Nationally 2 out of 3 4th graders not proficient in reading – what can parents do?

Posted: May 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

I just read the following article in Baltimore Business Journal:

Maryland Ranks 8th for Reading Proficiency

and according to NAEP, “nationally two out of every three fourth graders overall are not proficient in reading.” What is going on in the United States that is causing over 60% of the nation’s 4th graders to fall behind in reading? In my last blog, I brought up the issue that students are not being taught to utilize comprehension strategies. So then the question is, how can we help children to comprehend what they read?

I am going to offer a suggestion for parents and tutors. Hopefully all parents are already encouraging their children to read books at home; if not, that is a crucial starting point! After reading, the adult that is working with the child should see how much information he or she can recall. In school, students answer A LOT  of questions. For example, why did the boys go to the park? How do you think Chris felt after he found out the secret? etc. While there is a benefit to prompting students with specific questions, this method does not simulate real reading. As adults, after we read, nobody gives us a set of questions to answer. We have to somehow process the information on our own and recall important information without being prompted.

I am going to share a few tips that I learned from Goodman, Watson, & Burke’s Miscue Analysis Procedures (from the book Reading Miscue Inventory).  I hope these tips will be very helpful for anyone interested in improving a child’s comprehension abilities.

After reading (the child should read a real book, not a short passage from a school textbook), have the child close the book and ask him to tell you the story in his own words. Do not become impatient or rush the student through the retelling. Kids need time to process their thoughts and telling a child to hurry up will make him anxious and may cause him to dislike retelling a story to you. At this point, do not give the child any pointers. Don’t tell the child to start at the beginning of the story and don’t prompt him by bringing up a particular character or location in the story.

If the child sums up the story in one or two sentences, this is an indicator that he probably has not had much practice retelling stories. After the child’s retelling, if you feel he may know more information than he shared, you can ask, “is there anything else that you remember?”

After the student is completely done with the retelling, questions about what has been revealed by the student can be asked. For example, “You told me the boys went to the park. Was there any specific reason they went to the park?” or “You told me Chris was excited when he found out the secret. Why do you think he was so excited?”  You can also have the child evaluate the story. For example, “would you change any part of the story? Do you think the author did a good job writing it? Was there anything that didn’t make sense?”

Hopefully those pointers help! Many students are not being given the chance to retell stories in school, so they really need to working on doing this at home!


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