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By Dallan Hunt

School might be out, but your child’s reading journey doesn’t have to hit pause! After all, the summer is not only a great time to keep skills sharp, but also to cultivate a positive mindset towards reading.As a teacher, I always cringe when I hear a child say, “I’m just not good at that,” or, “I’ll never get this.” These mindsets treat learning to read as an ability we either have, or we don’t. What we’re able to learn or not learn is already set in stone, and we just have to accept it. This is what we call a fixed mindset. Having a fixed mindset stifles your child’s potential to learn anything, which is why at Sylvan we recommend something far better: growth mindset.

A growth mindset puts a focus on the process of learning first, and the outcome second. This means that whatever strengths and weaknesses we have, we are always asking how we can take the next step forward in order to improve, as long as we are willing to ask for help and work at it.

Here are some practical strategies you can use to help your child foster their growth mindset with reading this summer:

    1. Set Expectations.
      Here are some healthy expectations for a growth mindset with reading:

      • Expect certain parts of reading to be easier, and other parts to be harder.
      • Expect hard work will be required
      • Don’t expect to succeed all by yourself. Expect to ask for help

      With healthy expectations in mind, let’s look at some small and practical steps to build a growth mindset for two key parts of reading: vocabulary, and comprehension.

    2. Build Vocabulary.
      Since there are so many words, learning them all can be overwhelming. So start with a small group of words, based on your child’s age and ability. This will make it easier to experiences success.
      Keep a List of New WordsHave your child keep a list of new words they come across (like on paper or a whiteboard). Focus on a small group of them at a time. When your child finds a new word, have them make a guess of what they think it means, based on how the word was used in the sentence they heard or read. Once your child makes a guess, have them look it up in a dictionary to see if they were correct or not.Use the New WordsNext, ask your child to use the new words in conversation and writing, and see if they use it correctly. The more your child uses their new found words, the sooner they will remember them.Keeping a list of new words and identifying their meaning is one practical tool to grow your child’s vocabulary. If you focus on a small group of words at a time, your child will experience more success, allowing them to build their vocabulary and develop their growth mindset.
    3. Develop Comprehension.
      In addition to understanding individual words, higher-level understanding is called comprehension, which is also important for reading. Because there are many kinds of comprehension, the best way to help your child avoid being overwhelmed is by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable parts.Here are 5 common ones:

      • Identifying the Main Idea – what is the text mostly focused on?
      • Cause & Effect – explains why using keywords like if and then, because, and so.
      • Making Inferences – figure out new information from a text using clues and prior knowledge.
      • Sequence – explains the order of events using keywords like first, next, last.
      • Summarizing – restate the text in your own words using main idea and important details.

      Your child will experience more success by focusing on just one or two at a time while initially learning, and this can be done in two ways:

      • Reading comprehension workbooks can be purchased by grade level and often have exercises for each kind of comprehension. Sylvan has a lot of great workbook options for grades K-5 that can help during the summer months!
      • Personalized learning programs, like SylvanSync™ Reading, allows teachers to use proven strategies such as summarizing, questioning, visualizing and making connections to provide engaging instruction that builds confidence in reading.

By breaking comprehension into smaller, more focused parts, it is easier for your child to experience success and master one skill at a time, allowing them to develop their growth mindset with comprehension.

Overall, improving reading has so many parts that your child can easily become overwhelmed. Start by setting healthy expectations, and to allow your child to experience more success, break it down into smaller parts. With vocabulary, work on only a small group of words at a time; with comprehension, work on 1 or 2 key skills at a time. Small, manageable steps will allow your child to identify and experience more success. Developing their growth mindset this summer will keep learning positive and set them on the path of success for next year!

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