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I love this guest post by Amy Michaels. Amy offers a whole course on teaching reading as well as choosing curriculum, teaching gifted kids, and much more as part of her THRIVE Homeschooling Academy. If you are a new homeschooler or need help creating a homeschool that works for your family, I highly recommend it.

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When teaching your child to read, do you know that one of the most important components of reading is often overlooked?

Yes, phonics are important.

Decoding unknown words is absolutely a valuable set of skills.

Reading fluently can boost someone’s confidence.

However, there is something that is even more important when teaching your child to read.

Know what it is?

The Most Overlooked Way of Teaching Reading

It is simply this: discussing what you think and learn from a book can make all the difference between a mediocre reader and a reading enthusiast.

Why Conversational Reading is So Important

When we take the time to talk about what we read with our children, powerful thinking and learning happens.

As adults, we know this. We start conversations with, “I am reading the BEST book!” and we share what great insights have inspired us. We have book clubs to expand our knowledge and discussion our “ah-HA!” moments with our friends. We highlight our favorite passages, dog-ear pages, and swap books with friends who share our interests.

Why?

When we share our thinking about what we read, we engage the brain to exchange information with others.

As homeschoolers, the most important part of teaching your child to read is sharing the meaning of what is being read!

You instinctively knew this even when your child was a baby. You didn’t start by teaching your child to sound out each letter in a word when your child was 9 months old. Instead, you pointed to the pictures and named what you saw. If you saw a dog, you would say, “See the doggie? Dogs say, “Woof, woof.” You helped your child make connections from the books to what they could understand.

Conversations are the best and most simple way to do this!

How to Engage Kids in Conversation While Reading

My kids and I just started reading Grammar Galaxy, and it is a terrific example of how important it is to have conversations after reading. After we read a chapter, we make predictions about what we think is going to happen next. We talk about new vocabulary words that we learned, and we think about how we can use those words to something in our lives now. We make connections about how what the characters are doing reminds us of something we did (or wouldn’t do).

All of these discussions ensure that the kids are actively engaged in thinking about what they are reading. This makes reading a valued experience for a child. By investing our time and attention in our child’s thoughts about reading, we give them an opportunity to share part of their learning experience with us. What they share sometimes surprises me (like how my daughter was pronouncing “Penelope” as “pineapple,” which made us both giggle). Sometimes, what they share is profound (like the time my child decided that she wasn’t letting a friend’s criticism bother her b/c she was reminded of ourconversation after reading in a book that she has a choice about whether to believe others’ words).

Having conversations about books your child reads or that you read to them is the single BEST thing that you can do to help your child be a successful reading enthusiast.

This isn’t a list of specific skills to check off. You won’t find this in a curriculum. It is just about you taking just a few minutes to ask your child their thoughts about what they reading. Their responses are powerful and priceless, and it can make a world of difference in your child’s reading success.

Amy Michaels is a former classroom teacher and Gifted Educational Specialist turned homeschooler. She is the founder of ThriveHomeschooling.com and Thrive Homeschooling Academy. She works as an Educational Consultant to homeschooling parents by sharing systems to simplify and customize their homeschooling to see their kids THRIVE.

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