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How Are Kids Kept Accountable for Independent Reading?

by Rachel Pancare

Children are often required to read independently as part of their homework. But how can you ensure that your kids are actually reading? Parents can teach their children responsibility by holding them accountable for completing their independent reading assignments. By reading together, setting a timer, keeping a log, asking comprehension questions or requiring written work, you can ensure that your kids are getting their reading done, and you can determine how well they are understanding what they have read.

Reading Together

Reading with your child takes time and patience, but it comes with many benefits. One of those benefits is the assurance that she is really reading. Let your child read out loud to you. You can try several techniques to get started, such as you reading a page the your child reading a page. You can also work it so you read a book, then she reads a book. Sit side-by-side so you can both see the words and pictures, especially if your child is still learning to read. Your child can ask you questions and you can talk about what is happening in the story. She can also learn about intonation and pronunciation by listening to you read to her. As your child's skills improve, compliment her reading during your shared reading time. According to an article titled "Improving Accountability in Independent Reading" at Scholastic.com, congratulating a child on her reading is a tremendous motivator.

Setting a Timer

Children often sit down to read and run out of steam a little while later. By setting a timer, kids can be kept accountable for reading for a set number of minutes. A bell or buzzer lets them know when they can stop. The benefit of using a timer is that a child who finishes a book or chapter might read ahead or find something else to read until the time is up. She might also be encouraged to go back and visit parts she has already read. Rereading strengthens fluency and comprehension skills. In the article "Improve Reading Comprehension" at Scholastic.com, fluency is defined as being able to read quickly and smoothly. It further explains that a child needs strong fluency skills to gain meaning from text. Scholastic.com recommends increasing your expectations over time -- require that your child read more pages as the year moves on.

Keeping a Log

A reading log allows children to record what they have read. Many teachers require that students keep track of their independent reading for homework. In some cases, parents are even required to sign a log sheet at the end of the week. If your child's teacher does not provide or require a reading log, design your own. A log might include the title of the book, the author, the pages read and the amount of time spent reading. It can show each day of the week, or the days that you or your child's teacher requires independent reading. A log helps children learn about honesty and integrity and teaches them that they are accountable for completing the work that is expected of them.

Asking Comprehension Questions

If you are concerned your child is not completing her independent reading or is not reading carefully, try asking comprehension questions. Comprehension questions should help you assess whether your child has read thoroughly enough. For example, ask about the characters, setting or plot. Ask about the sequence of events, her favorite part or what she would have done if she were the main character in the story. You can read the pages she has read yourself and then ask specific details about the content. For popular children's books, you might even be able to find some general questions online. Sometimes your child might have a homework assignment that requires her to answer questions in writing. You can check her answers for accuracy.

Requiring Written Work

Written work is one of the most effective ways to keep children accountable for independent reading. Assignments can include character analyses, summaries, predictions, connections or questions. Some children might respond better to more creative assignments. A child can be asked to draw a character and describe his personality based on what she read. She can list character traits and give examples from the text for proof. You can ask your child to summarize a chapter or predict what might happen next. You can also ask your child to make connections. Text-to-self requires making a connection in the story to something that has happened in her own life; text-to-text requires connecting something that happened in the story to something that has happened in another story; or text-to-world, which requires connecting something in the story to something in the larger world. Your child's written work will show you and her teachers whether she is reading the required material and how well she has processed the information.

About the Author

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.

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