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Reading Advice for the Parents of Elementary School Kids

Updated on September 20, 2009

Are you a parent of an elementary school child looking for reading advice? Is your child reading below grade level and does reading practice leaves you both frustrated and you searching for answers?

Your child is not alone. Did you know that:

  • 44 percent of American 4th grade students cannot read fluently, even when they read grade-level stories aloud under supportive testing conditions. (ref. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Pinnell et al., 1995)
  • 50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book (ref. Illiterate America, Jonathan Kozol)
  • According to the Journal of American Medical Association, 46% of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine.
  • In a class of 20 students, few if any teachers can find even 5 minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student. (ref. The NationalCenter for Education Statistics, NCES Fast Facts, Family Reading)

Click here for more US literacy statistics.

If the teachers can’t devote the time to read with your child, it is imperative that YOU take the wheel. Here are tips for reading activities that you can do and reading resources that are available to you. With your knowledge of these and willingness to participate in the process, you child will read beyond grade level (and actually love reading) in no time.


1. Title One Program. Many public elementary schools offer the government-funded Title-One Reading Program. With this free program, the Title One teachers will work with small groups of qualified children for about one half hour, two times per week. These teachers can and will spend the one-on-one time with your child. The children will work through the different grade reading levels both at home and at school, with the focus being on reaching the age appropriate reading level by the end of the school year. For example, by the end of first grade, your child should be reading at a level 18.

The Title One teachers make it fun, by playing reading games, like the bee game (using popsicle sticks with words on them, but don’t pick the stick with the bee on it!) and bingo using sight words, with a table full of books for prizes! With the expertise of the Title One teachers and your consistent at home participation, your child will read at grade level (if not beyond) by the end of the school year.

2. After school tutoring. Talk to your child’s teacher about getting some after school reading help. Often after school tutoring is available or can be arranged. Inquire with the high school or middle school, there is most likely a potential elementary education student who would love to read with your child.

3. Go to the library. Take your child to the library once a week. Check out grade level books, and read, read, read. Libraries tend to offer different story times for different age groups of children. Librarians by their example, tend to make story time fun and the simple act of reading exciting.

4. Choral and echo read. Choral read, that is, read together out loud. Echo read. You read a line and let your child repeat the same line. Practice this again and again.

5. Books on Tape and the Tag Reading System Libraries, bookstores, and online sites are three different resources for books on tape. For a newer option, the Tag Reading system is the electronic answer to the (outdated) books on tape. The Tag Reader is an electronic pen that is programmed via a Leap Frog CD and will read the Tag books as your child touches the pen to the pages. Your child will learn skills such as reading comprehension, vocabulary, word building, and phonics. It is a 2008 award-winning product, several times over.

6. Be a loving parent who encourages the love of reading. Be an example and let your child see you reading. Emphasis that reading is the key to success in school, but it is also fun! Post sight words around your house and make a game of it. Don’t forget to praise your child for the reading and all that your child is doing well.

7. Books make great rewards. As a special treat for good behavior at the end of a great week, let your child pick out a book at Barnes and Noble, Borders or your favorite book store. Don’t stop there. Let your child know how interested you are in the book. When your child reads the book that night, don’t just sit silently, show your interest and curiosity. Imagine the impact this will have!

8. Check Out The Magic Tree House Series. If you and your child would like reading advice such as, which books to start with, check out the Magic Tree House Series of books written by Mary Pope Osbourne. Millions of 6- to 10-year-olds are devoted to Ms. Osborne’s books, which revolve around Jack and Annie, siblings whose backyard tree house transports them to dramatic times and places. Mrs. Osbourne has been writing the MagicTree House series for Random House since 1993. Parents have reported that their children are simply captivated with the books and they credit these books for getting their children reading beyond grade level.

9. Hooked on Phonics In 1998, the all-new Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read program was released. The program features a library of books by award-winning authors and illustrators. The program was awarded the National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, naming Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read “one of the finest products and services being marketed to the parent/child audience.” Phonics are used to nurture an understanding of reading. The Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read - K-1st Grade Edition packages available on are very affordable at about $30. The kit introduces: letter sounds, phonics skills, short vowels and simple endings. In this kit you will receive 6 audio CDs, the Bonus 2-disc Get Ready to Read DVD set, 3 colorful workbooks filled with lessons and activities, and a library of 22 books. Thousands upon thousands of parents have used Hooked on Phonics and attribute it to their childrens’ reading success.

10. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This book/program was written by Siegfried Englemann, professor of education at the University of Oregon. SRAs DISTAR® is a successful beginning reading program available to schools across the country. Research has proven that children taught by the DISTAR® method outperform their peers who receive instruction from other programs. This program has been adapted for parent and child to use at home. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is a complete, step-by-step program that shows patents simply and clearly how to teach their children to read.

Twenty minutes a day is all you need with this program, and within 100 teaching days your child will be reading on a solid second-grade reading level. It's an easy-to-follow, and enjoyable way to help your child gain the essential skills of reading. The book includes one hundred lessons, fully illustrated and color-coded for clarity, to give your child the basic and more advanced skills needed to become a good reader.

11. Online Resources. The online reading advice and phonics resources available today are amazing and seamlessly never-ending. Here are some helpful online resources for improving your child’s reading. (This site has many additional links, so please check it out!)

If you have a favorite website or resource for developing your child’s reading skills, please comment on it.


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    • Kristi Maloney profile image

      Kristi Maloney 6 years ago

      Yes Mark I totally agree. My seven year old will thank me someday for making him do all of this reading! (I hope!)

    • profile image 7 years ago

      Thanks for that tip. I am in awe of you, not only that your kids love to read, but that you've raised nine!

    • profile image

      Johnnie Lunchpail 7 years ago

      I would like to emphasize the importance of reading to a child... Although our children are grown, I read to them even into their teens... they all (9 of them) love to read.

    • Kristi Maloney profile image

      Kristi Maloney 8 years ago

      That makes perferct sense. My second grader needs practice, practice, practice. I am glad to say he is reading Diary of a Whimpy Kid Dog Days....on his own! Thanks for your comment Kim!

    • kimbaustin profile image

      kimbaustin 8 years ago from Sunny California

      Great to find another parent who is hooked on getting kids hooked on reading. I home school and the advice given by several homeschool experts is that kids need to read 3-4 hours a day minimum in five different ways including silent reading, reading aloud, memorization, poetry reading, etc...

      Many American children are lucky to get even an hour of quality reading in per day. It's not hard to see why the statistics you mention are true. Thanks for sharing.