Here’s how to help your student

Hoping to help your third-grader with reading and writing skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest.

Make the most of your library

By now your child should have a library card and be familiar with your local library. Encourage them to develop their own taste in reading and to borrow books that interest her. Make sure that they have time at home, away from computers and television, to focus on reading independently.

Use technology as a reading tool

Learn how to use technology to help develop your third-grader’s growing interest in reading. There is a large selection of online books for children, many with interactive features such as animations or voice recording. You can also encourage their interest in reading by helping their find online sites about topics that interest her.

Include non-fiction books

Make sure to incorporate non-fiction books into your child’s reading list, such as books about how plants grow or how machines operate, depending on their interests. If she’s interested in dinosaurs and other animals, appoint their the family “animal detective” and have their present a new animal to the family every week.

Related: In third grade, children practice reading with fluency and using strategies to make sense of unknown words.

Use incentives to encourage reading

Model good reading habits for your third-grader by making sure that they see you and other adults enjoying reading. This will help their view reading in a positive light. Never leave home without reading materials for both of you. Always having a book or a magazine on hand for moments like a wait at a doctor’s office, a long car ride, or just waiting in the car to pick up a sibling helps your child understand that reading is an enjoyable activity that your child can do at any time.

Keep a dictionary and thesaurus accessible

Keep a dictionary and a thesaurus accessible in the house, and bookmarks some dictionary sites online, so that when an unfamiliar word comes up your child can easily consult these handy references. Encourage them to always look up words your child doesn’t know.

Encourage storytelling

Kids love to tell stories with each other — the more outlandish, the better. Encourage your child to start a progressive story with a group of friends. Begin it with a catchy opening, like “The robot stepped off of the bright purple spaceship into a vivid green golf course.” Then, have the kids pass the paper around. Each writer adds a sentence or two until the writers collectively decide the story is finished. Watch the kids explode with laughter when they read the collaborative story out loud.

Play word games

Word games are a great way to get your child to see the magic of language. And playing with language can be a start toward good writing. Here’s one idea to try with your third-grader: When you’re driving in the car, taking a bus or walking in your neighborhood, spot the license plates on the cars that pass. Using the letters from the plate, try to create a sentence in which each letter becomes the beginning of a word. The license plate NJC124 could become “Nancy joins clubs” or “Nick juggles carrots.” Be creative and have fun!

Related: Explore our resources for parents of third-graders.

Write and stage a play

Drama and performance can hook both lovers and non-lovers of reading and writing into enjoying language. Here’s one idea to try with your third-grader: Write and stage a play! Gather a group of your child’s friends and have them choose a favorite book. Help them pick a scene they love from the book and write a simple script—just by writing down what the characters said (or might have said). Help them pick a character to act out, find some props and dress-up clothes for costumes, and you’re set to go!

Encourage writing about holidays

Writing can be an important addition to your holiday observances. Invite your child to write and illustrate stories about their favorite holiday traditions. Encourage their to add lots of details by using all their senses in descriptions: How the potato pancakes smell at Hanukkah, how the candles glisten at Kwanzaa, what the Christmas carols sound like, how the wrapping paper feels as your child rips open their presents. Make the story into a book—either on the computer or handwritten and stapled together—and save as a new family tradition to read and reread each year.

Play vocabulary games

Make a game out of broadening your child’s vocabulary. Choose five unfamiliar new words for their to learn each week and see how often everyone in the family can use those words in everyday conversation. This will help improve your third-grader’s vocabulary, reading comprehension, and speaking skills.

Play “Another way to say…”

Another great game to play in the car is “Another way to say…” The goal is to find words that have a similar meaning to the selected word. So if you choose the word “big,” your child can take turns with their siblings or friends finding similar words, such as “huge,” “enormous,” or “large.” Give each child 10 seconds to come up with a suggestion. This helps build vocabulary and memory skills, and discussing how exactly the chosen words differ from each other adds another dimension to the game.

To find out what your third-grader will be learning in English Language Arts class, check out our third grade English Language Arts skills page.

TODAY’s Parenting Guides resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Joyce Epstein, Director, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University; Pamela Mason, Program Director/Lecturer on Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Barbara Stripling, Senior Associate Dean, Syracuse University; Elfrieda “Freddy” Hiebert, President and CEO, TextProject; Linda Gambrell, Professor, Clemson University; Nell Duke, Professor, University of Michigan, and align with the Common Core State Standards.

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