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Reading Routines: For Back-to-School and All Year Long

August 21, 2022

Your family CAN have calm and consistent reading routines. Hear me out.

I’ve always loved back-to-school season: fresh school supplies, field hockey (my sport of choice through college), a skirt or shorts and a long-sleeved shirt outfit combo, and lots of promise. Oh, the possibilities a new school year brings — including back-to-school reading routines!

My mom, on the other hand, always hated this time of year. I never understood it. But now that I am a mom, I can see how the invisible load that comes with fresh starts (schedules, activities, more strict routines, new expectations from different teachers) can sometimes be a little less fun for the adults responsible for the children who (hello!) are more excited to label their new school supplies than just about anything else. 

Reading, I know, can add stress to this time of year. Maybe your reading routines were great in the summer but hard to keep up now that school is starting. Maybe nobody read all summer, and now the reading logs are going to come home, and you are dreading the daily “you have to read now!” battles. 

Here are my top three Reading teacher tips for setting up back-to-school reading routines so your family can have a year of calm, consistent reading:  

#1 — Know your non-negotiable reading routine goals

Find out your child(ren)’s teacher’s expectations for at-home reading. 

  • I’m giving you permission to ask now; don’t wait until the back-to-school night in three weeks. 
  • Be kind to your teacher: “What are your nightly/weekly reading expectations for your students? I want to get on the right schedule as soon as possible and would love to spread the word to other families. We know how important reading at home is!”
  • If your child isn’t ready to read for 30 minutes a night (or whatever the expectation may be), have a conversation with them/their teacher about  working up  to 30 minutes by the start of the second month of school. Reading stamina takes time to build, and it’s OK to admit that your child isn’t there yet. Starting with 7 minutes a day and increasing by 3 minutes, and then 5 minutes a week can be very helpful.    

#2 — Monitor your reading routines

Find a tracking system that works for your family

  • All teachers have their own views on reading logs and tracking, and not all methods work for all families. Find a way to monitor everyone’s reading progress (no shame if you have dips!) in a way that works for them. If you find a way that works better than what your child’s teacher assigns, your child (or you, if they are younger,  or both of you!) can have a problem-solution conversation with their teacher then. 
  • I am personally not a fan of tracking for points (and certainly not for penalty!), but I AM a fan of tracking as a way to aid reflection, which is an invaluable skill to have as a reader, student, employee, friend, partner, and human being. Don’t you agree?
  • Example: I’d personally rather track pages than minutes. If I needed to track minutes, I could easily find my reading pace for the book I’m reading (and it won’t be the same for each book!) and then calculate time spent accordingly.  No looking at clocks required each time I sat down to read.

#3 — Reflect on your reading routines

Schedule – and stick to – family reading progress check-ins. 

  • I recommend starting with weekly check-ins. Assess how well that week’s reading went. What needs to change? What worked that you need to make sure you keep doing?
  • Be honest about YOUR OWN reading progress or pitfalls. You’re not getting a grade, though your child may be, which makes it all the more  important that you share your own struggles and victories. 
  • Once a month, reflect on your progress from the start of the year. Back-to-school reading routines become yearlong reading routines with effort and reflection.

#4 — Remember that required reading and for-fun reading are not created equal! 

  • If your child’s teacher assigns something for them to read, there is a reason for it! They are working hard to teach your child skills and make learning relevant and meaningful. That said, not every child is going to like every book selection. Remind your child that they don’t have to like everything they read, and that they have every right to quit a for fun book. (In fact, it’s GOOD to quit books when you are reading them for yourself; there are so many to choose from, and we all deserve to enjoy what we read for pleasure!) BUT, when reading for school, everyone will have to slog through some books they don’t like. Help your learner focus on the final outcome of the skills they will learn, rather than the plot that may not strike their fancy. And remind them that sometimes, looking at a book  through a new lens can surprise them! n
  • Encourage your child(ren) to read a book just for them at the same time as a book they are required to read that they may not love. The for fun book can be a post-required reading book reward. School isn’t here to rob the joy of reading!  

Here’s to building sustainable back-to-school reading routines and not beating ourselves up when we need a reset.  Read on, my friends! Just one page at a time. 

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