Words | Mary Ryan
Not long after you arrive at the Kindergarten door you are asked to listen to your child read, often with little instruction on exactly how to do this. If your child struggles to read, especially after a long day at school and for you a long day at work, this process can be even more fraught.
So how should you engage in books and reading with your children?
Read to them often….snuggle down on the lounge, turn off all the technology, grab a pile of their favourites and read, read, read. Children love to be read to. A child’s love of books and stories begins a long time before they can be independent readers and it’s is our job to cultivate and nurture the love. Reading to your child builds vocabulary and comprehension. Children with a broad vocabulary are better readers. They are more able to comprehend both the written and spoken word, make learning connections, and it helps them spell, predict and decode new words.
Read together…there are a couple of ways to do this. There is a process called read-a-long, which requires the readers to read along together. Hold your child’s finger and follow along under the words. You lead, keep the pace and the reading fluent. For the older reader you can simply take turns reading a paragraph or page. Reading with your child builds fluency, comprehension and confidence. You can also use this time as an opportunity to emphasis sounds in words in relation to letters and to talk about rhyming words and word families.
Independent reading…Children need to practise reading, everyday and everywhere, street signs, billboards, birthday invitations, it all counts. Just like any skill the more you practise the better you get. Remember this time is about practising reading not testing reading. Firstly, explain to your child why they need to practise the skill. I talk to children about ‘building their reading muscles.’ Then, think about yourself as a reader, there are certain things we do without thinking that are good reading behaviours. These include:
- Reading a blurb or synopsis to get an idea about the story, encourage your child to look at the cover and title and think about what the book might be about. Prepare their brain for the reading
- Practising a reading before reading aloud, allow your child to quietly practice before reading to you
- Check unknown words, allow your child to ask you how to read new or unknown words, encourage them to work it out supported by you
Once your child is ready to read use Pause, Prompt, Praise when they encounter new words.
Pause– give them about 5 seconds of thinking time to self-correct.
Prompt– offer prompts such as
- Keep reading and see if that helps you to work out the difficult word
- Look at the sound – what would make sense using that clue?
- Go back to the beginning of the sentence and reread, get your mouth ready to make the sound – what word does your brain want to say?
- Look at the pictures, do they give you a clue?
- Try chunking the word, break it up into smaller chunks of sound
- Try stretching the word, run your finger along it and stretch out the sounds
Try one or two of these, if they don’t work ask your child if they would like you to tell them the word or help them to work it out. This is an opportunity for you to model using the prompts.
Praise– the reading behaviour: ‘I like the way you re-read to make sense. I like the way you broke the word into chunks, used the beginning sound, used the picture cue.’ We can even say ‘I liked the way you stopped at that word and asked for help so that the story made sense.’
Talk about books…international research tells us that parents who read to and with their children and have conversations about social and political issues give their children academic advantage. We know books allow us entry into a world of imagination, but they also give us opportunity to talk about social and political issues with our children. How does a little deaf and mute boy use diplomacy to end a war? (Boy, Phil Cummings) What do each of us and our culture bring to the Australian landscape? (I’m Australian Too, Mem Fox) How do we learn to be just who we are and by doing so make the world a better place? (Hark Its Me Ruby Lee, Lisa Shanahan). After the reading, do the talking. Share the story, its meaning and message.
Books are for enjoyment, sharing, learning and coming together. Make this the focus of your reading with your child, a special and precious time to stop, share, talk and learn together.
Mary is an educator with more than 30 years experience. She has taught Kindergarten to Year 6 and has held a number of leadership positions in schools across Sydney. Mary has a particular interest in the space between school and home and a determination to empower families and schools to work positively together for the benefit of children.