How to Read With Your Child: 10 Tips For Parents
Make reading an effective tool for learning while helping your child develop a love for books
Firstly, the obvious.
Lead by example.
Embrace and read books, have a book collection at home and go to the library often. Show your child that you love books and reading.
Okay, so you’ve set a good example, now what?
Below are 10 specific tips that will enhance the joy and learnings your child gets from reading books with you.
1. Select the right book
Be sure to select a book that you think your child will find interesting. Ideally this would be a book they have selected.
It could be borrowed from a library, a take home reader from school, loaned from a friend or even purchased from a bookstore. If your child will be reading the book (and not you), ensure it is a decodable book with controlled vocabulary at the appropriate level for your child’s phonics skills.
If you need advice on this, be sure to talk to their classroom teacher.
2. Make reading together a habit: set aside time each day that is planned and consistent (10-15 minutes)
Habits are everything when it comes to learning.
Sit together in a comfortable quiet spot where there are no distractions and make this your special time together. Sit close to your child in a way that is warm and nourishing.
3. Discuss the cover of the book and illustrations as you read
Ask your child to predict what they think the story will be about. This helps with comprehension and engagement.
Ask them to describe the characters or situation or what they think will happen next. Encourage them to tell you the story as it unfolds by looking at the pictures for clues. All of this is designed to enforce the very important skills of reading and listening for meaning.
4. Use proven blending strategies to tackle any unfamiliar words
Ask your child to sound out an unknown word. Tell them to look at each letter in a difficult word and say each sound, or ‘phoneme’, out loud.
Then help your child blend the sounds together to say the word.
5. If blending fails, use the story plot to help your child read unfamiliar words
Ask your child what word or idea would make sense given the plot of the story.
When we read with our children we are not simply practising phonics skills, we are trying to teach them to take meaning from texts by contextualising and comprehending what they are reading.
6. Maintain the flow
If your child mispronounces or does not know a word, read it for them. Allow opportunity for self-correction but keep the reading as fluent as possible to support confidence and comprehension.
If your child does try to ‘sound out’ words, always encourage the use of letter sounds rather than ‘alphabet names’.
7. Encourage your child to talk about the book
Talking about the characters and their dilemmas helps children better understand relationships and plots.
It also gives them opportunities to develop their oral language skills. Ask them what will happen next, ask how a character might be feeling, or ask how the book makes them feel. If a child is reading (or ‘decoding’) only to develop phonics skills as an outcome, this can be a recipe for frustration. Make sure they enjoy the process!
8. Confidence and success are the keys
Parents anxious for a child to progress their reading skills can mistakenly give them a book that is too difficult, thinking this will ‘stretch’ them and further their reading skills.
This usually has the opposite effect. Remember ‘nothing succeeds like success’.
Until your child has built up his or her confidence, it is better to keep to easier books where fluency and enjoyment reign.
Struggling through a book with many unknown words is pointless and can have a hugely negative and untold impact on a child’s relationship to reading, studying and learning generally. Flow is lost, text cannot be understood and children can easily become reluctant readers.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, find a decodable reader at the appropriate level for your child. Their classroom teacher will usually be able to help you identify such books.
9. Vary it up
Remember, children need to experience a variety of reading materials such as picture books, hard backs, comics, magazines, poems, and non-fiction books to develop the skills to become independent readers.
This helps them develop comprehension skills in different contexts and to build a diverse vocabulary. It also keeps the reading process fun and interesting!
10. Make it fun
This might be the most important tip on this list.
Reading is a wonderful and relaxing experience that we do for pleasure. There will come a time that your child can read independently, so enjoy these special moments while you can!
As parents you are your child’s most influential teacher and you have a crucial role to play in helping your child to learn to read.
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