Learning to read is a developmental process that can sometimes be complicated for young children. Progression will vary from child to child and there is no single formula for success, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach that will suit all children. As parents, we tend to compare our child’s reading ability against another based on age, however this is in no way a reliable indicator....
Resist the urge to express frustration or anger when your child isn’t progressing along with their reading as smoothly or efficiently as you had anticipated. To foster enjoyable and productive reading experiences, parents need to practice patience. Any stress or anxiety projected can transfer onto the children, which may turn them off reading altogether. Here, Ryan Spencer, Dymocks Literacy Expert and State Director of the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association, gives us some other do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when helping your child with reading…
Read with your child every day
Develop effective reading habits from the onset by reading with your child every day. When parents are avid readers and actively talk about books with their children, they are establishing a climate at home where books are valued. To make the experience more fun and interactive, different family members can be assigned different characters to read via funny voices and facial expressions. You can even introduce a little roleplay into the session. Who said reading has to be boring?
Lottie wears Meilie Aime By Em dress, $110. Photo: Grace Alyssa Kyo
When your child is stuck on a word they don’t know or feels confused while reading, be patient and help guide them through the process. Ask them questions like: Does that make sense? Does the picture give you a clue? Can you read on for more information? These questions serve as reminders of the strategies a child can use or tap into, to make sense of the broader meaning of the text. This will help them become resourceful readers in the long run.
Celebrate book choice
Children need to be exposed to a variety of books in order to get them excited about reading. Research has shown that when children are given the choice to pick their own book/s, they achieve greater levels of success. Respect your child’s book choices and encourage them to get creative with their selections. Switch around between picture books, novels, graphic novels and even casual literature, like newspapers and magazines. As adults, we rarely force ourselves to finish a book we don’t enjoy – the same should apply with children.
Don't giveaway the answers too quickly
When a child stumbles on a word they don’t know, parents are often tempted to give away the answer immediately to speed things along. However, this is an unsustainable strategy and does little to help your child become a self-sufficient reader. The essence of reading is to make meaning and if children are given the answers too readily, they may be disappointed when they read alone and don’t have you by their side to fill in the blanks. Encourage your child to look for clues or even skip the word and continue reading. Then casually drop the word as you turn the page.
Arabella wears Atelier/Child knit, $59, and Target jeans. Photo: Grace Alyssa Kyo
Parents often feel that when they select books for their children, they are supporting them to achieve at their level – though this isn’t always the case. When we restrict book choice, particularly to contrived, boring texts, children perceive this as an indicator of their reading capability and therefore meet that low expectation. If your child chooses a book that is too hard for them to understand independently, read that book together first, before suggesting alternative options. This way you aren’t dismissing your child’s selection and are helping to guide them into reading supportive books that are at their level.
Treat every reading session as a learning exercise
If your child is really struggling with learning to read, try switching up the physical environment. For example, if reading or homework tends to take place in the study or the dining table, your child may associate that area with anxiousness or low self-esteem. Reading should take place in an environment that’s quiet and relaxed. Opt for their bedroom, the lounge area or even in the garden. It’s also important not to apply too much pressure. If your child isn’t enjoying a book, don’t force them to finish it or penalise them for not trying. Once we remove imposed restrictions, children are much more likely to enjoy reading for pleasure.