Reading is among the most essential skills a student can master because it serves as the foundation for all other subjects, including math. Literacy as a whole has even been linked to better health outcomes—including mental and physical health—regardless of the academic pursuits. In fact, just 30 minutes of daily reading can reduce blood pressure and lower your rate. Mental health, too, can be impacted by literacy, with the development of social-emotional skills being closely tied to language development, and as the Yale Child Study Center has found, bibliotherapy may be as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy for children who have anxiety disorders. Knowing how vital reading is to health, happiness, and academic success, it behooves parents to not only encourage leisure reading at home, but also monitor progress of the skill. If you’re interested in assessing your child’s reading progress, we’ve got some tips to put into practice.
Try the 5-finger rule.
This is a good exercise to try with younger readers to ensure they have the opportunity to make progress without relying on books that are too easy. Open a book to any page and have your child read the page while raising a finger each time they read a word they don’t know. After reading the entire page, how many fingers do they have up?
- 0 fingers = the book is too easy
- 1 finger = the book is easy
- 2 fingers = just right
- 3 fingers = just right
- 4 fingers = difficult
- 5 fingers = too difficult
Ideally, aim for books that fall somewhere between two fingers and four, depending on the challenge your reader wants.
Time their reading sessions at home.
Generally speaking, the longer your child’s stamina to sit and read for leisure, the greater their interest. And with more interest comes faster progress. Set a designated time for leisure activity and measure how long your child sits and reads on their own. Be sure there’s a source of additional reading material within reach in case they finish a book and are ready to move to the next.
Have them read aloud.
Regularly check your child’s pronunciation by letting them read aloud to you. If they run across heteronyms (i.e., words that have the same spelling but are pronounced differently, such as “read” and “read”), take the time to explain context clues and let them determine which pronunciation of the word is correct.
Ask questions about what they’re reading.
To measure if your child understands what they’re reading, ask them questions that require analytical thinking rather than simply recall. For example, “Why do you think Jesse looked in the closet?” If the book is longer than a one-sitting read, ask them to summarize what they’ve read and then ask, “What do you think will happen next and why?”
Compare your child’s reading level to its Lexile measure.
Choose a few book titles from home that your child can read comfortably and then follow these steps:
- Go to www.Lexile.com.
- Click on “For Parents & Students.”
- Click on “Find Just Right Books.”
- Click “Try to Find A Book.”
- Enter the title of a book to get its Lexile measure (a quantitative measure for text complexity) to see how it compares to your child’s reading level.
Books with higher Lexile text measure can be a good challenge for advanced readers. On the other hand, those with a lower Lexile text measure may be a good option to help struggling or reluctant readers build confidence and skills.
As your child’s reading skills develop, you can check the website to ensure that the books they’re reading are climbing on the Lexile range.
In addition to these tips, you can ask your child’s teacher for their Lexile score. More than half of U.S. students receive Lexile measures every year from kindergarten through 12th grade.
What should you do if your child struggles with reading?
There are a lot of different reasons why kids have trouble grasping reading, but almost all of them come back to a lack of strong cognitive skills. Reading issues can be rooted in problems with memory, auditory processing, visual processing, logic, attention, processing speed, or any combination of the above. Without knowing the root cause of why your child struggles, it can be hard to intervene effectively. The Brainy Moms Podcast is sponsored by LearningRx, a global company that has a powerful reading skills training program based on the Science of Reading to help students of all ages grow their confidence and skills. Check it out here!