Home Reading Strategies
Beyond the Reading Log
Teaching and sharing of reading is not the sole territory of teachers and librarians. In fact, home reading is integral to the process of becoming a stronger, lifelong reader.
When parents hear the term “home reading”, many picture the daily reading logs sent home each week. The only requirements to most of these logs are title, author, pages, and date. And the sole purpose of such logs is to prove to teachers that students are meeting district requirements at home, as well as conditioning students to read consistently.
However, home reading should be a more exciting and enriching experience than this. Let’s face it! The traditional reading log is unrestricted and unguided, open to apathy and fudging. For the most part, children choose their own materials, read to themselves, and record their own logs.
Free choice is important. But remember, children in elementary grade levels are still learning how to choose books and magazines that are suitable for them. In addition, many parents may mistakenly believe that these home reading assignments are meant to be independent, especially in the upper elementary level. That children should be reading for consistency only. However, though this type of freedom and independence should be welcome, it is actually confusing and frustrating for the child reader and subsequently for the parent or guardian. Not to mention, this type of freedom and year-long assignment often gives children and parents the sense that reading is not a top priority in the realm of homework.
Home reading should be the flip of this. It should enable the child to use the strategies learned in school comfortably. It should excite the young reader, drive the reader to seek new books, and open up more avenues to the imagination and the real world.
So how can we give home reading a new image?
One way is to envision home reading as a partnership or a group activity, instead of an individual assignment – or to see it as an extension of the classroom experience.
First, parents can become a facilitator, whose goals range from helping a child select appropriate and interesting reading materials to asking the child questions about what was read to guiding the child through different reading skills and thought processes.
But to empower the child’s own decisions and thought processes, it is important to create a more interactive environment – between peers or between the child and a family member. This type of interaction is a combination of facilitator and partnership, where again intelligent book choices are made, formal discussion arranged, and guidance in basic skills is given.
And yet discussion is the most powerful aspect of this experience. Discussion strengthens the child’s ability to consciously reflect on what he or she is reading, to use their reflections to build meaning and enjoyment of what they are reading. When a parent shares in this discussion with a child, the child learns from the parent’s own reflections as well as learns how to appreciate the different perspectives people bring to reading. And though children in the younger grades benefit from the necessity of parent involvement, that involvement may be more on a facilitator level. These children, as well as the older readers, are quite capable of sharing in a discussion. All children are capable of deeper exploration of these worlds and only seek and need companionship on their quest.
Below are some helpful strategies in encouraging a child to be a reflective home reader and helping light their way. Keep in mind that these should be used with illustrations as well as text.
Five Ways to Encourage the Reflective Reader
- Predictions: What do you predict will happen next in the story? by the end of the book? Why do you predict these things?
- Text-Text: How does this story or parts of this story connect to other stories or books you have read?
- Text-Self: How does it connect to your own experiences?
- Text-World: How does it connect to things outside of you? Your family? Friends? School? World?
- Text-Media: How does it connect to movies, television shows, or other types of media you have seen or experienced?
- Feelings: How does this story or parts of this story make you feel? How do different characters make you feel? What would you do in their shoes?
- Questions: What questions do you have about the story? What do you wonder about? What confuses you? Can you answer your own question based on clues you have already read?
- Comments: What are some things you notice about this story or parts of the story? What do you think about how the author writes the story?
As the home reading discussion grows, it is important that reflections for both child and parents evolve to explaining the ideas expressed. And eventually these ideas may be extended to new ideas or understandings, helping the child delve into new aspects of the world.
In the end, guided discussion is just the beginning of what you can do to encourage home reading. Book clubs, journals, writing online book reviews, attending author events, visiting museum exhibits that connect to a book, reinventing the book as a play are other wonderful possibilities.
Don’t let the reading log be the end of the journey.
For tips on helping a child select appropriate reading materials, speak to the child’s teacher, school and local librarians, as well as other parents. Below are some articles that may also help.
“Help a Child Choose a Book” at readwritethink.org website.
“Tips for Choosing Books for Kids” at the nea.org website.