Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

02.24.15A Letter to Parents about Reading

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about reading aloud to my daughter, and some of the things I realized it did to help her. I’m pretty passionate about reading with my kids, and it’s not the first time I’ve written on the topic. (See some other reflections on reading with them here and here for example).


Maybe the most important point in my recent post was about sentence structure.  I argued that it was like vocabulary–that just as kids need to be familiar with thousands of words, they need to be familiar with hundreds of types of sentences, to be able to follow the syntax and make them sound natural in their minds as they read.  Call it “sentence vocabulary” if you want.


Anyway, the post prompted an unexpected response. Several people wrote and asked if I would consider trying to write something similar but directly to parents. The ideas, I guess, were useful, but the writing was too indirect or bloggy or geeky or something.  They wanted a re-write.


I only give advice to other parents with hesitation–actually I generally avoid giving any advice to other parents–because, among other things, I’m not a parenting expert, I’m just a dad. But I care a lot about the issue so I decided to give it a shot.  It took me a while but my first draft is ready. It’s pretty rough still and so in part I am posting it because I’d love feedback from blog readers on how to make it better.  But in the meantime here it is in case it’s useful: [It’s a pdf for now; click the link below to see it.]

Reading with my daughter.2.24.15

One Response to “A Letter to Parents about Reading”

  1. March 2, 2015 at 5:35 pm


    As one of the people who asked you to write a direct letter to parents, I appreciate this very much. Inspired by your original post, our book fair theme this spring is, “Be proud. Read Aloud.” I’m focusing on getting parents at our school to read more with their children. As I’ve been the book fair chair for the past four years, I’ve observed an alarming and growing trend of parents who just want me to recommend a book for their child that they’ll “read on their own.” Parents of struggling readers often ask me, “What is a good book for my child who doesn’t love to read?” and I’ll respond, “A book that you read together,” which most parents aren’t interested in doing. Too often, we want to just find a book that our child will go off and read on their own, but this post, and the one before, really pushes parents to see the value and the strength in reading aloud to their children, even as they grow older. Thank you for the rewrite and the letter.

    Now that I have this letter, are you okay with my using sections or possibly the letter in its entirety at my book fair as a handout? If so, please let me know how to properly credit you and also how you prefer we drive any possible traffic back to your blog.

    I have a few books that I think work as great read alongs with children, (including Mrs. Frisby) but if you have any other titles that you think might be great, that’d be deeply appreciated as well.

    With deep appreciation,


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