Elementary Reading: What My Child Needs to Know

Reading comprehension should be mastered by the end of elementary school to ensure academic success in middle school and high school. Read on to find out what your child should be learning and how you can help your child at home.

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Overview of Elementary Reading: Best Practices


Elementary reading instruction should focus on reading fluency, which is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly and with appropriate expression. Fluent readers demonstrate an effortless and automatic ability to read words in connected text. They read as if they were speaking.

Children become fluent readers through explicit instruction, feedback and practice with appropriate texts. While reading comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, reading fluency is the key to achieving it.


Vocabulary refers to the words we must know in order to communicate effectively. Children learn most of their vocabulary indirectly through everyday experiences, and they have a much more difficult time learning to read words that are not already a part of their oral vocabulary. Simply put, children cannot understand what they are reading if they don't know what most of the words mean. As a result, direct vocabulary instruction is also beneficial to support reading comprehension.

Reading Comprehension

Ultimately, the purpose of reading is to comprehend and gain information. Since successful readers are able to extract useful knowledge from text, it is important to teach children strategies to help them become active, purposeful readers.

Elementary school reading comprehension is generally taught indirectly, through phonetic awareness, alphabetic principals and oral reading fluency. While traditional comprehension activities are important, they will have the most impact if the child is also reading accurately and fluently.

Parent Tips for Reading Help

Fortunately, there are many reading strategies you can use at home to reinforce reading fluency, comprehension and vocabulary skills. Talk about everything you see and do with your child. Relating a text to background knowledge and personal experiences will help your child understand the text.

Have your children read aloud to you as much as possible. One strategy is to read a brief poem or passage to your child. Follow up by reading the passage together several times. Then, have your child read the text to you on his or her own.

Echo reading allows children to practice proper phrasing and expression while building oral reading fluency. In echo reading, you read one sentence or paragraph at a time while your child follows along in the text with his or her finger. When you pause, your child 'echoes back' the same sentence or paragraph. This allows you to be sure your child is actually reading and not simply copying you. It also gives you an opportunity to explain unfamiliar words.

The guided practice and support of the echo reading structure instills confidence in kids and aims to develop greater reading proficiencies. Use this method as a way to get hesitant readers to practice with you at home. Even stubborn readers have a tendency to let their guard down when you practice with them using the echo reading method.

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