A Parents’ Guide to Teaching Early Reading Skills

A Parents’ Guide to Teaching Early Reading Skills

An important milestone

Parents often ask how they can help their children with learning to read as they are very aware of what an important role it plays in future academic success. Reading helps develop intellect, increase vocabulary, improve writing and spelling all of which increase self-confidence and build motivation.

Learning to read does not happen overnight. It involves a series of stages and these can begin from when a child is months old. It takes time to pass through these stages and children require systematic teaching and lots of practice to move through them successfully.

The Pre-reader:

  • Likes to look at books and be read to
  • Likes to behave like a reader e.g. holds books and pretends to read them
  • Learns about letters by looking at books, playing with letter blocks or magnetic letters
  • Learns about words from stories, traffic signs and logos on food packages.
  • Learns how text works e.g. where a story starts and finishes and that the print runs from left to right.
  • Begins to understand that their own thoughts can be put into print
  • Uses pictures and memory[cb1] to tell and retell a story

The Emerging Reader

  • Is ready to receive reading instruction
  • Learns that text is a common way to tell a story or to convey information
  • Begins to match written words to spoken words and perceive the relationship between sounds and letters
  • Begins to experiment with reading, and is willing to say words out loud when reading simple texts
  • Finds the pictures helpful in understanding the text, and learns that the words convey a message consistent with the pictures

The Early Reader

  • Develops more confidence and uses a variety of methods such as word building or visual cues to identify words in texts.
  • Adapts reading to different kinds of texts
  • Has an increasingly wide sight vocabulary of words, knows a lot about reading and is willing to try new texts

The Fluent Reader

  • Has an extensive sight vocabulary of words
  • Uses a variety of methods to identify unknown words and their meanings
  • Reads a range of texts and predicts events in a story
  • Relates what is read to their own experience and understands new concepts.

How you can help your child on the journey to becoming a fluent reader?

As a parent you are your child’s first and most important teacher. Reading aloud to children is the best way to get them interested in reading. It is natural to want to compare your child’s reading abilities with those of children of the same age, but not all children develop reading skills at the same pace. What’s important is that you are aware of your child’s reading level so you can chose books and activities which are appropriate and will help develop their skills.

Tip 1: Talk to your child

Oral language is the foundation of reading. Listening and speaking are a child’s first introduction to language. Talk to your child as much as possible about the things you are doing and thinking and encourage them to do the same. Ask them lots of questions, sing songs, playing rhyming and riddle games. Be patient and allow them time to find the words they want to use.

Tip 2: Make Reading Fun

The more you enjoy the reading experience, the more your child will enjoy it. Read aloud with drama and excitement, use different voices for different characters. Re-read favourite books as many times as your child wants to hear them, and choose books from authors your child enjoys. Read stories with repetitive parts and encourage your child to join in. Choose new books together and ensure these cover all the different genres. When reading track the print with your finger so the connection is made between the word on the page and those being heard.

Tip 3: Read Every Day

Children love routine, and reading is something you can both look forward to every day. By taking the time to read with your child, you show them that reading is important as well as fun. Reading with your child is the best thing you can do to help them learn at school. Keep reading to your child even once they are able to read for themselves. This will keep their interest alive and hearing stories they aren’t yet able to access themselves, will stretch understanding and widen knowledge.

Tip 4: Set an Example

As a parents, you are your child’s most important role model. If your child sees you reading, especially for pleasure or information, they will understand that reading is a worthwhile activity. Talking about books is just as important as reading them. Discussing a story or book will help your child understand it and connect it to their own experience of life. It also helps to enrich vocabulary.

Tip 5: Listen to your Child Read

As your child learns to read, listen to them read aloud as often as you can. Choosing a time when there will be no interruptions is essential. As you listen, remember that your reactions are important. Listen without interrupting, be enthusiastic and give specific praise. Patience and encouragement really are key. Guide your child in their choice of books and steer them away from ones which are too difficult. Give your child time to work out tricky words, get them to try the following strategies:

  • Think about what word would make sense in the sentence.
  • Sound the word out
  • Think of a word which looks and sounds similar
  • Look for parts of the word that are familiar
  • Think about which word would sound right in the sentence.
  • Check the pictures and punctuation marks for clues.
  • Go back and read it again
  • Ask for help with the word

Finally, remember you can always ask me or your child’s teacher for help and guidance.

Happy reading!

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