Reading is a hot topic and parents often worry if their child is at the “right” reading level. With so many schools teaching reading in different ways and at different stages of development, a universal answer is not easy and this causes parents anxiety. However, every parent can play an important role in helping their child become a confident reader.
For practical suggestions to give your child’s reading a boost this summer we have worked with two specialist teachers at TutorsPlus, to give parents practical tips on how to ignite your child’s passion for reading.
Teachers seem to be unified when it comes to the most important thing parents can do; set a good example by showing how much you enjoy reading. Sit down together to read as a family, take trips to the library or book shop together and talk about the books you are selecting for yourself, the last one you read and what you thought about it.
Karina is a teacher with over 30 years of experience, she has taught in the UK, in the Middle East and more recently in Switzerland both as a classroom teacher, a special needs teacher and a gifted and talented programme developer. She is also a dyslexia specialist and an associate member of the British Dyslexia Association. Here are her tips:
1) For young children, allow them to re-read favourite books as this encourages a feeling of success in a low risk environment. This type of repetition also helps in other ways, such as promoting reading speed and accuracy, both vital components in the reading process.
2) Make sure that reading is seen as a reward, make it comfortable and fun. Buy an attractive book as a special treat and snuggle up on the sofa to share the book together.
3) Don’t correct every mistake, instead repeat the mistake and offer the correction, ask which word makes more sense and give praise for the correct choice.
4) Keep a mental note of the sounds and words the child struggles with and then make up games using those sounds and words – how many words can we make out of ‘tame’? Letter tiles are very useful for this purpose.
5) Ask your child questions about the story to check understanding. Many children will achieve a creditable reading age as mechanical readers i.e. reading with fluency but totally without understanding. For this reason, it is extremely important to engage with your child during the reading process: ask questions about thoughts, actions and feelings and encourage the child to predict what they think might happen.
6) Try to link the reading task with something topical that the child is interested in. For example, if you are planning a summer holiday then try to find reading material that relates to that in some way; going on safari, learning to swim, cooking around the camp fire.
7) For older, reluctant readers it can help to let them choose what they want to read. Buy books and magazines that relate to things that your child is interested in. As long as they are reading, it doesn’t matter if it is a comic strip, or the cereal box because pictures with captions, call-outs and boxed-text break up the main text into manageable chunks.
Tips for readers with special needs:
1) For children who have attention difficulties or dyslexia, reading familiar texts in the comfort of their own home promotes feelings of security and this can have a positive influence on their confidence levels.
2) Often readers with dyslexia prefer to read non-fiction texts because it is far less daunting. Longer fiction texts can be challenging and boring. It is no fun for the dyslexic teenager to be asked to read a 200 page; small print novel when they cannot remember what happened on page one, let alone the rest of the first chapter. Non-fiction texts work better because shorter bursts of information and pictures help the child to maintain interest and thus experience greater reading retention.
3) Children with dyslexia will perform quite well when asked literal questions about a text, but will find it extremely difficult to draw inferences from text. Information that has been implied rather than directly stated is an essential skill in reading comprehension, as well as in both oral and written communication. Read a book your child has read and discuss it with them in a casual and non-threatening way – ‘I was not expecting that to happen!’, ‘Why do you think she reacted in that way?’ – This type of approach will help to improve both confidence and understanding by way of improving inference and deduction skills.
Anna is a fully qualified teacher, with 10 years of experience in education, in the UK and more recently teaching for TutorsPlus in Switzerland. She is a GCSE English Examiner for AQA and a mother to her 4 year old girl. Here are her tips:
1) Team up with others to encourage reading. Perhaps, your child would enjoy a “reading with a friend” session? I even know a child who reads to his dog each night before bed. It doesn’t matter what motivates them, but it is important to find out.
2) Why not start a family book club where you all read together one night a week? You can make it a special evening with favourite snacks and simply read together or discuss the books you are reading.
3) Consistency is the key, but remember – a little goes a long way. It’s better to have an “enjoyable” 5 minutes each day without much pressure and drama, rather than make reading a chore that is “boring” and lasts for “too long” and losing your child’s motivation to read.
4) Young children become excited by a new reward system (like stickers) to signpost progress. Depending on your child, it can be based on the number of pages read each day or the number of books read throughout the whole holiday season. Come up with a great prize to motivate them to keep going.
5) If your child is anything like mine, you can use their time on the iPad to encourage reading: if your child reads for 15 minutes, they can watch for 15 minutes. But remember every child is different and may respond differently, so do adjust.
6) There are children who prefer reading online books, which can be a massive help if you have a reluctant reader. Raz-Kids is a popular site (www.raz.kids.com), you can download online books to your phone or iPad and take them on holiday with you. One wifi connection while you are away and you have a whole library at your fingertips.
7) Remember, it doesn’t have to be a book of fiction! Encourage reading a variety of sources: comics, non-fiction, manuals, even if it’s just a poem a day!
8) Make a game out of it: Ask them a question, let them research and find the answer, then you can reward the efforts.
9) Finally, here are some ideas for questions to ask your young reader about the book they are reading:
- Were the characters interesting, how would you describe them?
- Was the story easy to follow, can you retell me the story?
- What would you like to tell others about the book?
- Will you look for other books by the same author?
- What part of the story did you enjoy the most and why?
- Give each book your own personal star rating. Another idea is to ask your child to write a book review of the best book they have recently read.
For more information:
TutorsPlus academic advisors are always happy to give parents advice or help answer specific questions you have about literacy. With teachers experienced in all international programmes across Switzerland, there is always an expert on hand to help.
You can reach them on 022 731 8148 or