Tips to help children become readers (3)

Front view of boy's face looking down at the book he is holding.
Looking for ways you can help your child with reading at home? Are you wondering ‘How often?’ or ‘How long?’ or ‘Where do I start?’ If this sounds like you, here are some tips to help you work with your child to help him or her become a better reader.
  1. Choose the most suitable time of day to read together. Straight after school is usually not a good time. After sitting indoors for long periods of the day, most students need half an hour of active outdoor play before focusing on reading, writing or other homework tasks. Bouncing a ball, swinging a bat, tossing a basketball through a hoop, playing skipping or running games with siblings or friends, taking the dog for a brisk walk or jog are all activities which will replenish the body with fresh supplies of oxygen and will help the brain function more effectively. Close to bedtime when your child is tired is not a good time either as your child needs to be alert to learn and practice new skills.
  2. Work away from distractions. Do not permit other siblings to watch television in the same room as the child who is learning to read. If a younger sibling reads better, make sure that that child is busy elsewhere so as not to affect the confidence of the child you are working with.
  3. Read every day if possible for a short time, e.g. 10 minutes. This is more effective than longer sessions once or twice a week.
  4. Make reading a pleasurable experience by your own positive attitude. Use praise when your child self-corrects, completes a passage or page, and puts in their best effort.
  5. Use books that are at an appropriate level. For beginning readers, ‘graded readers’ which have controlled vocabulary are best so that the child is not overwhelmed by too many unknown words. To check the ‘right level’ of a book, use the 5-Finger Test. Count off 50 words from the book. Ask the child to read those 50 words and while reading, count on your fingers each mistake made. If there are more than 5 mistakes, the book is too hard. If there are less than 3 mistakes (i.e. no mistakes, 1 mistake or 2 mistakes), the book is too easy but can be read by the child at another time on their own, just for fun. If there are 3, 4 or 5 mistakes within the 50 words, the book is at the right level for the child to learn new skills.

Steps in a 10 Minute Daily Reading Program

  1. Review troublesome words from the previous day (recorded in an exercise book).
  2. Have the child read the story. When a word is new or a mistake is made use prompting strategies such as ‘What is the sound of the first letter?’ Write down the troublesome words in an exercise book and review them later. Praise the child for any and every success at working out unknown words.
  3. At the end of 10 minutes of reading, ask a few questions about the pages read to make sure the child has understood the content. If the child has misunderstood the message of the test, find the part of the text where the message is clear and have the child re-read that part (one or two sentences) then ask a question which will help the child discover the message.
  4. Have your child practise the words you wrote down in the exercise book. Tick them if your child now knows them and put a dot beside them if not.
  5. Write any words that are still causing problems onto cards and practice them at other times.

Remember to PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE for all achievements great or small.

Reference: Bowden, Linda, Helping Your Child With Reading, A Learning Difficulty Publication (Currently unable to locate publication details to acknowledge)