Reading Strategies, Part 2
Grades Three and Up
By grade three — and through graduate school — the object of academic reading moves from learning to read to reading to learn. Most reading assignments are followed by writing assignments, or tests, to assess what the reader has learned. Remind your child to review the purpose of each reading assignment before she begins to read. Then share these strategies for fiction and non-fiction reading.
Tips for Reading Fiction
There are two reasons that teachers assign fiction. One is to help students understand genre— to recognize science fiction or a type of poetry, for instance. The other is to write or talk about what a student has read, by analyzing a poem or producing a book report.
- Know the assignment. Be sure your child understands what kind of written or oral task will follow a particular reading assignment, so that she can focus her reading to that end. For example, if she must write a book report, identify the type of report she has to write. Ask, “Will your report be a retelling of the story, or will you be analyzing the characters?” Suggest that she keep notes that will help her compose her report. If the purpose of the assignment is to compare two poems, remind her to look for common themes as she reads.
- Work as you go. Don’t leave the gathering of information until the end of a long reading assignment. Before he reads a work of fiction, for example, have your child write WHO or MC (main character), WHERE/WHEN (setting), P (problem), and S (solution) on sticky notes. As your child reads, have him list on each note the pages that identify the introduction of a main character, the setting, a conflict or problem the character faces, and the solution to the conflict. Then ask him, “What did you read that taught you something new about the main character or the problem in the story?
What did another character say or do that gave you information or insight about the main character? How is the setting or time that the story takes place like our hometown? Is there a character you have read about in the past who faced the same challenges as this main character?”
- Use alternate formats. Allow your child to follow along with books on tape or let him substitute alternate chapters from a novel with CliffsNotes or other abridged material, rather than to struggle with every reading assignment.
Tips for Reading Non-fiction
Science and social studies textbooks require different reading strategies than those used for fiction. As your child begins a chapter or section of a textbook, point out the title and any boldfaced subheadings. These let him know what the main topics and main ideas will be. Then ask him to form a question that the subsequent paragraphs might answer. Prepare a mindset for reading each section. After reading each section, have your child summarize some of the details he learned that might support the main ideas. He will then start to answer the questions he formulated.
If the assignment is to read a chapter in a textbook and to answer questions at the end of the chapter or on a worksheet, have her read the questions first, so that she knows what to look for as she reads.
Take Time to Plan
Many students underestimate how much time and effort are needed for a particular task. Break assignments into manageable pieces. If your child has a book report due each month, she should mark in her planner how much she needs to read each night, when she should write an outline, and when the first draft is due. A 200-page book isn’t daunting if she sees that she needs to read only 20 pages a night for 10 nights.
Even daily reading assignments can be broken into smaller steps: First, scan the chapter, then write down the questions at the end of the chapter. Leave space to write the answers, then read the chapter, and answer the homework questions as you go. If reading homework is a challenge for your child, suggest that he alternate reading assignments with math worksheets or other non-reading work.