Building Language Arts Skills
Tips for Parents
- You should try to do some reading with your child on a regular basis. As your child moves forward through the grades, his or her schedule will become more active and self-initiated. You will probably find that it is not as easy as it once was to engage in daily reading together. At a minimum, though, try to spend some time on Sunday afternoons or evenings to read from authors such as Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Fenimore Cooper, Charlotte Bronte, Jack London, Langston Hughes, Bret Harte, Alex Haley, or Louisa May Alcott. Your child's interest in the stories you read will tell you a great deal about his or her development in listening and comprehension.
As you read a story to your child, occasionally ask, "What does that remind you of? What do you see in your mind?" Mental images are important to ongoing learning. (You and your child might even try sketching images.)
Using the basic format of one of the stories you read, write a story together with your child. You write the first few lines or paragraph, have your child write the second few lines or paragraph, and so on. This could be a long-term project that gives you a look at your child's understanding of story sequence and word meanings; it also encourages the child to write creatively. Save these stories so you and your child can look at them together at a later time.
Begin making a journal of good times together -- possibly the highlights of a trip, vacation, or family holiday. You and your child can each make entries. Read through what you have written from time to time.
Read newspaper headlines together and try to figure out what the story is about. You might also make a point of reading aloud to each other one newspaper story every day. This will help make the newspaper important to your child, as well as provide reading practice.
Get in the habit of clipping from the newspaper things you think your child might find interesting -- human interest stories, cartoons, news related to the local environment. Such pieces are natural starting points for conversation.
Committing things to memory is a good exercise throughout the intermediate and middle school years. Each of you memorize a poem or story to tell to the other -- one in the fall and one in the spring. The presentations can be family events.
Buy books for your child for special occasions. This gives you a chance to structure later conversations about the book, by asking, "How was the book? What was the mystery?" and the like.
As your child reads, find time to ask, "What is the book about? Who are the characters? What are they like? Where does the story take place?" Most children like to talk about what they are reading, as long as they do not perceive the questions to be either suspicious inquisitions or rote inquiries devoid of real interest.
Folktales and myths are often part of the fourth grade curriculum. See what your child knows about Robin Hood, Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, King Arthur, Brer Rabbit, Zeus, Apollo, or Prometheus. Read folktales and myths to each other.
Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 4th Grader by Vito Perrone, published by Chelsea House Publishers.
Copyright 1994 by Chelsea House Publishers, a division of Main Line Book Co. All rights reserved.
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