Supporting Your Child’s Learning At Home: 

The Family Playbook


How can I support my child’s foundational academic skills in reading, writing, and math?


While the pandemic has caused a disruption in formal academic learning for students, it has also created opportunities for families to see more clearly what their kids need and to foster learning at home. Technology has made remote support from teachers more accessible, but parent engagement and participation in the work will make distance learning most effective.


  • Breathe:
    • Wherever your child is in their reading, writing, and math practice is okay. You don’t need to move mountains or solve major learning gaps in a few months. Prioritizing building a strong relationship with your child and finding ways to learn together is exactly what they need from you right now. You’ve got this. 
  • Reach out: 
    • Ask your child’s teacher(s) about your child’s reading level and the current writing topics, math topics, and weekly distance learning plan for the class. 
  • Reflect & celebrate:
    • At the end of the day, ask your child(ren) to explain their thinking or elaborate on their learning in reading, writing, and math for the day. Ask them what they are proud of, what they found difficult, and what they want to keep practicing.   
    • Celebrate successes big and small!


Here are a few things you can do to support your child(ren)’s skills at any grade level.

Things to Do to Support Your Child(ren)’s Reading Skills

In preparation for your child’s learning time: 

  1. Find out your child’s current reading level.
  2. Assemble five or more reading options on a device or in a basket kept in the learning area. Plan to change these books about every two weeks. 
    • Reading options can be digital; libraries offer free e-books and audiobooks that can be downloaded on your existing devices through the Libby app.
    • Include some reading material at your child’s current reading level and some above. 
      • Here’s a list of books from Scholastic broken down by reading level. 
      • Here’s a list of guided readers from HarperCollins broken down by reading level.
      • Storyline Online offers recordings of stories read by actors, broken down by grade level.
      • Epic is a reading and video app that has personalized daily reading based on your child’s age, reading level and interests. 
      • For beginning readers, we also recommend Bob Books and the Elephant & Piggie series.
      • For older children, reading options can include magazine and news articles, blog posts, or other periodicals. NewsELA lets readers download and read articles at various reading levels on a variety of topics and current events.
    • If you’re looking for guidance about which materials specifically to offer: seek out materials that build empathy and offer diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and multiple worldviews. 
      • The OurStory app offers personalized, inclusive book suggestions.
      • This resource compiles recordings of readings of books with diverse characters, marginalized voices, and inclusive themes.
  3. For beginning readers, make sight word flash cards. Sight words are common words that are not spelled like they sound. Start by practicing with five words, then adding one more every week (or more if your child is ready for more challenge). You may want to tape the cards to a wall so they are always visible. Practice should only take a few minutes each day. 

Activities to do with your learner:

  1. Practice sight words: Using your flash cards, practice five sight words at a time, and don’t add a new one until one is mastered. 
  2. Listen to reading: We all love being read to. This helps readers grow their vocabulary, hear how a fluent reader sounds, and develop an appreciation for reading. Read to your child or listen to audiobooks or podcasts. 
  3. Read together: Reading together boosts a reader’s confidence. Spend some time each day sharing the reading of a book. Ask questions, make predictions, check out big words, alternate who reads each page. If your child is older, read the news together. 
  4. Talk about reading: Talking about reading gives readers a chance to recall what they read, ask and answer questions about a book, and make connections. Talk about the characters, what happened, or their opinions of the book over dinner or on a walk. Here are 21 questions to ask your child about a book.

To have your child do on their own:

  • Reading to self: This grows their independence with reading. It is okay for readers to look at pictures to create their own stories and wonderings. Readers can even just look for sight words or read all the words.
  • Team reading: Encourage the whole family to read independently every day and log their reading progress on the same chart. Hooray for teamwork! 

Things to Do to Support Your Child(ren)’s Writing Skills

Activities to do with your child:

  1. Write together: Writing together gets writers started faster and helps them think about the skills they will practice. Here are some ideas:
    • Brainstorm topics to write about together. 
    • Write to a member of Congress about a cause you care about. 
    • Play Mad Libs and make up fictional stories.
    • Have a contest to see who can write the funniest captions for pictures. 
    • Look back on what your child wrote yesterday and revise it together. 
  2. Word study: A strong vocabulary goes a long way. Here are some ideas for incorporating word study: 
    • Make a word bank of five words your child can use but doesn’t know how to spell. 
    • When you encounter a word that you or your child don’t know the meaning of, guess the meaning together, look up the definition and the part of speech, and practice using it in context. 
    • Choose a word in your child’s writing together and find a list of synonyms to use to replace it. 
    • When reading, talk about understanding new words in context and guess their meanings. 

To have your child do on their own:

Writing on their own helps learners build independence and confidence. Keep a writing journal with space for pictures and words.

  • For younger children, prompts can be as simple as writing a list of things they like, dislike, do each day, or need from the store. 
  • Here are some prompt suggestions for older kids:
    • Write a screenplay for a short movie.
    • Rewrite the ending to their favorite book.
    • Start a blog. 
    • 826 Digital’s 20 Writing Sparks
    • Here is a guide to writing one’s own book, for elementary students.
  • Kids of any age can benefit from writing cards or letters to family members, or writing instructions for doing a task. 
  • Set a timer that starts at 0 and counts up. Use the timer to track how long your child can write in each sitting. Set a goal to try and increase the length of writing possible each time. Celebrate small progress. 
  • Keep your child’s writing in a folder and revisit their work every few weeks. Encourage your child to add more detail or edit a past project. This is a great way to track progress. 

Things You Can Do With Your Child(ren) to Support Their Math Skills

  1. Reinforce the basics: Knowing basic facts can support kids as they progress toward more complex math concepts. Have your child do 5-10 minutes of rapid math facts each day, using flash cards or an online learning game like this one from Poptropica. With younger children, count all the time—when looking at shapes or items on a shelf, or reading a book. 
  2. Try math explorations: There are some great online resources for math problems and explorations conveyed in an engaging way. Here are two suggestions:
  3. Play with numbers: Playing with numbers builds fluency and deep understanding of numbers. Ways to play with numbers: 
    • Use multiple operations (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing) to get to a number (5+5=10, 20-10=10, etc.). Record and count the number of solutions you can identify as a team. 
    • Design word problems for your child. You can write them down, or just say them out loud. They don’t have to be complicated and can be based in your real life (grocery shopping or zoom meeting minutes). The goal is to get your child thinking about numbers and  adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing. Word problems help every day math come alive for kids. 
    • Play games: Playing tabletop or card games together is a fun way to practice counting, problem-solving, and strategizing. Repeating the same game gives multiple opportunities to practice basic skills, test new strategies, and improve. (Logic games include Clue, Checkers, Chess, and Guess Who. Other games to get you thinking about numbers are Monopoly, Yahtzee, dominos, and Sequence.)
  4. Model using math in everyday life: Talking about math as it comes up in everyday life is a great way to develop your child’s skills. This could include:
    • When exercising: counting reps, adding weights, tracking steps or distance
    • When cooking: making a recipe larger or smaller, and changing the amount of each ingredient accordingly
    • Calculating how long it might take to get where you’re going based on distance, speed limit, and traffic patterns
    • For older kids: learning about calculating compound interest by taking a financial literacy class

Math learning tips + tools:

  • Give kids opportunities to use objects, like pennies, caps, or paper clips, to help them solve problems. (Teachers call these manipulatives.)Let them draw using dots or tally marks to figure out answers.
  • Stay positive yourself. Don’t say you are not a math person or you are not good at math. Instead, model trying to think it through, seeking help when you need to, and other hacks you use as an adult (like Alexa).
  • Embrace mistakes: A 2018 study discussed in ScienceDaily found that, “contrary to popular belief, when a person makes a mistake while learning, it improves their memory for the right information.”


Other Resources

UCTV & Thrive Video

(Coming Soon)

Other Sections in the Family Playbook: