Here’s the most successful way I’ve found to assign reading to my kids.
1. Pick a book that’s a good fit for your child’s age, interests, and reading level. Start with what you have at home since many libraries are closed right now. You could ask friends or family too for books to borrow. Non-fiction books are good too. Sonlight* and Read-Aloud Revival book lists are great.
2. Get a post-it note. Write out one or two chapters for each day of the week, as shown in the picture. The child can use the post-it as a bookmark during the week. If this is your first week, get started with just one chapter a day.
3. Help your child get started. If they haven’t been reading daily or the book is challenging to get into, I’ll sometimes sit and have my child read out loud to me and stop and ask, “What’s going on?” every page or so. That helps them at least get to know the setting and characters and they can usually keep going on their own.
4. Require them to complete their reading before free time. In other words, don’t let them whine their way out of it. When my children tell me the book is too hard, too long, they can never read the assigned amount, I say, “Just read for 20 minutes and see how far you get.” Usually they are almost done by then. Sometimes I’ll modify, but usually the next week because I don’t want to reward the whining. They can always finish up at rest time.
And often it’s the fear of not being able to do it. Once they start (and you help them along as needed), they see they can do it and it’s not so scary.
5. Ask them, “What happened in your book today?” This can be at lunch or dinner. When they have to put into words what they read, this is called “oral narration” and is the first step to written composition. You are teaching them to think. No questions or analysis are necessary. They will learn from reading, talking, and thinking.
Once they are used to putting their thoughts into words, you can start having them write a few sentences to half a page, depending on age, as a writing assignment.
* Sonlight book lists are excellent for book ideas. On the Sonlight site, click on “by grade,” then look for the “literature” part of the curriculum. Then click on “what’s included,” for example, this is the 4th grade reading list.
Also, children can listen at a much higher level than they can read. I highly recommend audio books for during rest time. Audio books increase comprehension and vocabulary, count as school, and keep them off screens. Libraries often have audiobooks online through Hoopla or a similar app. Once they open back up, books on CD are great. Meanwhile, audible.com has great ones.
But even children who struggle with reading will benefit from reading every day. It might need to be aloud to you. It might need to be a few levels down from grade level. It might need to be paired with a snack, but the more they practice and come to enjoy reading, the more they will improve.