Parent Communication and Involvement

Family Literacy Night: Reading Strategies
Martha Hitzel

Family Literacy Night
November 3, 2005

Dear Families,
Many parents of intermediate age children express a desire to help their child with reading at home, but at the same time are unsure of how to do so. My goal is to share with you, over the course of the year, some simple things you can do to help your child understand the texts they are reading.
Reading is more than saying the words or getting from the beginning of a book to the end. To be successful readers, children need to be able to draw meaning from the text. Fortunately, researchers have identified strategies readers can use as they read to help them gain more understanding. We have focused on two of these strategies so far in our classroom this year.


This fancy word simply means to be aware of your thinking. I teach the children that there are two voices they can hear in their head as they read. One is their reciting voice. This is the voice a reader hears when he or she is only reciting the words. Often, because so much of a child's focus during the primary years has been on learning to read the words, this is the voice they are most used to paying attention to. The second voice is a conversational voice. This voice interacts with the text. It makes connections, asks questions, identifies confusions, agrees and disagrees with ideas. This is the voice I focus on getting the children to listen to most often. One of the most powerful ways you can help your child is to read with them and share your thinking . . .

. "When I read this part, I was thinking . . ."

The wonderful part about this is there is no wrong way to do it. By simply sharing and discussing with your child what you thought about as you read, you are providing a model of what good readers do.

An important part of metacognition we've focused on in class is recognizing when comprehension has broken down. The children and I have discussed the idea that all readers become confused at times. More proficient readers, however, recognize when they've become confused and have strategies to try and "fix-up" their comprehension. Some signs the children have identified that indicate their understanding has broken down include:

. Not being able to picture what is happening in the story
. Not being sure who the characters are
. Not remembering or being able to retell what happened in the story when they read last
. Not knowing who is telling the story
. Not hearing their conversational voice
. Too many unknown words are interfering with understanding the story
. Their mind is wandering. They are thinking about things unrelated to the text.

Some strategies you can encourage your son or daughter to try when he or she recognizes that understanding has broken down include:

. Going back to where they first lost meaning and rereading at a slower pace.
. Go back to where they first lost meaning and read the confusing parts in smaller increments, stopping to retell as they go.
. Try rereading the confusing part in a soft voice out loud to themselves or another person. Sometimes, hearing the words out loud helps clarify meaning.
. Try to create a picture or movie in their mind as they reread.
. Try making a connection to a similar situation in their own life or in another text.
. Discuss the confusing part with another person who has read this story.
. Think back over what they have already read. Make a prediction about what they think will happen next in the story and try rereading the confusing part. Often making a prediction and paying attention as to whether we are correct or not helps clear up confusion.



Schema is simply all of the things that are a part of who we are. It is all the background knowledge a reader brings to a book. It includes all the people you know or have known, all of the things you've done and places you've visited, the books you've read, the movies or T.V. shows you've seen, all the things you've studied and learned about. It is all of the memories, experiences, and facts you hold in your mind.

Authors, Susan Zimmerman and Chryse Hutchins state:

Background knowledge is like Velcro. It helps new information adhere. The more background knowledge you develop and use, the more you can make sense of and remember new information.

Proficient readers make connections between what they've read and their schema. This helps them understand the text in several ways. Thinking about a situation in which we've experienced something similar to a character in a text helps us to imagine and understand the characters' thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can help us predict what might happen next in a story. When a reader makes an emotional connection to a text, it helps him to remember what he's read. Thinking about our schema before we read, as we read, and after we're done reading helps us to be aware of how our understanding of our self and our world is changing and growing. When a reader recognizes that he has little schema for a topic or situation, he realizes the text will be a challenge for him and can take steps to deal with this.

Reading together with your child and sharing your own connections can be one of the most enjoyable things you do together. As you read, you might start a conversation with, "This reminds me of this book I read, or this story I heard on the news . . ." or "This reminds me of the time . . ." You can model connecting it back to the text by saying things like, "I wonder if this character feels like I did when . . ." or "If I were this character, I would . . ." You can help your child activate their own schema by saying things like, "Do you remember the time when you. . ." or "This situation in the story is like when you . . ."

Closing Thoughts

As you have probably figured out by now, I am a strong advocate of children and parents reading together, even now that your son or daughter has entered the intermediate grades. Reading and talking about stories together provides an opportunity for your family to get to know each other better. It will create positive feelings about reading for your child and increase their enjoyment of reading. I will close with the words of one of my favorite teachers and teacher educator, Debbie Miller, "Off you go now. Happy Reading!"

Martha Hitzel is an elementary teacher in Gilbert, Arizona. She has been teaching since 2000, spending most of her time teaching a 4/5 multiage class.Her undergraduate degree is from Arizona State University and she also has a master's degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University.


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