How can I help my child increase their reading level?

For those of you new to my blog and blog posts, my name is Courtney Hillesheim and I am a personal education consultant for parents of school-aged children.  I help parents support the balance between being involved in their child’s education and freeing up time to take care of their own personal wants and needs.

One way I do this is by creating routines and strategies that give parents the power to be effective and efficient in their involvement so that they can get the most out of the time they are spending with their kid’s and their schooling.


The situation: you have received notice from your child’s teacher that they are reading below grade level.

You are worried and confused during the conversation because you read to them at home all the time and they enjoy it, but when it comes to making your child read alone, it is a chore. One you do not enjoy. One that your child ends up frustrated with.


The teacher does not give you a clear pathway to success and you are unsure of how to help your child.


The Goal: Your child reads to you daily at home and you both enjoy it. The reading gets finished and no one gets frustrated or angry.

No books get slammed or pushed away.

Your child’s teacher notices a steady improvement in your child’s reading level and so do you.

You feel and see the progress being made and you know exactly why it is happening. You aren’t spending loads of time just trying to get through one text, in fact, you’re spending less time than you used to and can even sip a cup of tea as your child reads to you.


The Strategy: 

Today, we’re  focusing on helping your child improve their reading level by focusing on fluency and comprehension.

Fluency is your ability to read smoothly. This includes not stumbling over words whether they are new or not. It is the simplest of the two concepts we are discussing here because it is extremely easy to assess. Either your child reads smoothly or they don’t. The part where you step in is in recognizing where the smooth reading stops, (the word or phrase that slows them down) and put a strategy in place to help them pronounce that word and remember how to pronounce it when they encounter it later. 

Comprehension is the ability to understand and interact with what you are reading. Our children must be able to understand the context of the words in individual sentences and also understand how the sentences they are reading fit into the big picture of the story.

There are two levels of comprehension. There is the foundational and factual level and there is the more abstract higher level. When your goal is to increase your child’s reading level you need to address BOTH.

The solid, factual level includes the ability to answer questions when the information based on what was explicitly stated in the book. So if the book says that “Lucy wanted to wear her red dress to Benjamin’s birthday party,” you would check your child’s foundational level of comprehension by asking questions such as “Which dress did Lucy want to wear?” Or “Where did Lucy want to wear her red dress to?” OR “Who wanted to wear a red dress?” Do you see what these questions are checking? They are helping you and your child to see if they understand the facts and details what they just read. There is a right answer. There is no guesswork needed. 

 The factual and foundational level also includes recognizing the main idea of what they are reading and putting what they are reading in chronological order. So you would ask questions like “What is the most important part of this book?” and “What happened right before Benjamin’s party?” or “What happened after Lucy put on her red dress?”

If we zoom out to the bigger picture of comprehension, the higher, more abstract level, our questions and focus as reading facilitators change. This level includes making inferences and guesses about what will happen next. How would you assess this? By asking your child “before we turn the page, what do you think will happen next?” “How do you think Lucy is going to feel if she doesn’t get to wear her red dress?” and even “What do you think is going to happen at Benjamin’s birthday party.” The last question is a double whammy because not only is your child making inferences, they are connecting the story to their real-world knowledge. If your child has been to a birthday party, they can recall what happened at the party they went to and use that to help them connect personally to the story AND guess what will happen next. Awesome right?  This level of comprehension requires the reader to draw on prior knowledge and processing to identify what is not explicitly stated.

If you do not know if your child understands what they are reading (comprehension) you can not help them increase their reading level effectively. Growth comes from recognizing where you are currently and then putting strategies, routines, and plans in place to help you get where you want to be. Asking comprehension questions as your child is reading to you, allows you to see where they are now. It allows you to understand if they need help understanding the facts of the book, or if they need help seeing bigger pictures and making connections to what they are reading. Those are totally different needs that can only be properly addressed after you they have been identified.

This is why Parent Focus has created the Two-Time reader strategy. This strategy is for people-2557508_1920children who can decode and read. When your goal is to improve your child’s reading level, your child is the one that needs to do the reading, not you. You are merely a facilitator in this process, a guide, helping your child when they need it and asking questions to make sure they understand what they are taking in.

You will have your child select books that are AT THEIR CURRENT READING LEVEL or ONE LEVEL ABOVE their current reading level. They should not know the story or know all of the words. There needs to be an element of challenge in order for progress to be made.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of The “Two Time Reader” strategy, you are going to have to have your child read the story, or chapter of a book, to you twice. Hence the name of this strategy! 

The most important aspect of the “Two Time Reader” strategy is to create an environment where it is okay to make mistakes. Learning to read higher leveled books with this strategy is like learning to ride a bike without training wheels. First, we tell our children that we are excited they are about to learn how to ride their bike without the training wheels. We set up the expectation for a challenge. “Mommy is going to help you because this is your first time doing this. You are going to feel wobbly, but I am here and will not let you fall.”

Once we have set up the expectation for a challenge, we as parents hold on to the back of the bike so that they do not topple over. We guide it by keeping our free hand on the handlebars so they don’t crash into any brick walls. But, we allow our kids to pedal and provide the motion. Once they get the hang of it we let go and let them navigate themselves. 

The same applies to the “Two-Time Reader” strategy. We hold on to the back of the bike as it were, by continually checking our child’s fluency and helping them with words they may topple over. We guide their reading comprehension with our hands on the handlebars by checking in and asking comprehension questions to make sure they are understanding what they are reading and not hitting any brick walls of misinterpretation.


Once the first reading is complete and we both feel steady with what we have just read, just like with the bicycle, we let go and let our child re-read the text with us as parents being hands off and enjoying the show.

Your child has to be comfortable with making mistakes in front of you as they read. This is why the first step is to explicitly inform your child that they are going to read the story twice. The first time is practice round. There will be new words that they are going to struggle with. This is fine, that’s what the practice round is for. You will help and guide them in pronouncing these words so that the second time they read it, they won’t need you and they can show you how well they can read.

In order for you to create this reading routine, I have created a worksheet that targets the fluency and comprehension of your child as they read each new book they encounter with you. It helps you to put down in writing the things your child needs help with and see where you need to focus your energies. Are you ready to put in place a routine for helping your child increase their reading level? 

Click here for the “Two-Time Reader” strategy.

You will receive a step by step guide to implementing the strategy. Download and print it

Reading Strategy
Use this reading strategy to create a reading routine for you and your child

out. Put it in the space where you and your child usually read together so that you have a constant reminder of the strategy.

You also receive five blank worksheets to track five books that your child will use this strategy for. From there the sheets will help your child to understand the new words better by going over the new words meanings, phonetics, and repetition. 

After five times of using this strategy, you will have formed the routine for reading in your house, increasing reading levels as you go along.

Let me know how you enjoyed your “Two Time Reader” strategy! Comment and share this article with parents who may be dealing with the same reading concerns you have. Knowledge is even more fun when you share it with others!

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Thanks for stopping by and, Stay focused parents!

Your personal education consultant,

Courtney H.

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