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Frequently Asked Questions from Parents

Literacy Questions

How do I increase my child’s vocabulary?

The best way for a child to grow their vocabulary is to read often, however, there are a couple other tricks:

  • Explore music - Listening to music and singing has been shown to increase children’s vocabulary. Be sure to check back here during music history month this June as we will have a ton of activities and host live sessions around music.

  • Share stories - Tell a lot of stories and be animated while you tell them. Your child is observing everything.

  • Keep communication open - Talk openly about reading writing vocabulary stories songs and books.


How can I get my child to read more?

Lead by example!

Studies show that parents who read, often encourage that same love for books in their children. Also, ask them what they are interested in so you can find books that will be exciting and interesting for them to read.

Take a (virtual) trip to New York Public Library (NYPL). And, last, but definitely not least, sign up here to gain access to live literacy lessons every Thursday at 4pm right here at the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem.


What are some ways I can develop my child’s social-emotional skills while they are quarantined and not interacting with their peers?

Here are some great steps on how to introduce SEL in a practical way:

  • Try creating a safe space whether educating through technology or in your own home. In order for students to engage and learn, we need to create environments that promote a positive sense of well-being and healthy overall connections.

  • Prioritize fluid communication within the household. Use family experiences as springboards for conversations. When your child has a tough moment, create a space to listen. Listening is a simple and easy way to validate the feelings that kids experience, regardless of the size of the problem. Use these to help your child reflect on their own social-emotional skills and growth over time.

  • Model the right behaviors as things happen in the world around you. Highlight the correct way to address problems and create solutions. When kids work through the problem-solving process with you, they grow their ability to think critically on their own.


How do I know if my child is at grade level?

There is a range of ability at each grade level, however, in general, here is an outline based on common core standards.

  • Kindergarten – Able to demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print.

  • 1st Grade – Able to demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes).

  • 2nd Grade - Know and apply phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

  • 3rd Grade – Able to read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

  • 4th Grade – Able to use context to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding, rereading as necessary.

  • 5th Brade – Able to use combined knowledge of all letter-sound correspondences, syllabication patterns, and morphology (e.g., roots and affixes) to read accurately unfamiliar multisyllabic words in context and out of context.

You can take a more in depth look at common core standards by age here:


STEM Questions

Why are my kids’ math assignments so unfamiliar to me?

Your child’s math assignments are most likely aligned to Common Core Standards.

Common Core mathematics often appears to be overcomplicated compared to past mathematics curriculum however, it is meant to help students build a better foundation of understanding of math than just memorizing formulas and properties.

Of course, this different approach to math is going to be unfamiliar and even challenging to parents and educators used to past mathematics education. So, try asking your child to explain it to you.

This will help them solidify their understanding and can help you understand the process more to better help them with specific problems.

Luckily, there are a lot of resources online to help both students and parents better understand Common Core mathematics.

See this video to learn more about the idea behind Common Core math or read about it here in English and in Spanish here.


What are some resources that help teach me or my child the common core standards?

There are a few resources that teach common core standards. For example:

  • Khan Academy has some great resources addressing each standard for each grade specifically. If you’re not sure what the standard your child is learning is, go ahead and ask their instructor or use the link above.

  • Online Math Learning has lesson plans, videos, and worksheets also directly tied to specific Common Core Standards. These can be used to support classwork and homework.

  • Everyday Mathematics is a curriculum designed by researchers at the University of Chicago to align with Common Core Mathematics standards. There are plenty of resources for parents- both games to support mathematics learning, and also links for students to get support online.


What science projects can I do with my kids that use everyday household items, and aren’t too much cleanup?

There are so many websites and resources regarding at home science projects!

The Exploratorium website is a great source for different videos, articles, activities, and project ideas. You or your student can explore the website by subject, so they can focus on a subject they really love or something they’re learning in school.

The Exploratorium’s Science Snacks are simple science activities with everyday items that are aligned with NGSS Standards and can also be browsed by subject.

Their Tinkering Projects offer more engineering-oriented projects that can be done with simple household items. There’s also units exploring the science of food and topics related to Coronavirus.

Scholastic provides free science activities for the whole family to do at home! Finally, the least messy STEM activity to do at home would be learning computer science or coding. 


What are some ways my kids can learn programming or coding on their own? has a bunch of great resources and courses for kids, parents, and teachers.

Kids can sign up for courses according to their grade level, which, or do “Hour of Code” activities, which require less of a commitment. also has compiled 3rd party resources for learners based on their age and preferences.

Scratch is a programming language designed for young people ages 8-16 by computer scientists at MIT.

There is also a simplified version, ScratchJr., which is adapted for 5-7-year old’s.

With Scratch, students can design their own projects, explore other people’s projects, or complete tutorials for basic activities, like coding a character or designing simple games.

Lastly, Khan Academy has more advanced computer science curricula, stylized in their usual combination of videos and activities. The activities are best suited for high schoolers.


How can I provide my child with factual, accessible, and non-frightening information about Coronavirus?

For resources designed for kids’ learning, I would recommend starting with the Boys and Girls of Harlem’s own STEM lessons.

Five of these lessons were designed specifically to address students’ questions about coronavirus- topics include hand-washing and social distancing.

Brainpop has a clear and easily understandable video about Coronavirus, and NPR also has a comic designed for kids to learn about Coronavirus. 

For clear information regarding COVID-19, we recommend utilizing resources from the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control.

These are credible organizations led by scientists and health professionals designed to inform the general public about health-based issues.

They are also aimed at being accessible and understandable, and are available in several different languages, including Spanish.


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