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I Have A Child in Elementary School (5-8)

The first three years of elementary school are when kids learn how to read words, increase their vocabularies, and learn how to comprehend what they read, all on their own! As your child grows from a tiny kindergartener to a confident third grader, here are ways to help them become them strong readers.


Reading with a Kindergartener

Your child is learning how to “do” school, and they’re starting to see letters and words everywhere! Now is the time to keep the learning going at home by bringing in some familiar activities.

  • Name nouns. As your child learns new words, help them organize them into nouns, adjectives, and verbs. One activity for teaching nouns has kids organize pictures into people, places, and things and could be done with images cut from magazines, photos, or little toys.
  • First sounds. As you spend time with your kindergartener cooking, driving around town, and playing at home, help them hear the sounds in words by saying the beginning and ending sounds slowly. Games like this first sounds game from This Reading Mama are also good to reinforce beginning sounds and teach kids some new words.
  • Synonym search. Kindergarteners love nothing more than going on errands, as you’re driving around town, see how many synonyms or similar words you can find. See the tall buildings in Uptown, what other words are buildings (house, skyscraper, etc).
  • Find rhymes. Rhyming is an important skill for kids to have as they start to learn to read. Find rhymes everywhere (stop, hop), you can even make up silly words to create rhymes (uptown, buptown). This post from Little Minds at Work has rhyming ideas and printables.

  • Use apps purposefully. Chances are, your child is familiar with at least one iPad, Chromebook, or computer. Ask your child’s teacher for the best apps or web sites for practice—screen time is best spent getting better at skills they already know, rather than trying to learn something new. Here’s a list of educational apps listed by skill. Ask your child’s teacher which skill your child should focus on.
  • Letter practice. Cut out letters or buy letter magnets for your child to name, play with, and rearrange into words. Either challenge them to spell words you give them, or have them create their own words for you to read.
  • Environmental print. If your child likes to take control of your phone camera (and whose doesn’t?) challenge them to take pictures of words you see while on errands around town. Later, they can “read” the pictures and words from street signs, banners, and storefronts.
  • Name nonsense. A kindergartener’s name is the perfect starting point for teaching letters and sounds. That and more tips from Reading Rockets.

  • Picture walks. Kids love to look at the pictures in books and some picture books have fantastic illustrations! Spend time talking about the pictures in books from this list of award winning books.
  • Books as tools. To get interested in books, kids need to know how books work. Explore the cover, cover art, title page, and back of the book before you start reading. Other ways to reinforce concepts of print: have your child find books by the same author, point to words as you read, and have your child point to the word you’ll start reading at on every page. (This visual shows the basics of how to use a book.)
  • Find facts. When you read nonfiction books, like these titles for K-5, with your child, talk about the facts in the books. Ask: what did you learn? What is one interesting thing about the topic?
  • Story Maps. In kindergarten, your child will start to learn how to organize her thoughts about what she’s reading. This story map can be printed and used with any picture book your child reads as your child learns to draw and write about what they read.

  • Create a study area. As your child learns how to “do” school, adding books, pretend play, and letters to his play area help create a “home office” for a young learner. (Here are ideas for creating a reading-rich environment at home from PBS Parents.)
  • Post a schedule. Kindergarteners are learning how to get ready and get to school. Posting a morning schedule (like this one) can provide just the structure that your child needs to know what to do now, and next.

Reading with a First Grader

First grade is all about becoming an independent reader, but as your child spends more time reading to you, continue talking,learning, and reading together.

  • Do an investigation. When you bring home a new type of fruit or vegetable, or find a new plant or flower, spend some time investigating it by describing its size, shape, color, and other features. A format like this investigation of a pumpkin is one way to approach it. 

  • Learn letter patterns. First graders have learned their letters and sounds, now they’re learning letter patterns, like when you add an –e it makes the vowel say its name. (Turning fin to fine, or cat to cate). Have your child practice these sound patterns by giving them a word and asking them to change it from a short to a long vowel (this list is a good one to get started).
  • Sequence events. Help your child organize thoughts by sequencing events that you do together (like making a sandwich) by explaining what happened first, second, third, fourth, and so on. See how many steps you can include in the sequence.

  • Name nouns. As your child learns new words, help them organize them into nouns (people, places, and things), adjectives (description words), and verbs (action words). Make a game of it, like this sorting game.
  • Sight words at stop lights. Ask your child’s teacher for a list of sight words, then print that list and hang it on the back of the front seats of your car so your child can practice reading sight words while they’re en route to and from school. To make a game of it, see how many words they can read aloud to you when you’re stopped at red lights.
  • Explorer interviews. First graders are all about exploring. After a family day out to Freedom Park and the nature museum or Sea Life Aquarium, help your child debrief their activity by describing what they saw, heard, and learned. This can be done in a quick interview with your child, record it with your smartphone to create a mini-broadcast.
  • At home science. There are tons of science experiments that you can do with materials you have at home, like making plastic from milk. Involve your child in choosing which experiment to do and you’re reinforcing the scientific process from start to finish. Check out this list of 50 science technology engineering and math (STEM) ideas to do with kids.


  • Charlotte stories. Have your child choose a person and place or event in Charlotte (some ideas: Imaginon, Hodge’s Farm, Sea Life Aquarium, the Thanksgiving Day parade in Uptown). Then, write a story about what happens to that person in that place. This story organizer can help your child plan their story.

  • Comprehension checks.  Comprehension, or understanding what they read, is an important part of reading. As you read with your child, or when your child reads to you, stop every few pages and ask them: What happened? What do you think will happen next? Why?
  • Build stamina.  Your child wants to read to you, but might be lacking stamina, or the ability to read for many minutes at a time. Alternate reading a page, then having your child read a page, both to model good reading, and to help your child build stamina for their own reading.
  • Who said what? First graders are figuring out how to read what characters say or “dialogue” in stories. Bring home books with a comic book format (Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books are a great example) or actual comic books, then you can each take a character or two to read.
  • Sound-it-out  Encourage children to sound out the words they struggle with, rather than guessing. Kids can say each sound slow then faster then fast until they can read the word. For example, b-u-s, b-us, bus! More tips from Reading Rockets.


Reading with a Second Grader

In 2nd grade, the words are compound, the stories get more complicated, and the books get longer. Now is the perfect time to help your child expand their ideas, plan how they’re spending some of their time, and read longer books together.

  • Tell your story. Second graders love to hear stories about your childhood, when you tell them about your funniest Thanksgiving or your most embarrassing elementary school moment, you’re building vocabulary and modeling how to structure stories. Find more tips at Reading Rockets.

  • Add adverbs. Once your child knows about nouns, adjectives, and verbs, introduce adverbs, or words that describe verbs (quickly, slowly). Add adverbs to sentences and see how many adverbs you can use to describe how your child is moving, or how you see people driving, walking, and running around town.

  • Find the lesson. As kids progress through elementary school, morals and lessons become important in the books they read. A graphic organizer, like this one for Giraffes Can’t Dance, can help your child focus on the moral, but lessons can also be learned from activities you do and TV shows you watch, as long as you’re talking about them and asking: What did you learn? What did the author want you to learn?

  • Pull words apart. In 2nd grade, students are learning the parts of words (prefixes, root words, and suffixes). When you see words in books, on TV, and on signs, pull them apart into prefixes, root words, and suffixes. For example, preschool, replay, and unlocked. Here is a list of prefixes and suffixes by grade.
  • Retell your day. Retelling is a skill that 2nd graders focus on. Help your child practice retelling by having them retell situations that you get into during the week. Did the car need to get fixed? Or, did you have to find a lost shoe? Any situation with a problem, solution, and events will do. (Use this retelling chart to know what to include.)
  • Do a Research Project. Do a research project with your child. Come up with a research question that they want to answer (What happens to birds when they fly south? Why do we add baking soda to cookies?). Then, use a variety of sources—the internet, your neighborhood library, Discovery Place—to find the answer. (Here are some tips on how to do research with kids.)
  • At home science. There are tons of science experiments that you can do with materials you have at home. Check out this list of 50 science technology engineering and math (STEM) ideas to do with kids.


  • Charlotte stories. Have your child choose a person and place or event in Charlotte (some ideas: Imaginon, Hodge’s Farm, Sea Life Aquarium, the Thanksgiving Day parade in Uptown). Then, write a story about what happens to that person in that place. This story organizer can help your child plan their story.

  • Read characters.  Try out different voices when you read the words that characters say in books or “dialogue.” You’ll inject some additional enjoyment into the book, and your child will practice fluency when she reads the same lines over and over in different, silly voices. Some ideas for voices: robot, mouse, bear, lion, pirate, opera singer, country singer.

  • Use the dictionary. If your child asks you what a word means, take the opportunity to look it up in the old-fashioned Dictionary, or on Dictionary.com. They’ll learn how to use a powerful tool, and you can explore the word’s synonyms, antonyms, and other meanings.

  • Books everywhere. Fill baskets of books, magazines, and other reading material in the bathroom, car, and other places where your child will have down time. Make these portable by putting bags of books in the car, then your child can grab one as you head in to any errand that likely involves waiting (doctor’s offices, the dentist, etc).
  • Bedtime read aloud.  In second grade, you can start reading longer chapter books to your child at night. Think: the books that you loved as a child, or take some ideas from a list of favorite 2nd grade read alouds or a list of picture books for 2nd graders.


  • Set a schedule. If getting out the door is a hassle, to put it mildly, consider allowing your child to plan out the schedule (with your help), then post it on the fridge and stick to it. (Here are more ideas for a smooth morning routine.)
  • Create a study area.  Make your child feel like he has a “job” by creating a work space for him to do homework. Help him get organized with this work station idea, made entirely with items from the Dollar Store.


Reading With a Third Grader

Third grade is when children shift from learning to read to reading to learn. This is when they’ll be expected to get information from text, and do more with what they’re reading.

  • Organize information. Whether you’re watching a video, reading a book, or talking about information they learned through a museum visit, help your child organize their thinking. For example, a graphic organizer like this one can help your child think about the type of information they know about a person.

  • Summarizing Strategy. Teach your child the basics of summarizing events, experiences, and ideas with some basic summarizing strategies. For example, have them answer key questions: Who? Did what? Then what happened? So what (what was the result)? And so (what was the final result)? (Here is a visual of the strategy).
  • How do you know? Third graders will be finding evidence from the text to support their ideas, but you can help your child support all the ideas they come up with by asking: how do you know? Then, help them strengthen their ideas by expanding on what they said. For example, “that’s an interesting idea. Have you thought about this?”


  • Pull words apart. In 3rd grade, students are learning the parts of words (prefixes, root words, and suffixes). When you see words in books, on TV, and on signs, pull them apart into prefixes, root words, and suffixes. For example, preschool, replay, and unlocked. Here is a list of prefixes and suffixes by grade.
  • Irregular spellings. Ask your child’s teacher for a list of irregularly spelled words that your child should know. (Irregularly spelled words like “would”, “two”, and “water” don’t follow the usual phonic or spelling rules. We just have to memorize them.) Then, decide how you want to practice them. Your child may want to use computer programs (Wordle, for example) to play with how the words look, or they may want to use flashcards to memorize them and see how fast they can read them.
  • Do a Research Project. Do a research project with your child. Come up with a research question that they want to answer (What happens to birds when they fly south? Why do we add baking soda to cookies?). Then, use a variety of sources—the internet, your neighborhood library, Discovery Place—to find the answer. (Here are some tips on how to do research with kids.)
  • At home science. There are tons of science experiments that you can do with materials you have at home. Check out this list of 50 science technology engineering and math (STEM) ideas to do with kids.


  • Charlotte stories. Have your child choose a person and place or event in Charlotte (some ideas: Imaginon, Hodge’s Farm, Sea Life Aquarium, the Thanksgiving Day parade in Uptown). Then, write a story about what happens to that person in that place. This story organizer can help your child plan their story.

  • Get them into a series.   Book series, like Geronimo Stilton, Captain Underpants, and Magic Tree House, are great for getting kids to read, and read some more! The benefit of a series is that kids get to know the characters, so they can pay more attention to the plot and setting. (To get the most out of a series, consider partnering with families that all have third graders, each family buys a few books in the series and the kids can rotate the books among themselves.) Check out our Pinterest page of book series.
  • Comprehension trick. Show your child a “mind trick” when you show them how to summarize anything (a recipe, a television episode, a day) in a few sentences and then how to apply that to reading. More tips from Reading Rockets.

  • Text Structure. As text gets more complicated, understanding how authors organize text, also called text structure, will be important. This explanation of different informational text structures can help kids understand common informational text structures.
  • Main idea and details.   Kids often struggle to find the main idea in what they read. Help your child by talking through how you find the main idea, or showing them how authors organize text (the main idea of a paragraph often comes first).


  • Change the question.  Your child may not be offering up much information about school these days. Check out this list of 25 ways to ask your child about school to get ideas for questions that will draw information out of her.
  • Create a study area.  Make your child feel like he has a “job” by creating a work space for him to do homework. Help him get organized with this work station idea, made entirely with items from the Dollar Store.

  • Create a weekly homework schedule.   In 3rd grade, your child may want to feel more “grown up.” One way to do that is to help him organize his homework for each week. Using an organizer that he can fill out each week can help.