There are specific strategies to help with different kinds of challenges.
The best way to find the ones your child needs is to talk to the teacher and ask. Ask them to be very specific and give you a few different ways to practice the skills your child needs to work on.
Click the box below for a reminder of the components of literacy.
These are the main components:
- Phonics and Decoding: making sounds from letters
- Fluency: reading smoothly and accurately
- Vocabulary: knowing what words mean
- Comprehension: understanding what you read
- Writing: expressing your thoughts in text
These components are all needed and they all work together. Each one will help students develop the others. Some students may have a hard time with one or more components, and there are strategies to help.
Strategies to practice specific skills
These are some examples of strategies you can try at home. For each, make sure that you are working with text at the right reading level. Ask your child's teacher what level they should be using. The teacher can also suggest books and other strategies.
Click on the boxes below to learn more.
There are a lot of ways to practice phonics and decoding.
How you practice depends on what your child already knows and what sounds they are having trouble with. Younger children may need help with the letter sounds. Or they may need help with combinations of letters like "th", "sh", "br" "oo", "ou" "oi", etc.
There are many ways to practice, but you should find out your child's level and what they are working on in school. Ask you child's teacher what is the best way to help based on this.
Here are some general ways to practice:
- Listen to your child read out loud.
- Read aloud with them so they hear you sound out words.
- Follow the words with your finger as they or you read.
- Note the kinds of words they have trouble sounding out and practice these.
- Practice with nonsense words.
- Break apart words into syllables and have them match the words together.
Click on this page from Reading Rockets to learn more about decoding and phonics. (It will open in a new tab.)
The best way to build vocabulary is to read a lot of books!
Talking about different topics also helps. Expose your child to as much language as possible and teach new words as they come up.
Here's what you can do:
- Talk about the meaning of new words as your child sees them in books or hears them in conversation.
- Have your child read several different books or articles about the same topic. This helps them build a vocabulary about this topic. You can also watch tv shows and documentaries or listen to books about the topic. It all helps them to build their knowledge and vocabulary.
- Read books to your child that are a little above their own reading level. Talk about new words and practice using them in conversation.
- Connect new words to similar ones they know. Talk about their opposites. ("Joyful" is like "happy". What the opposite? Yes, "sad"!) Children's brains are always making connections to things they know. This is how they learn.
- Practice new words in conversation. Prompt your child to use ones you've just learned. (I'm feeling happy today. How else can I say that?")
Remember that fluent reading is accurate, flows at a good rate (not too fast, not too slow), and includes proper expression.
The best way to practice is to read with your child and model a good fluent reading style. Read out loud together with your child. Or read a sentence first and then have them read it. They can learn from how you use your voice.
These are some specific techniques to help with fluency:
- Choral Reading: Reading together with your child. You both read the words out loud at the same time.
- Echo Reading: You read a sentence out loud and then they read the same one out loud.
- These are also called Paired Reading.
- See this video about choral and echo reading. (Click on it to open it in a new tab.)
- Here's another video of a mom reading with her child.
Writing practice is very specific to what level and skills they are working on in class. It's more complicated than practicing reading.
How you help your child at home depends on what they are struggling with, and on what skills they are expected to be learning. It could be grammar and sentence structure, or using more varied words in their writing. It could be identifying a main theme, organizing an essay or providing more specific evidence to support their argument.
The best thing to do is to talk to their teacher and ask for specific ways to practice what they need.
Have fun! Be playful and enjoy this special time with your child. You will know that the level is too high when your child loses interest so to build up their skills, keep it at their level and keep it engaging.
- See the Learning Heroes Website to get tips and activities to help your child practice skills at their grade level. (Click on it to open in a new tab.)
- Try the LEAP 2025 Practice Tests. (Scroll down to Practice Tests and pick your child's grade and the subject you want to work on.)
Sources: LDOE, Reading Rockets, Florida Center for Reading Research, Adams, M.J. (2009) The Challenge of Advanced Text.