Building Language Arts Skills
Tips for Parents
You should try to do some reading with your child on a regular basis. By now you know that as your child moves forward through the grades, his or her schedule becomes more active and self-initiated. You have 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, Virginia Sneve, Bret Harte, Alex Haley, or Louisa May Alcott, Edith Hamilton, C.S. Lewis, Sally Benson, or Paul Laurence Dunbar. Your child's interest in the stories you read will tell you a great deal about his or her development in listening and comprehension.
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. Moreover, it does not take a great deal of time.
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 is a way to tell your child that you value reading and ideas. It also gives you a chance to build later conversations around the books you have bought, 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.
Take your child to the movies occasionally -- rather than just sending him or her to the movies. You will not only enjoy the outing together, but the event will give you a natural opportunity for conversation about the film's character, setting, theme, moral dilemmas, and so on.
Each of you write an explanation of how to do something. For example, your child might decide to write a description of how to ride a bike while you will describe how to swim. Then see if your descriptions make sense to one another. Would your child's explanation help someone ride a bike for the first time?
Reprinted from 101 Educational Conversations with Your 5th 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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