A Love of Reading Makes All the Difference

A Love of Reading Makes All the Difference

For parents, it’s a joy to see your child’s face light up when you read her favorite book aloud. Or to see your child so immersed in a novel that he loses all track of time.

We know it’s a wonderful thing to love reading. It’s also crucial to your child’s success—it’s at the core of his or her education, right along with building strong skills.

So, why is having a love of reading so important for academic success? And what are the personal rewards?

A Big Academic Boost

Children who love reading perform better in school overall. It’s simple—the more kids like to read, the more they do it, and the better they become at reading. And when reading is fun and easy, kids like it even more. It’s a positive cycle, and it pays off in some really important ways:

  • Your child will build better skills. He or she will have stronger reading comprehension, and better writing and spelling skills. Kids who do a lot of reading for pleasure get higher test scores. They even get a boost in math!
  • Your child will have more confidence and motivation. Sometimes reading is hard, but kids who love to read know that there’s a payoff to sticking with it. The flipside is that without a love of reading, the struggle is just too frustrating, and kids can feel like giving up.

If your child loves to read—and does a lot of it—he or she will have a real advantage when it comes to school.

Meaningful Personal Rewards

It’s not just about academic success, though. There some really significant personal rewards that come from having a love of reading.

  • Children who love to read get to feel the joy of being lost in a good book. It’s like the real world falls away. Your child is inside the story and gets to experience the adventures right along with the characters. In fact, to your child, it feels like he or she is the main character. This is a really pleasurable and rewarding experience, and it can actually be life-changing.
  • Reading shapes the way children understand the world. When your child is lost in a book, he or she can live in another time in history, or visit a faraway place and live a completely different life. Maybe your child meets a character and thinks, “This person is just like me,” or, “Wow, I’ve never looked at things this way before.” Reading becomes a meaningful experience that really expand your child’s horizons.
  • Getting absorbed in books shapes who your child is. Really great books deal with things that kids relate to, like growing up, facing fears, and navigating friendships. When readers identify with a character who’s going through these things, they enter the character’s mind and they get to think and feel in new ways. It gives children a deeper understanding of other people, and of themselves. Reading is deeply formative experience that shows your child the kind of person he or she wants to be.

Simple Ways to Help Your Child Fall in Love with Books

Loving books and getting lost in stories is a powerful experience, and it has such a profound impact. It’s exactly what we want for our kids. So, what are some simple things you can do to help your child get there?

  • Read aloud to your child a lot when he or she is young. This is the number-one thing parents can do to help their kids fall in love with books. Snuggling up with a parent and listening to stories is a wonderful experience that shapes your child in really positive ways.
  • Help your child find good books to read. Books that really pull your child into the story will get him or her excited about reading. You can help your child figure out what those books are. Some kids like realistic or historical fiction, while others prefer fantasy, adventure, or mysteries. Whatever your child likes is great—just make sure he or she reads, reads, reads!
  • Make reading a part of your family’s everyday life. Encourage your child to read, and let your child see you read. Have conversations about the books that everyone in the family is reading. Make sure there are lots of books around the house. All of these things send your child a clear message that reading is important—and fun!

Getting lost in books, and having that experience over and over again, will make your child a reader. Reading for pleasure will become part of who your child is, a core part of his or her identity. Your child will always be able to look to books for knowledge, pleasure, and inspiration. A love of reading will enrich your child’s life now and long into the future.

Rewarding experiences getting ‘lost’ in great books will give your child that extra advantage in school!

Every program features live instruction from a knowledgeable, encouraging teacher and lots of opportunities to practice new skills in grade-appropriate books. Between classes, interactive online lessons reinforce and enrich what students have learned.

5 Key Strategies for Reading Nonfiction

5 Key Strategies for Reading Nonfiction

Children are reading more nonfiction at school than ever, and they start earlier than ever. Reading nonfiction sparks a lot of learning and discovery that’s really exciting for kids. It can also be challenging, so your child will need the right skills and strategies to succeed.

So, what can you expect from nonfiction as your child moves up through the grades, and what strategies will he or she need to learn? What are the personal benefits of reading nonfiction?

Reading Nonfiction in School: What to Expect

From the moment your child starts school, nonfiction will be part of his or her day-to-day learning. From kindergarten through high school, kids encounter a range of nonfiction, including books and textbooks, newspaper and magazine articles, and literary essays, biographies and memoirs.

In early elementary school, your child will read picture books and Easy Readers about all kinds of topics, like dinosaurs and bugs, inventors and sports heroes, and the bottom of the ocean and faraway planets. Young kids are curious, and they love asking questions and finding answers in books!

Once children get to 3rd or 4th grade, they make the important transition from learning to read to reading to learn—in other words, they start reading to learn information in subjects like science and social studies. At this point, your child will start to build skills specifically for reading nonfiction.

By the time your child gets to middle school and high school, nonfiction is at the center of his or her education. It’s the main way that students build knowledge and learn how to think critically. It opens up a lot of new doors, which is both exciting and challenging. That means your child will need new tools and strong skills to be successful.

5 Key Strategies Your Child Needs

Reading nonfiction is quite different from reading fiction. It’s denser and more complex, so students need a different kind of approach—one that’s active and analytical. Heading into reading with a clear sense of purpose makes all the difference. Here are five strategies that will help your child read nonfiction successfully:

  1. Identifying key concepts. Textbooks and other nonfiction are chock-full of information, so your child will need to know how to figure out what’s important. The best way to do this is to read closely and identify the main idea of a text, along with the details that support and explain it.
  2. Recognizing how text is organized. A text can be structured in different ways—for example, it can follow chronological order, or compare and contrast two ideas. When your child can identify how a nonfiction text is organized, it’s much easier to follow the development of ideas and keep track of important information.
  3. Previewing and predicting. Students gain a lot by previewing a textbook before they actually start reading. Taking a quick look at the headings, figuring out how the text is organized, and asking questions like “What will I learn about?” helps kids set a purpose for their reading and take control of the process.
  4. Monitoring comprehension. When kids read nonfiction, they need to pay attention to whether they’re understanding the material. Strategies like stopping periodically to retell what they’ve read help them test their comprehension and fix any gaps in their understanding.
  5. Summarizing. When kids summarize, they are identifying the most important information and putting it in their own words. Taking this active step will help your child learn new material and cement it in his or her memory.

Rich Personal Benefits

It’s so important for your child to master these strategies. Being a skilled, confident reader of nonfiction is at the core of your child’s academic success. But there are some really big personal benefits, too!

  • Strong readers enjoy nonfiction and read it for pleasure. A great nonfiction book can pull you in and be a thrill to read, just like a really good novel.
  • Nonfiction will ignite your child’s curiosity. Now and throughout life, your child will get to explore topics he or she is passionate about, and discover new interests as well. It’ll shape how your child looks at the world.
  • Reading nonfiction helps children develop into strong critical thinkers. Your son or daughter will learn to consider different points of view, and form his or her own opinions about things that really matter.

Doing lots of reading in nonfiction will really expand your child’s horizons. He or she will grow up to be a thoughtful, knowledgeable adult with a wide range of interests. Your child will look to books for learning and inspiration, and have a lifelong love of reading.

Help your child become a skilled, confident reader of textbooks and nonfiction who is prepared for academic and personal success!

Every program features live instruction from a knowledgeable, encouraging teacher and lots of opportunities to practice new skills in grade-appropriate books. Between classes, interactive online lessons reinforce and enrich what students have learned.

The Powerful Impact of Achieving Fluency

The Powerful Impact of Achieving Fluency

As parents, we all want reading to be an easy, positive experience for our kids.

Imagine your child settled into a comfortable chair with a book, completely tuning out whatever else is going on in the house. Reading feels effortless, captivating, and enjoyable. It’s not a chore. It’s just fun—page after page, chapter after chapter. Without fluency, this experience isn’t possible.

What is Fluency?

Fluent reading sounds smooth and natural, like people sound when they talk. You’ll know your child is reading fluently when his or her reading is accurate, it moves at a good pace, and it’s expressive.

  • Accuracy means being able to read most words instantly and correctly, without having to stop and sound them out.
  • Reading at a good pace means your child can move easily and quickly from one word to the next. Reading is smooth and automatic.
  • Reading expressively means that the reading has a conversational tone. Your child pays attention to punctuation, and reads in phrases, rather than word. by. word.

Fluent reading clearly sounds better than choppy reading, and it will also feel a lot better to your child: the process isn’t laborious. It’s easy and natural. This is what makes reading fun, and that’s what you want.

How Do Kids Develop Fluency?

The first step is mastering basic decoding skills. This happens gradually, in early elementary school. When young children are first learning to read, fluency isn’t something to be concerned about. Their focus is on sounding out words, so their reading is naturally slow and choppy.

By the end of second grade or early in third grade, most children have solid decoding skills, so their reading gets smoother and quicker, and they can start paying attention to meaning. They don’t read perfectly—fluent readers may still run into a word here and there that they need to stop and decode, but overall their reading is smooth and accurate.

The second key to fluency is doing a lot of reading. As with any new skill, kids need to practice, and the more your child reads, the more fluent he or she will become. It’s important at this point for your child to read engaging books at the right level of difficulty. When kids enjoy reading and experience success, they’re motivated to read more and more.

So, When Can You Expect Your Child to Become Fluent?

Most kids first achieve fluency by late second grade or early third grade. Keep in mind, though, that all readers develop at their own pace. It might happen earlier or later for your child, and that’s just fine.

It’s also true that a reader is never really done developing fluency. Kids first reach fluency in Easy Reader books. In later elementary, they encounter harder books, with more challenging vocabulary. In middle school and high school, reading gets much longer and denser, and reading too slowly really gets in the way. So, at each stage, your child will need to develop fluency at a new level. As he or she progresses, you’ll see that confidence and success at one stage of fluency will lay the foundation for the next.

Finally, Why is Fluency Important?

Achieving fluency has a tremendous impact on your child’s reading.

Fluency is the key to strong comprehension. When kids are first learning to read, all their energy is focused on decoding words. This makes it really difficult to pay attention to what they’re reading about. Once your child becomes fluent, he or she will have more attention available to focus on the story. Fluency acts as a bridge between decoding and comprehension.It’s like learning to play piano. At first you can play each note, but it takes a lot of practice before those notes come together to sound like a song. It’s the same with reading. At first, reading is slow and feels laborious as your child works to decode each word. Once your child develops fluency, the words flow together smoothly into a meaningful story.

Fluency is the gateway to a love of reading. Kids enjoy reading most when there’s an emotional payoff—when they really understand the story and understand how the characters feel. But when reading feels like a word-by-word slog, it’s not much fun at all.

Fluency opens up a whole new world of reading. Reading becomes effortless—something your child wants to do. You’ll see your child feeling confident about reading for school and wanting to read for pleasure. When reading feels easy and natural, children can lose themselves in a good book and become totally absorbed in the world of the story. This experience paves the way to a lifelong love of reading.

Our program will help your child become a fluent reader with strong comprehension and a love of reading.

Every program features live instruction from a knowledgeable, encouraging teacher and lots of opportunities to practice new skills in grade-appropriate books. Between classes, interactive online lessons reinforce and enrich what students have learned.

Phonics: The Most Important Skill that Beginning Readers Learn

Phonics: The Most Important Skill that Beginning Readers Learn

Phonics is at the heart of how children learn to read. If you have a young reader, you might remember how exciting it was when he or she started learning letters, or how proud your child felt the first time he or she sounded out a word. It’s like watching a whole new world open up for your child.

Once children know the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they stand for, they’re ready to use those building blocks to read words and simple sentences. Building strong phonics skills in the early years of school is the key to your child becoming a strong, independent reader.

What is Phonics?

Letters stand for sounds in spoken language. If you think of words and sentences as a code, then when you read, you’re breaking the code. You’re matching letters to sounds so that you can sound out words. That’s de-coding, and it’s what phonics is all about.

For example, the letter t stands for the sound /t/. Your child can blend these sounds together — /t/ /ŏ/ /p/ — and read the word top. The majority of words young kids come across are decodable, from simple words like top to more challenging ones like peach or raccoon.

Why is Phonics Important?

Phonics is, hands-down, the best way to teach kids to read words. This is well-supported by research: we know that systematic phonics instruction is better than any other approach when it comes to learning to read. Why is it so effective? Because phonics gives your child the tools to read almost every word he or she comes across. And that’s really powerful.

Learning phonics will have a big payoff for your child. The more success your child has using phonics to read words, the more capable and confident he or she will feel about reading. Your child will want to have that feeling of success again and again, so it’s great motivation to keep at it when reading gets tougher.

How Do Children Learn Phonics?

Phonics is best taught systematically, starting with the easiest elements and working up to more challenging ones. For most kids, it begins in kindergarten and wraps up by the end of second grade. Here’s a quick look at what learning phonics will be like for your child each year:

  • Kindergarten is all about exploring how letters and sounds work. Children learn to recognize the letters of the alphabet, and they learn how to hear the individual sounds in a word. When they put these two things together—when they match letters with their sounds—they’re learning phonics. After a year filled with learning and fun, your child will be able sound out words like cat or bed.
  • First grade is the big year when it comes to learning to read, and it’s all about phonics. Your child will learn a lot—he or she will go from reading easy words like bat to words with long vowel sounds like shake, to words with vowel combinations, like train. By the end of the year your child will be able to read most one-syllable words, and many two-syllable words, like picnic or rocket.
  • In second grade, children really grow as readers. They strengthen first-grade phonics skills and learn more advanced ones for tackling harder words, like rainbow or suddenly. Your child will learn to break longer words into small parts, like syllables, and prefixes and suffixes. By the end of the year, when phonics instruction wraps up, a major milestone is in sight: fluency!

From kindergarten through second grade, learning to read is exciting, but it can also be challenging. There’s a lot of trial and error, and sometimes you’ll see your child struggle. This is completely normal. With the right instruction and lots of practice and encouragement, your child will master these skills. You’ll see him or her reading words correctly and without a lot of effort—even the really hard ones.

Easy Ways to Support Your Child

So, how can you support your child? Well, let’s start with this: you don’t have to be a teacher! Your child will learn phonics at school, but there are some great ways you can support your child at home. And they’re all easy to do.

  • Find opportunities to explore letters and sounds and words with your child. When you’re driving or at the store, look at signs and try to spot the letter your child’s name starts with. Or point out words your child can decode, like pet or stop.
  • Make sure you have lots of books at home that your child can succeed with. Easy Readers are perfect—they’re at the right level of difficulty for beginning readers, and you can find lots of them at the library or book store.
  • Give your child lots of loving encouragement and support. This is something that you can do better than anyone else! Keep reading sessions relaxed and positive. Listen to your child read, praise his or her efforts, and don’t hesitate to step in to help if your child gets frustrated.
  • Keep reading aloud to your child and having fun together with books. Read your child’s favorite picture books, or try a chapter a night from a short chapter book. Enjoying these books is a wonderful motivator for your child to learn to read on his or her own.

Learning phonics and beginning to read is a huge milestone, and so much learning is packed in to just a few years. It’s an exciting time! With the right kind of phonics instruction, along with encouragement from you, your child will get off to a great start and become a skilled, confident reader.

Give your child a strong foundation in phonics and get the guidance you need to support his or her reading development at home.

Every program features live instruction from a knowledgeable, encouraging teacher and lots of opportunities to practice new skills in grade-appropriate books. Between classes, interactive online lessons reinforce and enrich what students have learned.

Strong Comprehension Pays Off!

Strong Comprehension Pays Off!

If you think about the skills your child needs to succeed in school, good reading comprehension is probably at the top of your list. You know that if your child can read with strong comprehension, it will give him or her a big boost in all subjects. It’s also what makes reading enjoyable, and it helps make kids into lifelong readers.

So, what is comprehension, and how do kids develop it? What is the big payoff of strong comprehension?

What is comprehension?

Simply put, comprehension is the ability to understand what you read. It’s the reason we read — to get meaning from the words on the page.

Comprehension isn’t only about understanding the meaning of words and sentences, though. It’s about how your child actively engages with the story. The best way to think about comprehension isn’t just as a set of skills but what a good reader does while reading. When your child has strong comprehension, he or she can visualize what’s happening, identify with the main character, follow the events in the story, and anticipate what’s going to happen next.

Let’s take a closer look at what good readers do. When your child reads, he or she thinks about four elements that make up the world of a story:

  • Setting is when and where a story takes place. As soon as your child begins reading a book, he or she starts to figure this out. Does the story happen in a real or imaginary place? Does it take place in the past, present, or future? This helps your child visualize the story.
  • Characters are at the heart of any story, so your child needs to understand who they are and why they act the way they do. A good reader is curious and always asks questions: What’s this character like? How is the character like me, or not like me? How does he or she grow and change throughout the story?
  • Plot is what happens to the characters. The plot gives the story its structure, and your child will follow what happens in the beginning, middle, and end. Are the characters facing a problem at the beginning of the story? What’s going to happen next? How does the problem get solved?
  • Theme is the big idea that holds the whole story together. It’s what your child takes away from the story. Good books for young readers explore rich themes that your child can identify with, like friendship, overcoming fears, and growing up. This is where your child finds real meaning in books.

How do children develop strong comprehension?

Comprehension is what all reading instruction is about, so a few different skills come into play. Your child needs solid decoding skills to read the words themselves. Your child needs to read fluently, which means he or she can read accurately and at a good pace. Fluency frees your child up to pay attention to meaning. Your child also needs a strong vocabulary to understand the words.

Most importantly, your son or daughter needs to do lots of reading. This is, hands-down, the best thing to do to build strong comprehension. When all of these skills come together, it sets up your child to think deeply and really engage with the meaning of what he or she is reading. This is when reading really captures the imagination.

What’s the payoff?

Developing strong comprehension has a wonderful payoff: your son or daughter will experience the joy of being lost in a good book.

When your child reads with strong comprehension, the world of the story comes alive. Your child feels what the characters feel and experiences the adventures of the story right along with them. You’ll see your child get so lost in the story that you can hardly get his or her attention—that’s how thrilling and powerful it can be to get absorbed in a good book.

This is how kids fall in love with books, and how they start to see themselves as readers. The rewards are terrific and long-lasting. Not only does it give your child a big academic boost in all subjects but reading books will shape your child’s character and values in a really positive way. Your child will look to books as a way to learn and to have fun, and as a source of inspiration. Your child will have a love of reading that lasts a lifetime.

Watch your child develop strong comprehension skills and engage more deeply with the meaning of whatever he or she reads.

Every program features live instruction from a knowledgeable, encouraging teacher and lots of opportunities to practice new skills in grade-appropriate books. Between classes, interactive online lessons reinforce and enrich what students have learned.