Updated: Apr 20, 2020
I’ve thought a lot about what I’d really want as a parent in a challenging time such as this. As a parent, I know that I want to come away from reading this with something meaningful for me and my child. I’d want to know what I could do tomorrow to get me through a successful day of helping my children learn. So I have organized my thoughts around immediate help for you. Of course, I think of reading and literacy first.
I just love Khan Academy. It might be the first place I’d go to get ideas and help. I have always been impressed with how they use their videos to help children learn. And when I look at the concepts and topics, it’s easy to select one while keeping in mind what your kids love. It has lots of math and science information and activities, as well as arts and humanities and history. Be aware that upper-level information is available as well. I highly recommend that you check it out.
I keep hearing that so many parents want to get their kids ready for school next year… meaning preschool, or kindergarten, or transitioning to middle school, or even just prepared for school next year. Well, first of all, know that this is amazing that so many parents are looking towards the future for their kiddos and second, you should be so proud that you are taking on that challenge. If I was to give you a few ideas, I think I would start with reading to your kids. Reading to them gives you time together and opportunities for language and asking them questions. Choose any book that you like. Choose a book with pictures or a lively plot, or a book that speaks to you. Reading is a big key to the rest of their life so letting them interact with text and hearing stories is key to their success.
If you want a resource that has wonderful stories read to kids - from very young to older - check out this YouTube playlist. It’s a great resource for the younger kids for a read aloud. They can listen to the stories while you take a shower or get lunch ready. You can be listening as well and then have a conversation during lunch. Older kids love listening as well. Listening to a book gives kids an opportunity to hear all kinds of language, plots, character development or truly just enjoy the story. They might listen to a book/story that they would never read. It exposes them to authors and different genres. Giving them that time will make a difference in their own reading. I’d try the Discover section on Audible because it’s online listening for all ages of kiddos.
I believe that reading and writing go hand in hand. When a child reads, it is a great time to have them write about it. Have them write a summary, or write a sticky tab note with a thought about a page, or tell you what they think is going to happen next. If you read a bedtime story to your child, you can talk about it in the morning. Know that reading or listening to a story three or four times just deepens their learning about the characters and the story. So use the same story many times!!! Kids can listen to many, many stories. Another good website for this is Storyline Online.
Make a book time every day - read, read to, or listen to a book. Kids can hear books way above their reading level and enjoy and talk about them. Think about the fact that you are exposing them to bigger concepts, higher-level vocabulary and a great time for discussion about what they are hearing.
Kids need to read at their own level when reading alone. Here’s a trick – have them read the first paragraph or page to you. Hold up one hand. Every time they stumble on a word, put a finger up. If you have 5 fingers up – it’s probably frustrating them – so have them choose a simpler book for their silent reading time.
Even a 15-year-old can read a picture book. And it’s great if it doesn’t have words. It makes them think. Have your 11-year-old try it. Then ask your 17-year-old to create a different story with the pictures and read it. They can tell the story to a younger child or record it with their version of the story and share it with a cousin or grandma or Mama Jan who can listen to it and give them such positive feedback!
For those young kiddos take time to look at squigglepark.com - It helps your kids develop reading skills from ages 3 to 15.
ABCMouse.com has come up in conversation as a wonderful website to use. Check it out. It’s probably for kiddos ages 3 through 8. You might be even able to use some of the ideas with an 18-month-old. It has everything from reading to math, to other content easily available.
Comprehension is about understanding something. I know it’s part of Common Core, but if you think about it - it is about understanding stories, TV programs, movies, poems, the directions to a LEGO build, understanding a math problem or just two directions in a row for a little tyke. Get in the habit of asking your child - what did that mean? What do you think they meant? Can you explain to me what they meant? Here are some ideas that will help you ask questions or have conversations with your children. It is important not just to ask them if they can remember a fact, but if they can also draw a connection between this book and the one we heard last week. Or can they critique a book - tell you why they liked it?
Comprehension can be about watching a tv program and then discussing it. Look for character development or plot… or stop the program halfway through and ask them to tell you what they think is going to happen next or how it will end. Ask them what character was their favorite - why? Did they like the ending? What would have made the ending better?
Puppets can be a part of the conversation if you’d like. You can make sock puppets with some of those old socks that just won’t stay up anymore. You can use them without a face if you want or find some old buttons and sew them on. Once they have the puppet, you can have the child explain to the puppet what just happened in the story. It makes it fun.
Listening and comprehension. Make a game of it. Tell them you are going to give them 2 directions in a row and then ask them to do it. You might start with saying the two things twice before you say - GO. Every day you increase the number of directions until you’ve reached about 5 directions. Again, it’s a game, and if they are struggling, go back to two directions for a day and build back up. An example would be: bring me an apple and then go empty your trash can into the trash dumpster outside. Remember to be proud - clap and jump up and down when they do it. And - if they need it repeated do it. They are learning and learning takes lots of tries!!!
Here are some more websites that will encourage reading and discussion.
scholastic.com - You can purchase books from this site
www.starfall.com - Kinders through 3rd grade. It offers reading and math ideas and activities. It seems like a wonderful website and one of my teacher friends has used it.
Take a break…
Yes, you. Not just your children, give yourself permission to get some exercise - Look at free yoga classes - many studios are offering free classes: yourvalley.com, Fightmaster Yoga, Yoga with Adriene, or Lululemon pilates classes. I personally love TRX or anything that can take me outside. Walk the neighborhood.
Joe Wicks does daily kids workouts on youtube - body coach tv. Try this one.
Try something new. Help your child learn some map skills by charting a course for walking or have them draw the neighborhood and then draw a path. You can measure the distance in steps or blocks or if you have GPS - let them watch how that works. Chart your exercise for the week, and then have a conversation about it. Little ones can take a different stuffed animal with them each day and then ask the animal about what they liked about the walk. Or collect leaves, flowers, or pictures along the way and share them with your grandma and tell her where they were when you found them. Remember you need to take a break too!!!
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S FIRST TEACHER.
You can do it. Just take it one day at a time. Model reading by reading with your kids. Model reading by reading a magazine or book. Model reading by reading a recipe (and I know there’s at least one of you out there that is an amazing cook - so help your kids understand how you follow recipes)!!
As my father used to say: Go slow to go fast.
About the author
Jan has worked in education for over 40 years. She worked as a teacher (multiple grades), curriculum specialist for math and social studies, principal, Instructional Superintendent, and now as a consultant working with school districts around the US helping them to increase student achievement and planning professional development for principals. Opportunity to write and roll out curriculum in math, social studies, and literacy.