For our new column, Ask an Educator, we turn to educators, whether teachers, tutors, or principals, to answer frequently asked questions from parents. To send in your question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, our question is:
What can I do to help my child who is struggling with reading?
Answering for us is Tiffany Johnson, Elementary Academic Affairs Director/Learning Support Coordinator at Beijing SMIC Private School and Kindergarten, English Track. Johnson has been teaching for five years and graduated from Widener University, Pennsylvania, with a dual certification in Education and Special Education.
Learning to read can be difficult for many students, especially those who are learning to read in a second or even third language. There are many ways to support your child at home in the areas of reading fluency, comprehension and writing.
Parents do not have to be teachers to help their children. They just need to be able to communicate with teachers. A parent can help their child by reinforcing concepts that are taught in school. Parents can obtain concepts from teachers and apply them in real life situations at home or outside of school. Generalization is the best way for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Generalization is the ability to apply a skill in any environment. For example, in the area of reading a student can show mastery by reading in any setting including signs, labels, books, etc.
I often suggest to parents of struggling students to obtain weekly concepts from their teacher so that they can have the students apply these skills at home. Take for instance, the reading concept of main idea and key details. The student is learning how to find these details within a story. A parent can ask a student the main idea of a movie they watched together or from any book that they may read. A parent can even ask the student to give the main ideas of the pieces of their day. The more opportunities the student has to apply the skills the more opportunities the student has to perfect the skill.
For those students who are struggling with reading fluency it is a matter of finding out exactly what is causing the breakdown in fluency. This could range from problems with decoding, or breaking down words, to trouble with vowel and consonant sounds. A parent can ask a teacher for the specific areas in which they can improve. The best advice I can give is to get specific! Ask the teacher for specific ways to practice concepts at home. A tutor is not always the answer. If there is no time or parents do not have the English ability then have the tutor practice those specific concepts with the students, then a tutor should practice those specific concepts to help reinforce them.
Students get excited about learning when they see that their parents are excited. They get even more excited when they have been struggling and can succeed and make progress alongside their parents or even due to their parent’s assistance.
Parents should not be discouraged when their child is struggling as they can help and their teacher would be the best person to consult about their needs and the ways they can help them improve at home.