offers videos, audio, text, quizzes, and more about the topics young people wonder about. Try the Wonder of the Day or Wonders with Charlie or Camp Wonderopolis. I love how the site pairs reading with other stimulating visuals. 

brains on podcast logo

Brains On

podcast

Brains On podcasts offer kids high-production radio-style drama about scientific concepts all around us. Listen to learn all about carnivores, black holes, or ants. Kids with devices can download these podcasts and listen on their own. Always free.

Wow in the world podcast image

WOW in the World

podcast

Like Brains On, WOW in the World serves up entertaining shows about science, tailored for children. Engaging, silly, and informative, this NPR show will likely hook many a child. Always free. 

Let your child just listen to episode after episode to one of the podcasts, or peruse one of the websites in depth.

Or, if your child becomes intrigued by an episode of Brains On, see if that same topic is addressed by Brain POP or Wonderopolis. He can learn more and read more with these other sites. Perhaps some fiction or non-fiction books about the same topic can be found as e-books form the public library or through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited, which is free for the first month right now.

For instance, Brains On, Wonderopolis, and WOW in the World all have segments about mummies. Many other topics overlap as well.

Finally, don't forget educational apps to learn things like geography, history, art, or math facts. Head to Common Sense Media for their best of the best app lists. 


Get Serious About Teaching Reading to a Child

Finally, although I promised only 5 proven solutions for parents to help their child learn to read, let's call it 5.5. 😉 If you're still reading this far down the post, you must be really serious about how to help your child improve in his/her reading.

We've taken a lot of the excess inefficiencies out of how to teach reading with our Reading Simplified system here. If you want to know the core of our system, you're invited to a complementary online workshop, 3 Activities a Day to Keep Reading Difficulties Away.

During this free training, you'll see how effective these 3 activities can be for beginning and struggling readers of all ages. If you want to go even deeper, you'll be invited to join the Reading Simplified Academy for the full training and resources, and support for the Reading Simplified system.

We'd love to "see" you on the inside. But whatever path you choose...

Here's to making great readers!

Parents or Teachers, does this help? I'd love to know what you think! Please comment below...

5 Proven Ways to Support Reading_Pinterest