If your child does not like to read, one of the most helpful resources in your world should be your child’s teacher. After all, assuming your district has hired highly qualified educators, she is an expert on both children and reading. It won’t take her long to get to know your child as an individual and learn what makes him tick. She sees a different side of your child than you do, too, and her perspective may just be the one that you need in order to guide your child to what books he should be reading at home.
How do I know this?
I taught elementary school for almost a decade, and then became a school principal with a serious focus on literacy. I trained hard, read a lot of reference books and attended many conferences and workshops to learn as much as I could about teaching reading. I focused intently on becoming a strong reading teacher and then literacy leader, and was thrilled when my students’ parents wanted to learn more about how they can help at home.
Even if your child’s teacher doesn’t eat, sleep and breathe reading instruction like I did, they will get to know your child well in the next few months and most likely be excited that you ask how to help at home.
What questions should you ask the teacher in order to have the most productive conversation? Get my free downloadable question guide here
Here are some tips about how and when to hold this conversation:
Do give the teacher at least several weeks after school starts to get to know your child before you reach out. Many teachers have 22-27 kids in a classroom so it takes a bit of time to learn about each of them personally.
Do let the teacher know you want to support her efforts in school by reading with/to your child at home. Use my checklist (get it above) to help guide your conversation.
Do make the first contact regarding your request to meet through email when you can. Email is an easy way to let the teacher know you are interested in a conversation without it seeming like an emergency. This will also give the teacher a chance to get back to you with her thoughts together about when you can talk, and what materials she might be able to provide you.
Do greet the teacher at Back-to-School Night and introduce yourself, but hold off on having this conversation until you actually set up a time to chat together. There are so many parents for her to meet that night and you don’t want this topic to get lost in a busy event.
When you meet with the teacher, do be sure you have at least 30 minutes to discuss your thoughts, and take some notes so you don’t forget what she recommends. Many ideas and book titles may be new to you so you’ll want to write them down.
Don’t catch the teacher on the fly to discuss this, such as at a concert, Back-to-School Night or school play. There is too much else going on to give this the attention it needs.
Don’t try to have this entire discussion through email. In person is best, on the phone can also work too. Initiate by email, but move off email once you make contact.
Don’t make a big deal of it with your child. In fact, telling him you had this discussion is completely optional. Use your judgement about whether he should know or not. You don’t want to make him upset and think that a possible reading issue is the reason his parent and his teacher are talking.
Don’t go unprepared. Instead, take the list of questions to ask with you and also a list of what you already do at home. You want feedback, as well as to let the teacher know the support you are already providing.
Don’t follow every word the teacher says if it doesn’t feel right. Consider the teacher just one resource out of many and only follow any advice given that makes sense to you for your child.
The bottom line: The more you and your child’s teacher work together as a team to help your child become a better reader, the faster he will make progress. A teacher can provide insight into your child as a learner, which can help as you support your reader at home. Don’t be a stranger – Towards the end of the first month of school, be sure to connect with your child’s teacher!