Ongoing assessment: The child's reading skills should be assessed both by informal teacher observation and by more formal measures. As I will discuss in Chapter 19, measuring your child's progress in reading needs to be an ongoing process in order to reflect his changing needs. In the primary grades (one to three) his reading should be assessed at least three times during the school year to monitor growth, and more often if there are indications of failure to make progress.
While a parent should not become her child's primary teacher, she can become her child's biggest helper. With a light hand, good humor, and the suggestions found here, you can help accelerate your child's progress. In most instances I strongly caution parents against setting out to teach their child all of the phonics rules or a complete reading curriculum. Teaching reading is a complex task and one that should be left to a professional. Keep in mind that your child is in class for perhaps six hours a day. You will see him after school when he is tired and less receptive to learning and when you, too, are not at your most energetic or patient. I recommend that you work with your child fifteen or twenty minutes a few evenings a week; it should remain fun and not a chore for either of you. For the most part, weekends should be left for enjoyment and not to play catch-up.
Focus on reinforcement. School is where new learning should take place; home is ideal for practice and reinforcement. School helps him build the necessary neural models for reading; home practice strengthens and solidifies the model. Try to coordinate any home reading activity with what your child is learning in school. The goal is to reinforce and strengthen what he is learning. Children do best when they can focus on one procedure or approach at a time. Work in harmony with your child's teacher.
I encourage you to reinforce selected basic skills that will make reading more understandable and ultimately more enjoyable for your child. I will give you a list of children's books that are right for him, books that he will be able to read, that he will enjoy reading, and that will stimulate him to read more. The activities are easy to do and require little more than a stack of index cards, magnetic letters, a felt marking pen, and a highlighter pen. For some of the activities I recommend colored as well as white index cards.