When you’re trying to support your child in their literacy journey, it can be hard to know what to do, especially if you don’t have a background in education. An effective way to help them become better readers is to understand what their reading level is, and then to challenge them just enough that they learn, but not so much that they get too frustrated and give up (in the education world, this is called scaffolding).
Finding Your Child's Reading Level
If you’re not able to get your child’s reading level from their teacher, you can assess your child yourself with the simple Assessment. This test will tell you what your child can read independently, what they can read with help, and what will be too frustrating to read. Once you know this, you can pick out books at the appropriate level for your child to read alone and for you to read together. A good way to tell if a book is on your child’s reading level is to ask comprehension questions after each page; most kids can begin answering comprehension questions around preschool or kindergarten. As they continue through school, most kids can begin reading chapter books by age seven.
Why are We Dumbing Down?
This seems like a pretty simple process, but we often see that students’ reading material gets dumbed down--why? When school populations exploded around the turn of the 20th century, teachers had to figure out a way to reach students of different reading levels. In an effort to keep students engaged, teachers began trading out the classics for books that they thought students would like. An unfortunate side effect of this is that it inherently caused the average reading level of texts to decline. Where most of the texts 11th graders used to read were at an 11th grade level, now they average around a 6th grade level, according to Dumbing Down What Students Read Didn’t Make Them Any Smarter by Sandra Stotsky.
Staying on Reading Level
The article also notes that parents and families are able to have even more influence on children than their teachers and schools. However, have you been unintentionally dumbing down your child’s reading as well? A challenging aspect of teaching your child to read is that scaffolding piece. They will sometimes get frustrated, and it’s easier to stick with books they know and enjoy than to challenge them with books that are a little bit harder. When you do this though, you’re not helping your child learn or increase their reading level.
To combat this, try to challenge your child’s reading by helping them read books that are a little above their level on topics they are interested in, as this will make them more likely to want to read. Then, you can help them vary their reading topics with texts that are at their independent reading level. This will help them learn through reading about varied topics, and it can help them increase their fluency because the reading will come easy to them.
Another helpful tool is Reading Genie. Our after school reading program, provides a free comprehensive reading assessment. In this assessment we can tell you if your child is struggling with language arts, phonics, reading comprehension and other reading skills or if they are on target. We will then create an individualized curriculum to help bring them to the next level, no matter where they start.