Enhance Your Child's Private School Reading Program

All students benefit from strong reading skills. Here are suggestions for enhancing your child's reading abilities in a private school setting.

Solid reading skills, involving comprehension and vocabulary, form the backbone of any competent learning program. If your child attends private school and you believe his or her reading skills need improvement, here are some things a parent can do.

1. Talk to the teacher. Find out exactly what your child is reading for class, how often students read, whether they read silently or aloud, and what they do with material they have read. For example, are they tested on the story content? Do they need to answer questions about plot and characters? How fast are they expected to read an assignment? Answers to these questions will give the parent a general understanding of the reading program and its goals. Ask the teacher how you can help your particular child improve his or her reading ability at home.

2. Following the teacher's suggestions, select age-appropriate reading material for your child. You can find inexpensive books at yard sales or on discount shelves, along with free borrowings at the public library. Let your child shop with you to pick out interesting titles and subjects.

3. Set a daily reading schedule. Annex it to homework or following a favorite pastime, like a television program or shooting hoops outside. Suggest a 20- to 30-minute reading session five days per week, but give it a rest over the weekend.

4. Make it special. Arrange a comfortable chair near quality lighting. Set a fun and healthy snack nearby, like apple slices with peanut butter or juice and pretzels. Have a table alongside for the book between reading sessions, and perhaps add a foot rest for a special touch.

5. Ask your child about reading content. Take a relaxed, interested tone as you inquire, "What happened to the genie today? Did it have to return to the bottle or is it still granting wishes?" Then ask questions that get your child to critically think about the story: "What would you do if you were the genie and someone asked you for a million dollars?" "What would you ask for if a genie appeared? Why?"

6. Ask the private school's teacher if someone can come to class and read aloud to the students perhaps once a week. Most younger children love to hear stories read aloud by someone who brings characters alive and pauses to ask questions or make facial expressions.

7. Celebrate reading. Suggest that the teacher sponsor a reading contest, design an art project where the kids write and bind their own books, or set up a classroom or hallway display with a variety of attractive, fun books for the kids to look at and borrow for reading. The instructor may want to arrange an assignment that requires an interpretive reading of a certain book, such as the Harry Potter series. Even if some elements are cause for concern, it may be beneficial to discuss these in the class so that kids learn to question and challenge society's assumptions.

8. Show a video. Films like CHARLOTTE'S WEB or other favorites can enliven a book's reading. Discuss the book first, read it together, then show the film, followed by discussion. Reading will take on larger implications and offer more fascinating possibilities for students whose learning style is visually-oriented.

Reading need not remain the dry, passive activity it once was. Infused with enthusiasm and supported by supplemental learning activities, books can take on a life of their own in a private school setting.

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