Do you know how to help your child with their home reading? Has your child started coming home with reading homework? I know when my son started getting his first readers, us parents got very little information about the best way to help our children read (instead of guess) the words. Now, I was in a fortunate position of knowing what to do, but I often thought about other parents who weren’t professionals in the literacy field – how do they know how to help their children? I chatted to a few other parents who nearly all said that they really weren’t sure what they were supposed to do with home reading. So, I have decided to write out the steps that I take with my son. Here they are:
1. Discuss the Front Cover
OK, so this isn’t really reading but it is very important. You’re going to have a quick chat about the title of the story and what you think that means. Of course, your child can read the title too, but this step is critical for developing an idea about what you are about to read.
Now, when you are chatting about this, it’s really important to leave the questions inside your head! Instead, it’s better to say what you think, then pause and wait for your child to have a turn. That might go a bit like this:
- Parent: “Mmm, I wonder what this book is about”… **pause**
- Child: “a dog”
- P: “oh yeah, the dog looks like he is holding a ball”… **pause**
- C: “yeah, a ball”
- P: “oh, look there’s lots of sand… that makes me think that the dog is at the beach, I bet this story is about a dog at the beach”… **pause**
- C: “It might be be about a dog in the desert”
- P: “I suppose it could be. Let’s read the book and find out.”
2. Encourage “saying the sounds”
Importantly, you need to switch your thinking away from the alphabetic names of letters and instead say the sounds that you hear in the word. So, for cat, you would say “k a t”, not “cee, ay, tee”. Please try to say just the sound, without an ‘uh’ sound after it. This will go a long way to helping your child with reading AND spelling. So, in cat, it’s “k a t”, not “kuh, a, tuh”.
To help your child say the sounds and read the word, put your finger under each sound, then move to the next sound etc. until the whole word has been sounded out, then use your finger to draw a line under the word.
3. Take it in turns
Now, my young man was particularly reluctant to read with me (yes, despite my profession, this was still very challenging). We decided to take it in turns. At the very beginning, it was taking turns with words, then it moved to taking turns with lines, then sentences, then pages until he got into the swing of it (most of the time) and now he reads the whole book by himself.
4. Model how you read fluently
At the early stages of reading, when a child is sounding out all the words, it can be very slow and also requires a lot of attention for each word. This means, that we often forget the word that we read at the beginning of the sentence. To help your child learn about reading fluently and with intonation (where you change your voice for questions, exclamations, speech marks etc.), you can repeat the sentence that they have just sounded out, reading it fluently. At the end of the book, you can also read the whole book in this way. As time goes on, you won’t need to do this as much as your child’s fluency will increase as they practice.
5. Chat about what the book was about.
Literacy is not just about being able to read words on a page, it’s about being able to understand what those words actually mean. With understanding, there are two parts that you need to consider. 1. The understanding of the words that are written on the page (both individual words and the whole sentence) and 2. Understanding of the underlying concept of the sentence – that is what is inferred or suggested by the words that are written there. (See the example below)
When you chat to your child about what the story is about, you need to
- Try not to ask them questions to gauge their understanding, rather have a conversation about it.
- Relate it back to your discussion at the beginning – was your prediction accurate? If not, talk about how it was different to what you thought.
- Talk about what actually happened in the story.
- Talk about the feelings you got or the hidden message. You could say, “when the story said ‘The robber made a clean getaway’, that meant that he got away without leaving any clues behind”.
6. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
I know, children often don’t want to repeat a book, however by repeating the book, your child will start getting quicker and will need to sound the words out less and less. The aim being that they increase how fluent they are with their reading.
There you have it. My 6 steps for home reading. Lastly, please remember that if your child isn’t enjoying it or is resisting doing the reading, try to scale back the amount you get them to read, so that they are achieving small bits at a time. You can increase this as their confidence grows. Secondly, the type of book your child reads can make a very big difference. It is ALWAYS best for your child to read a decodable reader that is at the level that they are learning the sounds in class. You can learn all about the difference between decodable and predictable readers in this video from Alison Clark, Speech Pathologist at Spelfabet.
So, now that you have watched that, you are probably wondering where you can find decodable readers. Well, the good news is that there are free, good quality readers available. SPELD SA have Free Phonic Books and PhonicBooks® have some free teaching resources, including the new and free “At Home Series”.
And remember, don’t give up! Home reading was really hard going with my son. He found it really hard to begin with and still has some days when it’s overwhelming. We persisted (some days more than others) and now he voluntarily reading books that he finds interesting… in other words, he is reading Star Wars books… and only Star Wars books😝 but as long as he is reading, I don’t mind!
If you have any questions about your child’s reading ability, why not book in to have a free 15 minute phone consultation with one of our Speech Pathologists? You can book in here.