Why is it important to read?
We all know that reading is an important skill to have. Do you remember the last time you went a day without reading something?
It is estimated that we read thousands of words a day.
Whether it’s the sign on your street, the name of your toothpaste, the packaging of food as you cook dinner each night to make sure you don’t put something unsavoury in your meal. Reading is such a crucial skill that we cannot escape and that we cannot neglect.
Imagine going about your day without being able to read. How hard would even the simplest tasks be?
Can’t read that sign? Well you’ll probably end up going in the wrong direction.
Can’t tell a 5 from a 9? Well you’ll probably end up losing a lot of money.
How to help your child to read at home?
- Have your child read to you. This doesn’t have to be a long and arduous process. It could be:
- 5 – 10 minutes of reading a book
- Reading signs that you pass as you drive home (make a game out of it)
- Reading the shopping list that you have both prepared
- Reading the instructions for a new game that you want to learn
- Getting them to write a short story and read it back to you. You would be surprised how many children find it hard to identify and read back their own writing
- Reading from flashcards to help identify isolated words
- As I am sure you are aware, the more a task has real world applications, the easier it will be for your child to learn and retain because they are able to put the skill to use on a regular basis.
- Have your child listen to someone else read. It is an invaluable skill for a child to hear how reading is done by someone more experienced than them. This does not mean that you have to get everything perfect. Show them that it is okay to make mistakes and how to learn from it, how to move on from it. They learn these skills from observing. This could be:
- Reading to your child before they go to bed.
- Listening to an audio book together and using your finger to follow along with the written words.
- Listening to reading apps on devices during the day (not just before bed).
When reading with your child, here are some things that you can do to help them improve their skills:
- Instead of correcting the words they mispronounce, read back exactly what they have read and ask, “does that make sense?” Continue to prompt them to help them see where the error is. Ask about particular words that they may have mispronounced or skipped over when they read to increase their understanding of what the word means and how it fits within the story.
- When helping them with their fluency, it helps to have them read a sentence over and over until it sounds smoother and more fluid rather than robotic. This may need to happen 5 or 6 times in order to help your child build a flow in their reading. You may also choose to chunk a few sentences together and practise bigger samples of text as they become more efficient readers.
- What we have found is that kids can often read very well, but their comprehension doesn’t match their reading ability. They can identify the words but have no idea what they mean. Ask your children questions about the stories they are reading to you. This goes beyond asking questions that require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, because this doesn’t really show what they have/not understood. ‘Open-ended’ questions are great; ones that ask ‘what,’ ‘who,’ ‘where,’ ‘how,’ ‘why.’ Questions that prompt a child to use their working memory to recall, predict and reason will promote comprehension.
- If your child is having difficulties with identifying new words, rather than telling them the word, help them to sound it out. There are many different strategies that you can use to work out an unfamiliar word (chunking, skipping the word then come back to it, rereading the sentence, using the picture to help guess the word, etc).
- If your child is just starting out reading, it is good to expose them to the same word in lots of different contexts. You might go word hunting throughout your day. For example, looking for the word ‘street’ everywhere you go. You might look in maps, look at street signs, look at shops, etc. Help them recognise the word in different settings.
- Use reading apps and games on devices. Children and adults alike, are drawn to interactive, fun and engaging reading games that you can download onto any device you have at home. Just remember to use programs that are age appropriate, do not allow interaction with other online users, and limit the use of device to 15 – 20 mins sessions.
As you will find, helping to teach your child to read can be an enjoyable though sometimes frustrating task. Consistency and perseverance is vital. It may take up to 6 weeks to see a change, so hang in there. If you feel your child is struggling to engage or becomes increasingly frustrated every time you sit down to read with them, take a moment to chat about why they are feeling so upset, angry or frustrated. Give them a hug, remind them how much they have achieved along their reading journey so far, and encourage them to set little goals or targets to help motivate themselves. We all get discouraged at times, but knowing there is someone beside us who encourages us, loves us unconditionally and is committed to help us see it through, goes a long way in calming our fears and frustrations, and inspiring us to keep persisting.
If you are concerned about your child’s reading progress, have a chat with their teacher. Working together to support your child in learning to read will bring about greater success. The ability to read may be difficult at first, but the numerous benefits of reading cannot be disputed. What a gift to give a child!
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