September Parent Cafe

Thursday, September 11 was my first Parent Cafe for parents of elementary students. I was thrilled to have 24 parents who represented K-5th grade. Esther Tsuji, one of our resource teachers was a tremendous help.

Sept 11 - Parent Cafe

The slide presentation from the Cafe.


Who is most important for your child’s success in school? YOU

Each year your child will spend only about 15% of his/her time in school in a year. If he sleeps 10 hours a night that is about 45 % and then 40% of the time doing other things, eating, commuting, time with you. One of the most important things you can do with your child is READ.

Modeling reading is extremely important. Does your child see you reading? Do you have books, magazines, a Nook or Kindle in your home? But just as important is reading with your child. It does not have to be an English book if your native language is not English. Get a copy of a favorite book from your childhood and share it with your child. Look at the book together, point to the words for emergent readers, ask questions and share the reading with an older child.

I want to share with your a bit about the Daily 5 structure that we use in the elementary school to help students become better readers. Daily 5 includes; Read to self, Read to someone, Listen to reading, Writing and Word work. Each class does these slightly differently, but they all use something called CAFE to talk to students about how to become a better reader. They also work on building stamina as readers. If your child is easily distracted from a book, maybe the book is not a “Just right book.”

CAFE is an acronym for:

  • Comprehension
  • Accuracy
  • Fluency
  • Expanding Vocabulary

Your child should have a goal/strategy they are working on in school. Ask your child and try to re-enforce it at home. All of these strategies should not be done at the same time. If she doesn’t remember, you can just pick one and see how she does.

Here is a simple CAFE chart for you to refer to.  CAFE for parents

Emergent Readers are those who are just beginning to read, especially kindergarten students. But it can also be some first graders, although they don’t usually use Emergent reader strategies in first grade.





Begin by looking at the cover of the book. Ask your child, “Can you read the title?” “What do you think the story will be about?”

Do a picture walk through. This just means take time to look at the pictures and talk about them before you begin to read. Ask questions like: “What is happening?” “Who is in the picture?” Talk about the vocabulary that describes the pictures.

Read the first page. Let’s check for understanding. Can you tell me in your own words, “What did I read?” If your child is not sure, back up and reread. Then ask again. Depending on your child’s age and ability you can ask after each page or after several pages.

Here is just a brief look at how to do a picture walk and talk about a book with a child.

Even with students who are reading chapter books, late 2nd grade on up it is still important for parents to read with their child. It can be a chapter book or a picture book. Many picture books have very important lessons and wonderful vocabulary that is supported by photos and illustrations. With a chapter book, I would start by reading a full page and then stopping and checking for understanding. If the understanding is there then read a whole chapter but at the end of the chapter it is a good idea to check that your child is understanding.


Chunking is the combining of letters and sounds, finding smaller words in a word or using blends and digraphs instead of sounding out each letter individually. For example in chunking. the c-h makes a “ch” sound, u-n-k is “unk” and i-n-g is “ing.” In the sentence, “We have something to share, too!” Something can be broken up into 2 words “some” and “thing.” Thing has “th” and “ing.” “Sh” in share is another chunk.


When you read, you should model good fluency. Use the punctuation and encourage your child to use the punctuation when he reads. Beginning readers often read right over punctuation. Encourage your child to pause at the , and stop at the . When your child reads, if he has difficulty, encourage him to reread to improve fluency. Most of the classes do readers’ theaters and one reason is to help the students’ fluency, because they read and reread their parts many times before the performance. When your child is practicing for a readers’ theater have him read out loud. Rereading a beloved book is a great way to practice fluency.

Expanding Vocabulary

Voracious reading – Read, read and read some more.

Tuning in to interesting words. When you are reading and there is a word your child doesn’t know or understand try to make some connections. Use the illustrations. Pay attention in other books for the same word. Try to use the word in your own conversation in the next few days. Talk about new and interesting words. Let your child try to guess what it means, using picture clues or clues from the sentence.

This year the elementary staff are participating in one of 2 book studies, Vocabulary Book and Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax. In the Vocabulary Book by Michael Graves, there are some interesting numbers about average reading vocabularies. By 3rd grade a student has a reading vocabulary of about 10,000 words by the time they graduate it should be 40,000 words. In school we cannot teach 3000 words in a year. The book talks about a 4 part vocabulary program. We will be working on all 4 parts in school, but you can also be helping to enrich and expand your child’s vocabulary and even your own.

One part is providing Rich and Varied Language Experiences. These happen by having conversations in the car, at the table, at bedtime. Reading and noticing interesting words in a book, that are mentioned on TV. Talking and reading with your child.

Another component is Teaching Individual Words. Ask your child if they learned or heard a new word today. What was the word? Who used it? What does it mean. If your child doesn’t know the meaning, help them to look it up. This helps to re-enforce vocabulary taught at school.

Promoting Word Consciousness is the third component. Word play, playing games with words, using puns, idioms, cliches in English or your native language helps to develop word consciousness. In Japanese, “shiritori” is a word game most children like to play. Someone just wrote to me this past week and used a cliché I’ve never heard, “things go pear-shaped”. I started by asking a friend if she knew the meaning, in fact I asked 3 friends who had never heard the expression and finally ended up looking it up on line.

The fourth part is Teach Word-Learning Strategies. This along with the other parts is something that we do at school. Learning how to use a dictionary, word walls, phonetics, and other strategies are part of how to learn new words.

Next month the Parent Cafe will be on Thursday, October 9th from 2:30 p.m. in Matsukawa Place. We will be playing some games and discussing how to help your child with math. I have asked some of the moms to help with translation so please come. Also, if you are interested, Miss Kathryn Lewis has English for Parents (EFP). Please contact her at for more information.



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