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 found also 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, Amy Tan, Virginia Sneve, Bret Harte, Alex Haley, Louisa May Alcott, Edith Hamilton, C.S. Lewis, Sally Benson, Harper Lee, 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 or continue a journal of good times together -- possibly the highlights of a trip, vacation, or family holiday; or a log of books and movies you've shared. You and your child can each make entries. From time to time read through what you have written.
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. In addition, you will learn a great deal about your child's growing knowledge of the world. This is a good activity to share on a regular basis as 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, movie or television reviews, news related to the local environment. Also call your child's attention to articles in magazines. Such pieces are natural starting points for conversation.
Committing things to memory is a good exercise throughout the intermediate and middle school years. At one time, schoolchildren were expected to memorize many poems. Although this is not typical of most schools any longer, memorization still has some virtues. At home, each of you could memorize a poem or story to tell to the other -- one in the fall and one in the spring. The presentations can be made into traditional family events.
Mystery and adventure tend to attract sixth grade readers. Visit together the sections of your library where mysteries and adventure stories are shelved; each of you could pick something to read and discuss with the other.
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. South & North, East & West: The Oxfam Book of Children's Stories, edited by Michael Rosen, offers 25 traditional tales from all parts of the world that can provide a great deal of shared pleasure for you and your child.
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. Such conversations not only enlarge your child's understanding of the film but may go beyond the movie itself to a broad range of subjects.
Each of you write an explanation of how to do something. For example, your child might decide to write a description of how to climb a tree or play a particular musical instrument, while you will describe how to bake an apple pie or replace a windowpane. 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 6th 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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