Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Helping your child learn to read.

Child starting school? Child struggling with reading? Know someone who is?
It's time to take a break from the heavy issues in education at the moment and instead look at what we are actually best at doing - preparing children for tomorrow. The most vital of all skills is Reading. So, how do we help at home?

Allow time for self correction
If your child makes a mistake, don't correct them immediately. Give your child every opportunity to self correct. Prompt your child by holding your finger under the word. If your child does not say the word after a few seconds, say the word.
Assist your child to decipher words by giving them clues when necessary. Ask questions referring to the picture cues e.g. 'What is the boy holding?' or compare the word with a word they know e.g. 'it rhymes with cat.' Ask your child 'Does that make sense? What word would make sense?' Your child might also be able to decipher a tricky word if he or she reads to the end of the sentence.

Check for comprehension
Discuss the story at the end. Ask your child 'What did you like about the book?' Ask questions about the content of the story. Make comparisons and let your child make comparisons, 'that's like..' Your child is more likely to identify with the story if he or she can compare it to something familiar.

Have fun with reading
Make reading fun! Choose engaging texts and use different mediums such as books, magazines, the internet, computer programs and interesting photographs and snippets from the newspaper. Read with enthusiasm and do the voices. If the text is - "'Be quiet' she whispered", whisper the words 'Be quiet'. Allow toys to participate in reading by letting the toys take turns at reading. If toys become a distraction, remove them. Play reading related games, such as 'I Spy' and rhyming and spelling games. Use time spent travelling in the car to play such games. When friends come to play, read a story to the children about characters they like and you might find that they incorporate the story into their play later.

Use reading opportunities
Words are everywhere - on signs, at the supermarket, on packages, on TV. Use these as reading practice. Your child will quickly learn that words have a practical purpose. Looking at the back cover of a DVD or navigating through a computer game can motivate a child to read.

Build and use a collection of favourite stories
Collect stories that you can read and reread. Books with collections of stories can be used again and again. Book series are useful, as your child can collect the whole series. Select book series about characters your child likes. Your child will enjoy building a collection and seeing his or her collection grow. Ordering and sorting is a powerful mechanism of learning. Your child will also enjoy hearing those stories read again and again as your child knows what happens next. Read favorite stories regularly to build your child's confidence. As your child's reading improves he or she will be able to read some of these stories to you.

Find material that interest your child
If someone gave me a book to read on 18th Century Ballet training and techniques, I would not be motivated to even open the cover. Now, although this example is a little extreme, it is important to tap into what your child is interested in. Although the subject matter may be limited in the early stages of reading, there are books on just about everything these days. Use one of the best tools available to you in the quest to find something that interests your child - talk to your local librarian. Their eyes light up when someone asks them a question about finding reading material for their kids in stead of complaining that the photocopier is broken!

Model reading
We have all seen time and time again how good children are at imitating their parents - and they don;t always choose the right behaviours to copy. So why not use this powerful bond for good. Read the paper, turn the TV off and read a book for 10 minutes. Repetition of this behaviour is sure to form a very positive image in your child's mind.

Develop your child's vocabulary
Focus on common words first, as knowing these help improve reading fluency. There are also books and resources on the internet which list common words. Use a rich and varied vocabulary. Use words from stories you have read, so your child learns how to use those words in conversation. Another important aspect of developing vocabulary is exposing children to a variety of texts instead of books from the same series by the same author. Although we all have our favourites a good balance between fiction and non-fiction and a range of style of books will assist your child to learn new and exciting words and they way they can be used.

Any reading is Good Reading
One of my strongest beliefs about reading is that any reading is good reading. If you have a reluctant reader, would you rather they read a comic book or the sport section of the evening or nothing? Use their interest in reading these materials to gradually broaden their reading experiences. Trying to force them to read material that they do not wish to will only lead to a return to their reluctant behaviours.

If you have concerns about your child's reading talk to your child's teacher. Your child may need more time or may need extra help. Don't delay - if extra help is required, early intervention is best.

Hope it helps!

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