Q:

My fourth-grader is not what I would call a very good reader. She has always struggled with reading, and it is becoming a more serious problem as she has to read so much in social studies and science. Is there any way that I can make a big difference in helping her improve her reading skills? - Looking for Answers

A:

Just like anything else in life, practice improves reading skills. The more children read, the better readers they will become. Here are some tips that should help most parents improve their children's reading skills.

The number one thing to do is to read to children every day. Beyond this, parents can use one or more of the following very effective reading techniques. These techniques need to be used every day for approximately 10 minutes in order for reading to be improved. Do stick with one technique for several weeks before trying another. And do not expect to see considerable improvement for several weeks. Within a month, you should know if a method is working with your child. To have good results, reading help sessions need to be a happy experience for parent and child.

One of the most successful techniques is the Neurological Impress Method (NIM). To use this method, you will sit slightly behind your child so that your voice will be close to her right ear. Read the material out loud with your child. At first, you should read a little louder and slightly faster than your child. As you read, run your finger under a word as it is spoken. Begin with material that is easy for your child to read. Then, advance as soon as possible to more difficult material.

In classrooms today, books-on-tape are frequently used with struggling readers. You can use such recordings at home or make your own. Always choose materials that are at a slightly higher level of difficulty than your child can read fluently. If your daughter loses her place, have her use an index card. Your child needs to listen to a segment until she is able to read it smoothly, making no more than two or three errors. The length of a segment can range from a paragraph to a page, depending on her skill. To work best, this method needs to be used in a structured way under your supervision. For variety, your child can read along with the recording as in the NIM method.

Rereading material until it is mastered helps children increase their rate and comprehension. The material should be at or slightly below their instructional level at school, and passages should range from 50 to 100 words. Begin by having your child read the passage to you, providing help as needed. Time how long it takes. Next, have your child practice reading the material without any help for three or four minutes. Then time how long it takes your child to reread the passage to you. Follow the same approach for at least three passages in a session.