PUP Blog

There's lots to say about learning to read, how parents can support babies and children, and the world of early education and schools. Tap into our years of experience working with educators and parents by keeping up with the PUP blog below -- and stay tuned as we use the blog to answer your questions and show what parents are doing to support their children's reading development!

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Reading levels (part 1): What do parents of 1st-3rd graders need to know?

September 21st, 2018

The new school year has begun, and for many parents of early readers (grades 1-3), that means there will be a reading level assigned. It’s not the case in every school, but in lots of districts reading levels are used to group children for guided reading and overall support.

The reading level process creates a lot of questions for parents (see next week’s blog for an FAQ!). But most importantly, parents need to know WHY a child is at a certain level. That’s because until you know your child’s specific strengths, and the bucket(s) of skills your child needs to work on, it will be harder to support reading growth at home and to make sure that there is enough time spent in school working on your child’s reading needs.

Here’s an analogy that might help:

Three runners on a cross-country team all had the same race time in a 5K. As the coach watched the race, this was what she noted:

  •      Runner #1 was slow at starting
  •      Runner #2 lost time on hills
  •      Runner #3 was really tired at the end and couldn’t finish strong

So should they all get the same training plan? No. Runner #1 needs help with pacing, Runner #2 needs hill workouts, and Runner #3 needs more long runs and interval training to improve conditioning. Given that training time (like instructional time) is limited, it makes sense to make sure that each runner gets specific help with his/her specific running issue.

How does that running analogy relate to your child’s reading level?

What often happens in schools is that children who have the same level (like runners with the same 5K time) are grouped together for instruction. Sometimes that makes sense, but often the focus of that group instruction isn’t specific to what each reader around the table needs to work on to get to be a better reader.

So if your child is assigned a reading level this fall, make sure you know why that level has been assigned. Ask about which skills he or she needs to sharpen. Find out what is happening at school to address those skill needs. Your child only has one year in grade one (or two or three), and you want him/her to move as far along as you can every day.  To make that happen, the instruction has to match your child’s specific skill needs.


HARD WORDS: a compelling podcast on why many kids can’t read well

September 15th, 2018

This week, a podcast came out that is most definitely worth sharing: it’s called Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read?

The author, Emily Hanford, is a correspondent for APM’s (American Public Media) EDUCATE podcast. In a recent email sent to researchers and literacy professionals, she wrote something that I wholeheartedly agree with, and that I think all parents should read:  

Read the article  

The WHY and HOW of new fall routines

September 8th, 2018

As the new school year begins, families everywhere are setting new routines that will make mornings less rushed and evenings less crazy. But let’s face it: it takes a lot of energy to make children follow through on those earlier bedtime routines, the getting-up-and-out-the-door routines, and the regular homework plans.   Read the article  

The medical world speaks out about preschoolers’ schedules

August 30th, 2018

The summer is just about over, and like many parents, you might be trying to decide whether to sign your young children up for music lessons or sports experiences or academic enrichment classes starting in the fall. A recent report, however, might make you decide to save your money.


The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) released a policy statement on Monday explaining that there are so many structured activities and so much screen time in some young children’s lives that doctors may need to start handing out prescriptions for free play. Read the article  

A plan for growing your child’s vocabulary

August 24th, 2018

It makes sense that vocabulary is important for reading success: if a child doesn’t know or understand enough words in a book, he or she will have lots of trouble understanding the book.


The problem is that when a child reaches elementary school without a strong vocabulary, it is hard for a teacher to “fix” it. Vocabulary has to build up over time, all the time, from birth — long before children go to school. That means that growing a child’s vocabulary isn’t something that teachers and schools can take on alone.


So how can you help your children grow their vocabulary over the years? First of all, since building vocabulary is so important,it makes sense to be intentional, rather than assume it will just happen. Make a decision to do things that will encourage vocabulary growth every day, and enlist other caregivers to do the same.

Read the article  

Building knowledge through everyday conversations

August 18th, 2018

At this point in the summer, you might be wondering whether your early elementary-school child has learned a lot since school ended — or if he actually lost ground and been victim to the infamous “summer slide.” Regardless of your child’s age, remember this:

To understand what you read, it helps to already know a lot about the topic you’re reading about. When you have a lot of prior knowledge, even the more difficult books or articles are easier to understand because you can use what you know to help you figure it all out. Read the article  

Making screen time count: a new book gives parents guidance

August 11th, 2018

Even reading teachers know that children can learn reading-related skills through shows and videos, not only through book reading. But reading with an adult sets up opportunities for building reading skills in ways that putting a child in front of a screen often doesn’t.

In other words, when you are sitting and reading to children, there are obvious and easy chances for conversations that get kids empathizing with characters and seeing different perspectives, learning vocabulary words and new concepts, and thinking critically. But if young children are alone and passively watching the kind of programs that are merely entertainment, the show-watching experience is not valuable for building the critical skills they need for the years ahead. Read the article  

August checklist for parents of early readers

August 2nd, 2018

It’s August, and that means there’s only about a month left before school starts. How did that happen?

At this point, you might be wondering if you are doing all you need to do to get your young reader prepped for school. If you can answer YES to these five questions, then you’ll know that there is skill building going on at your house in all three buckets of skills. If not, you have a plan for what you could do over the next few weeks. Regardless of your answers, remember that there’s still time to help your child build reading skills this summer and enter the academic year feeling more confident about reading!

Read the article  

It does take a village: how one family shares the reading task and increases reading energy

July 26th, 2018


When interviewing Pavan, a PUP dad we highlighted in a recent blog, we noticed that in his family’s house, other adults besides the mum and dad regularly read to the kids. So today’s posting focuses on why it makes sense to think about ways you might enlist the help of others and lighten your own load, and how one family does it!

Read the article  

Summer reading or bust: When school requirements start to spoil days at the beach

July 19th, 2018


For families with kids in school, there is something about mid-July that has to be savored. That’s because it is firmly summertime: school days were long enough ago that the schedule-juggling and homework feel like distant memories, and yet there isn’t that anxious feeling about gearing back up again, which tends to happen as the summer winds down.


There is, unfortunately, summer reading pressure for many families. When choosing to read isn’t a popular leisure-time activity for a child, it can put a major damper on summer fun, especially if the parent has to be in the role of Head Nag to get an elementary-aged child to read required texts.

Read the article