Transforming parents into teachers, part 3: better readers

I felt so inspired by the book, “Teach Like a Champion” by Dave Lemov, that I wanted to use some of Lemov’s techniques to help my son achieve more at school – and to help me become a better parent at home.

I focused on three areas in which we as parents can become teachers: 1. techniques to change how we interact with our children; 2. techniques to set high expectations for our children; and 3. techniques to help our children become better readers.

It all starts with us. We need to see ourselves as teachers, not only in how we behave, but in the expectations that we set for our children.

In addition to teaching them good study habits, all parents should be reading teachers, encouraging our children to read, to understand, and to think critically. Help your child become a better reader by reading to them every day, for at least 15 minutes; and reading in front of them, whether it is the newspaper, a magazine, a textbook, or a novel.

Here are 6 more techniques to help our children become better readers:

1. The Hook (technique #12). If they are not interested in a book, hook them with a short, engaging introduction. Tease them with an exciting event, a mystery, or a strange character from the book.

2. Contexting (pre-reading technique). Give them context on the book, such as the history, culture, and geography they will need to understand the book. This can also hook them on the story.

3. Focal Points and Front-Loading (pre-reading technique). Tell them about key ideas, concepts, and themes to look for. Introduce key scenes – the ones that are exciting, mysterious, or pivotal – and important characters so that they pay attention to them. This can also hook them on the story.

4. Check for Understanding (decoding technique). Make sure they pronounce words correctly. Correct any errors quickly and calmly by punching the error (repeating the missed word) or marking the spot (reading the words immediately before the missed word). Ask them if they understand the word, and offer a definition or take a dictionary break if they don’t know it.

5. Show Some Spunk (fluency technique). Read aloud with energy and enthusiasm, and encourage them to add drama to their reading. How would the character say it? What words should be emphasized?

6. Summarize (post-reading technique). Whether they are reading books, comic books, or graphic novels, ask them for a summary of key ideas and events (not just a retelling of the story). Ask for a 20-word or less summary (it sounds easy, but they’ll have to really fine-tune their ideas).

When you can, read together. It helps if you are familiar with the book; you’ll  know whether it’s age-appropriate, and you can discuss your opinions about the book together.

Was there a relative, friend, or teacher who hooked you on reading? What kinds of books do you enjoy? Have any books changed your life or influenced your decisions?

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