My nine year old daughter loves to read. At home she reads long chapter books, but at school she is forced to read books that are less than 100 pages long and she is in a reading group with kids I KNOW are not as good at reading as she is. I’ve tried talking to her teacher, but she still hasn’t been moved to a higher reading group. What can I do when I feel like the teacher is holding her back?
I’m so happy to hear that you are raising a daughter who loves to read! I understand why you want to do all you can to encourage her to become a better and lifelong reader. There are many things you can do at home to support her reading development and to help foster her love of reading. Some ideas include:
- Provide time and space for her to read daily.
- Visit the library regularly to increase her access to good books to feed her reading appetite.
- Share conversations about the books she’s reading.
- Continue reading aloud and talk about those books too.
Although your daughter is a good reader for her age already, the process of becoming a more proficient reader is complicated. Readers need to learn a variety of skills such as knowing what to do when they see a word they don’t know, making sense of passages about topics about which they have little to no experience, identifying themes and drawing conclusions based on materials they read.
Reading groups serve an important purpose in the classroom setting. Typically, the teacher will have a predetermined goal addressing specific reading related skills for each group session. Some of these goals may include vocabulary development, comprehension strategies, critical thinking skills or learning the craft of writing in a given genre by examining an author’s technique when reading their work. Working with a small number of students at time allows teachers to facilitate targeted discussions related to the topics they intend to address. Sometimes the groups may consist of children who are at a similar stage of development in their reading skills and experience. Other activities and books are better suited to cross ability groupings that allow children to support and learn from peers. Teachers know people learn best when they have the opportunity to explain concepts and ideas to others.
It may be helpful for you to familiarize yourself with the reading curriculum, standards and assessment processes at your daughter’s school. Many schools and districts post this information on their websites along with links to more specific research and supporting materials. When you arm yourself with knowledge of grade level expectations and goals you may better understand the teacher’s perspective.
Cultivating Higher Level Thinking Skills
When people read for enjoyment, their thinking is rarely stretched past the bottom two levels in the chart posted below. In fact, most teachers would agree that it is only with intentional teaching and learning through practice that children learn the specific skills required for higher level thinking to occur. Educators refer to this kind of understanding as the foundational levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (remembering and understanding) and their goal is to help students learn to achieve all the levels in their reading and thinking process.
Short books are deceptively complicated
Sometimes, even picture books with very few words on a page can provide the opportunity to teach and learn important reading skills. Consider the following page I shared with a fourth grade class earlier this week from the book, Across the Alley by Richard Michelson.
“When spring comes, I sit out on the stoop.
Down the street, those other boys are always batting and having fun.
I see a grounder run full steam through Willie’s legs like a rat racing for the sewer.
Then a pop-up drops out of Willie’s glove.
Now that it’s summer, we open our windows wide and play catch. Most days I’m Sandy Koufax and he’s Satchel Paige. Some days we switch.”
The words themselves were not difficult for the fourth graders to read and understand, but many had trouble inferring the intended deeper meaning of the text. Thanks to a couple of baseball experts in the class and after some discussion, we reached the conclusion that Willie was not a very good baseball player and we inferred that the narrator really wanted to play with the boys but couldn’t (for reasons that were revealed later in the book).
Parents and teachers are on the same team
If you still have concerns after learning more about the curriculum and skills specific to your daughter’s grade level in her school, think of some specific questions to ask the teacher. Keep in mind that both you and your daughter’s teacher have her best interest at heart. Approach the conversation as though you are on the same team, together seeking ways to set appropriately challenging learning goals for your daughter.
Read for fun at home
Meanwhile, encourage your daughter to read for her own enjoyment at home and remind her that sometimes learning fundamental skills might not be fun and exciting, but that they are necessary and will enhance her reading ability and experiences as she progresses to higher grade levels.
Here’s to many hours spent engrossed in good books!
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