All on the same side – are we maximising the opportunities for children to practise reading at home?

Let’s talk banded reading books. When I was in Year 4, there wasn’t a huge mention of these by parents. The children changed their own books, but generally just read what they wanted and I didn’t spend much of my time even thinking about them.

Fast forward to Year 2 and suddenly I was being bombarded every day with parents worrying that their children were ready to move up, that they could read the book really easily, that they had already read that book…

It really made me think. Of course, they were concerned. They didn’t understand the process of children learning to become effective readers any more than I had before I trained. It made me realise what a wasted resource my parents were.

So I got them in. I explained that there were essentially two facets to reading: reading for pleasure and reading for meaning. Children can read what they like, I explained. If they pick Harry Potter off the shelf and the parents are happy with that, then they can read Harry Potter. Reading for pleasure is exactly that and the children can read whatever they want for fun.

Reading for meaning, however, is different. I explained that, essentially, the banded books sent home were their ‘practice’ books. The books they need to use to practise the reading strategies they were being taught in class.

I explained about building stamina and resistance, that children need to learn that to read for meaning, you have to read something more than once. What message are we sending the children if the parents are rolling their eyes when they see that “Miss C ‘hasn’t changed the book AGAIN!”? (I got a lot of guilty smirks at that moment!) That actually, if we reframe our response to ‘Oh brilliant! I wonder what more we can get out of this text?’ how much more are we building a reading resilience in our children?

I defined what I meant by ‘reading fluently’ and how if the children can read that book to fluency, that they would be able to understand it more. I gave the parents examples of questions to ask the children to check understanding. I explained what would be useful to me, as a teacher, for comments on their child’s reading. (If they wished to do that.)

I explained some strategies that they could use to help their child read more fluently – how to model reading aloud to them, echo, choral reading, reading a page each, etc.

In Year 2, I change my class’s banded books once a week so that they have the chance to practise reading skills effectively. The parents have been incredible and that’s been through teamwork and explaining a little more about reading and not just getting frustrated at them for all the comments about books (which initially, I admit, I did do!)

Nothing that was rocket science at all but the benefit to my children has been immense and the parents love feeling they are doing more than just getting their children to read a very dry, very boring (sorry!) colour banded book.

I would definitely recommend getting the parents involved if you haven’t already and maybe having a think about how the colour books are used in your class. Do we just change them whenever and have no expectations for what the children actually gain from them or do we try to maximise every opportunity these children might have (there will always be children who don’t have these chances at home for a multitude of reasons) to practise these skills?

None of this replaces what we do in school, just supports it.

You can find examples of questions to give parents on sites such as Twinkl or by googling. Someone shared some great ones based on gems not long ago on Twitter.

I will upload the PPT / info I gave to my parents at some point too if that helps anyone.




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