When I work with my son on reading, should he read silently or should I interrupt and ask questions?

If you are working with your son, you should be involved.  What does an involved reading teacher do?

  • Before he reads a selection, you could read it, understand it, and preview it with your son. That does not mean giving away the ending if it is a story.  But it might mean explaining the setting or motivation of the main character.  In nonfiction, it might mean showing him a map or other graphic to make the reading easier to comprehend.

Tutor teaching a child.

  • Before reading, you and your son together could look at any graphics accompanying the article. You could ask him to interpret the graphics to be sure he understands the data.  You could ask him to read headlines and subheadings, and then ask him to predict what he is about to read.
  • If he has trouble pronouncing words or if he slurs big words, ask him to read a short section at a time aloud. Go back to the words he missed and discuss them, asking him to pronounce them, writing the words in syllables on notebook paper so he can see the structure of the word, explaining prefixes, suffixes or word roots.  If there are vocabulary words you suspect he might not know, ask him the meanings, and if he can’t explain them correctly, discuss their meanings.  Then ask him to read that part of the selection again.
  • Now ask him what it means. Don’t accept, “It’s about a farm,” but ask for more specific meaning.  “It’s about a small baby pig that a farmer is going to kill.”  Ask him if his prediction was right or should he change it.
  • Fluency can only be judged by a teacher if the child reads aloud.  Listen for pacing, inflection, changing of voice tone, loudness or softness.  If you know your child is a fluent reader, you needn’t have him read aloud often for fluency.  But if he is not a fluent reader, you might want to read a sentence at a time using fluency and have your child mimic you.
  • If you read along silently, and your child finishes a selection long before you do, probably he is racing. Ask him about the meaning.  If his answer is vague, ask him to read again but slower.
  • If your child is a competent reader, your job might consist of asking for feedback—orally or written. If your child is reading fiction, you might ask about setting, characters, theme, ups and downs in the story and the climax.  If he is reading nonfiction, ask for the thesis and organization of the article.  Ask a question which the article answers and let the student find and read the part which answers your question.
  • If you can’t be engaged with your child during the reading, you could leave questions to answer so you know the child has paid attention.

Good teachers interrupt when they hear mistakes or hesitancy.  They ask questions if they suspect the student is not understanding.

But if your son is reading strictly for his own pleasure, back off.  Maybe when the day’s reading is done, ask him what his reading selection was about or what he liked, but don’t pressure him.  If he is asking you questions like, “Hey, Mom, what does contentious mean?” or “Why do hunters want elephant tusks anyway?” he is doing what you want—consulting an expert when he doesn’t understand.

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