6 Tips For Book Report Success & Beyond

When my son first entered middle school, one of the requirements in his language arts class was writing a monthly book report. While he enjoyed reading, inwardly I cringed at the thought of him struggling with this assignment – learning how to craft a book report can be a daunting task for any student, and if your child has an attention deficit as mine does, it can prove even more challenging. Reading through the book, keeping the sequence of events in order, identifying the main ideas and conflicts, even formulating opinions about the story can be a frustrating endeavor for a kid with executive function difficulties. Through the hazy fog of middle age, I reflected back to my school days and thought about the strategies that worked for me. So after some tears, trial and error, I put together this game plan for book report writing success. These tips can be helpful even if your child doesn’t have an attention deficit.

Select a properly leveled book to read

Pick a book that is not only engaging but also at the proper reading level for your child. A good rule of thumb that my son’s teacher follows is the “five-finger rule” – if there are more than five words on the page that your reader is unfamiliar with, perhaps the material is too difficult and another book should be chosen. Ask the teacher for guidance if you are unsure.

Read the book twice

If time allows, have your child read the book through twice. I know, your child may balk at this idea (mine certainly did), but if the material is interesting and fun to read, this might not be a problem.

Take notes 

While it’s fresh in his mind, encourage your child to take notes on the material he’s just read.  Have him jot down plot points, characters or events that captured his interest and discuss them with you.

Keep a dictionary handy

If your child does happen to come across a word he is unfamiliar with during reading, encourage him to look it up.  It could help reinforce a connection to the material that’s just been read, with the additional benefit of learning a new vocabulary word.

Read the book along with your child

I know this is adding yet another morsel to an already full plate, but if you can, try to familiarize yourself with the book as much as possible. Being able to discuss the book with your child can help him make connections and give you a sense of how much content your child is absorbing.

Rough drafting and editing

When it’s time to start writing, have your child do a rough draft first. This helps organize their thoughts and review for those pesky grammar gremlins, like punctuation and sentence fragments, who love to steal precious points from reports. Reviewing and revising a rough draft also provides an opportunity to ensure that the questions being answered are the ones the teacher has asked.

I’ll admit that my son was less than thrilled using these techniques at first. To him, it just seemed like a lot of extra work – and it was. But when the grade on his second book report increased by a full twenty points, he was so proud of himself, and that inspired him to continue using the techniques until they became second nature. The rough draft technique has also proven especially helpful in completing homework and answering essay questions in other subjects. As he ends his middle school years on the honor roll and enters high school in September, he’s come to terms with the fact that although he may have to work harder and it may take him longer, he’s certainly capable of being successful in school, and that the extra effort is well worth it.

What tips or strategies have you employed to help your child with book reports or homework?  What has worked for you?  Let me know in the comments!

Help for Homework Hassles

keep calmNow that the holiday season is officially underway, homework is probably the last thing on any kid’s mind!   But with  the first quarter of the school year over and report cards distributed, this might be a good time to check in with your child and review how he or she is handling the workload.  Are they feeling overwhelmed?  How are they doing prioritizing tasks and juggling projects?  And the homework – do they need help in organizing assignments or just getting down to work?  The task of completing homework can sometimes be a battleground that affects both a child’s self-esteem and your relationship with your child.  Here are some tips from a piece I wrote for FamilyCorner.com about developing a homework routine for your child that can help take the hassle out of homework:

Expectations:  Examine the school’s homework expectations and guidelines, then discuss them and your own expectations with your child regarding  how long to spend on homework each evening and/or any goals for the upcoming semester.  Make sure the two of you are on the same page regarding these expectations.

Set up a calendar:   A visual aide like this can help with long-term planning and setting priorities.  Make note of assignment and project due dates as well as test dates.  Advise your child to get the phone numbers of his ‘homework buddies’ – two other students in his classes whom he can call in case of missed assignments or notes – and write these numbers on the calendar.

Concentration takes energy:  No one works well on an empty stomach.  Offer a healthy snack before they sit down to begin homework.

Set up a time and space for homework to happen:  For some kids, that means starting homework right after school; others may need a little time to unwind.  Agree on a start time and stick to it.  Set up a space that’s conducive for work, be it the desk in his room or the kitchen or dining room table.  This space should be away from distractions like the television or computer (unless it’s necessary to complete homework).  Stock the space with the necessary supplies (paper, pencils, pens, rulers, etc.) to complete homework with minimal interruptions.

Be the fly on the wall:  You don’t want to do their homework for them, but let them know you’re there if they need help (or a little encouragement!).

Packing up:  At the end of the homework session have your child neatly put away all papers, binders/folders and supplies into their backpack.  It’s better to do this the night before than the following morning when it’s more likely that something might be forgotten.

If they need extra help:  There is often a ‘homework help’ period available after school with a teacher or a peer tutor.  Check if this is available at your school or if something can be arranged if your child is having trouble managing the homework load.

Will your child be writing a book report over the school break?  Check out Tips to Help Your Child Write A Successful Book Report for some ideas to organize the process.

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