Johnny Key

Commissioner of Education

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How can I help my child at home?

Parent Resource Center

How can I help my child to become a better reader?

The best thing parents can do is to play an active role in their children’s literacy development. This means reading to them, pointing out things in their environment to talk about, using interesting vocabulary and make reading a happy, positive experience. To engage your child in the act of reading, pick up on one of his/her interests or find an author he/she likes. The more a child reads, the better reader he/she will become.

How can I help my child if he/she is a struggling reader?

Often, struggling readers just need a little extra tutoring and plenty of support. Outside of home, some schools offer free tutoring on site, often during the day. Where schools don’t have programs, community resources such as libraries and Girls and Boys Clubs may have programs to help. However, there are some specific things parents can do to help their children at home.

 

Helping Your Child Succeed in School is a guide providing information about what you can do at home to help your child be successful at school.  Two topics discussed are choosing the right school and your child’s rights related to discipline issues.

At Home

Research shows that the more words that adults speak to children, the better language skills children develop. 

For more information on how to help your child at home in the early years, read “More Than Baby Talk.”

Infants and Toddlers
  • Talk through or comment on routines (e.g., when washing hands, “We are washing our hands. We are making lots of big bubbles.”).
  • Comment on children’s actions or objects and events (e.g., “Billy is drawing with the red crayon.”).
  • Respond to nonverbal communication with words (e.g., “I see you reaching for the blocks. Would you like to play with the blocks?”).
  •  Ask questions and pause for answers. Provide the answers for preverbal children.
  •  Expand on children’s words (e.g., “I heard you say, ‘Cheese’. Would you like to eat more cheese?”). 
 
Preschool/Kindergarten Children Elementary Children
  • Sing songs and do finger plays that involve rhyming
  • Tell simple stories and ask your child to retell the story back to you
  • Play games involving prepositions, asking your child to hide under the table, beside the lamp, on the couch, behind the chair, etc.
  • Work on motor skills such as throwing a ball to a person, catching a ball, kicking a ball, throwing a ball into a basket, skipping, hopping or completing an obstacle course
  • Play memory games, hide 3-6 objects and take one away and ask your child what is missing
  • String beads together or create patterns, asking your child to duplicate the same pattern you made using the same shapes and/or colors
  • Use picture flash cards that involve matching words, sequencing stories or finding things that go together (the hand cad goes with the glove card, etc).
  • Read to your child or let them listen to books on tape to take the pressure of reading off of them for a bit
  • Help them with organizational skills such as color coding school folders, establishing daily routines for getting bathed, dressed and ready for school
  • Keep in touch with your child’s teachers for tips on helping with homework and modifications that might be made in the classroom to help your child enhance spelling/reading skills
  • Avoid criticizing and use praise as much as possible to instill confidence and boost self esteem
  • Prepare a quiet, distraction free place to complete homework and practice skills
  • Use a computer at home and school to help with writing/spelling
  • Use a multi-sensory approach to learning letters and words…for example say the word, so he can hear it, have him repeat the word so he can hear it, spell the word using concrete letters such as refrigerator magnets so he can also see and touch the letters in the word. Use a picture of the word so he can also see it in a different format than just the spelling. For example, a picture of a dog, a stuffed dog on the table, the word dog spelled with magnets, a real dog in the room, etc.
Middle School and High School Students
  • Help your child with decoding.  Decoding is translating a printed word into its sounds. Focus on learning the meanings of prefixes and suffixes.  For example, when a teen comes across a word like polyhedron, if he/she learns the meaning of the prefix poly, he/she can apply that knowledge to make sense of the meanings of specialized words with that prefix, like polychromatic. Teens with decoding difficulties need lots of practice and increased teaching time to develop reading skills.
  • Struggling teens often spend so much time and energy on decoding that they miss the meaning of a word.  This may cause them to become frustrated and anxious.  Parents can help demonstrate fluent reading by reading aloud to their teen regularly, and encouraging their teen to read aloud to them.
  • Often middle and high school students who have difficulty reading don’t want to read, and because they don’t read, their exposure to new words is limited.  Therefore, it’s important to find something that your teen is interested in reading, so he/she will want to read more. Reading more helps students to become better readers. As teens encounter words that are unfamiliar, helping them make connections between new words and words they already know will increase their vocabulary.  This includes associating new words with synonyms, antonyms, and alternate meanings of words.  Playing word games such as Scrabble and Words With Friends is a great way to increase vocabulary, also.
  • Asking questions during reading helps to better understand main ideas and important details.  While reading, teens should stop every now and then to ask themselves, “What’s going on here?”  Asking them to stop and explain what they’ve read or write a short summary after reading may help, also.
  • Helping your teen to select a book that is interesting and at their reading level is also a good way to encourage him/her to read. If a teen selects a book that he/she isn’t able to read independently, text-to-speech software and audiobooks can be good alternatives.

For more ways to help your child at home, read “Steps a Parent Can Take to Help Their Struggling Reader” and “Seeking Help for a Struggling Reader."

In the article, “How Parent Volunteering Can Aid Your Kids’ Academic Achievement” Sue Shellenberger looks at the impact of parents’ volunteer work on their children’s school achievement.

You may want to ask your local school board members or administrators about volunteer opportunities. To find a list of other types of volunteer opportunities in your area use volunteermatch.org

Adult Learning

The website for the Arkansas Literacy Councils provides information for adults needing literacy help. Local literacy councils can be found by searching by city or county.

A list of adult learning locations can be found at http://aalrc.org/adminteachers/index.html

English Language Learning

Colorín colorado provides resources, related to literacy, in 11 languages.  Examples of resources include what language to use at home with your children and how to encourage early reading if you do not know English.

USA Learns offers English lessons for adult learners. The lessons are free but you are required to create a free account with an email address. The site is hosted by the Sacramento Department of Education.

Which accommodations and modifications might be available for my child?

When a child is having trouble in school, it’s important to find out why. The child may have a disability. By law, schools must provide special help to eligible children with disabilities. This help is called special education and related services. There is a lot to know about the process by which children are identified as having a disability and in need of special education and related services. Learn more about this process with an overview of the 10 Basic Steps in Special Education Process at the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of children who have disabilities. Special education and related services are provided in public schools at no cost to the parents and can include special instruction in the classroom, at home, in hospitals or institutions, or in other settings. This definition of special education comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This federal law gives eligible children with disabilities the right to receive special services and assistance in school.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

When a child receives special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), he or she must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a written document listing, among other things, the special education services that the child will receive. The IEP is developed by a team that includes the child’s parents and school staff. Read All About IEPs at the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

View the Arkansas Department of Education Special Education Unit’s site for contact information and more resources. 

Common Accommodations and Modifications

For information on accommodations for assessment, read “Accommodations for Assessment.”

For a list of common modifications and accommodations, read “Common Modifications and Accommodations.”

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