Reading at home

By the fourth grade, a child should be reading to learn, not learning to read. A child who cannot read by the start of the fourth grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school and will likely remain behind his or her peers in subsequent school years. The good news is that with just 20 minutes of reading a day, your children can expand their vocabulary, build literacy skills and improve academic performance.

As schools are closed for the rest of the academic year, we hope this guide helps you discover creative ways to read to and with your children and inspires you to share your own ideas with other parents.

Keep these things in mind as you participate in reading activities with your kids:

  • Pediatricians now “prescribe” reading activities for kids to parents.
  • Reading is a strong predictor of academic success.
  • Reading is a critical skill. A child learns to read and then reads to learn.


Tips for assessing your child’s reading level:

  • Use the five W’s and H (who, what, why, when, where, and how) to come up with questions as you read to your child. It is imperative that you ask questions from a place of curiosity and not evaluation. If the child feels quizzed, they may not enjoy reading and could lose interest.
  • Take time to prepare before reading to your child. Read the book yourself and think of questions you might ask. This process becomes easier and more natural the more you practice it. Asking questions and exploring the story builds your child’s comprehension skills.
  • To probe their vocabulary knowledge, ask your children to say any new words they have heard or read in a sentence for you.
  • After reading together, discuss the meaning of the book, chapter or paragraph. You can even do this with an ad you receive in the mail or a billboard you pass while walking.
  • Test comprehension by asking your child to draw conclusions about what they read. After reading something, ask questions such as what was important, what is a fact, what caused an event to happen or which characters are funny.




The world is full of words, so even if you don’t have a lot of reading materials in your home, search for any items with words and create games for learning. During these reading experiences, children become familiar with many elements of print, such as letters that go together to make words.

Things you can ask your child to read:

  • Signs passed while driving or walking outside
  • Letters and catalogs you receive in the mail
  • Your grocery list, even if it is online for pickup
  • The back of the cereal box
  • Child-friendly lyrics from old CD cases
  • Subtitles during their favorite educational television show
  • Recipes from a cookbook
  • Instructions for family craft and kid-friendly DIY projects


How to make books special and create more fun with reading:

  • Bring books to life by having your child put on a puppet show or act out the chapter they just read.
  • Create a reading challenge at home. Sign this pledge and then track if your child is reading 20 minutes a day. If they complete the challenge each week or each day, do something special to celebrate such as baking cookies together (they can read the recipe) or throwing a family dance party!
  • Read what is interesting to your child by finding books that relate to your child’s life and experiences.
  • Have your child write and illustrate your family story. Use this as an opportunity to educate your child about their heritage and unique history. Older children could even conduct their own research online about their family tree.



Throughout history, people have fought for the right to read for a reason. It creates possibilities for a brighter future and the freedom to pursue the American dream. Parents, you are your children’s first and most important teacher. During this challenging time in history, we have a unique opportunity to ensure our children are reading at grade level. We hope this guide helps.

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