Ryan Spencer is a Dymocks Literacy Expert and State Director of the Australian Literacy Educator’s Association. He is sharing his expert tips on how to help your child with reading,
Reading is an important skill for a child to learn, with research suggesting that strong interest in books at an early age is one of the strongest predictors of reading and learning success later in life.
When children aren’t exposed to regular reading practice, they may find it challenging to practice the everyday skills that readers use to access texts across different aspects of their learning.
As parents, we all want to do our best to help our kids become strong, resourceful and confident readers.
It can be tempting to compare children of the same age in terms of their reading development and to relay frustrations when we feel they aren’t progressing at the rate they should. However, it’s important to understand that learning to read is a complicated process, which can look very different for different children, regardless of their age.
5 do’s and don’ts when trying to help your child with reading
- Read aloud to your children
Findings from the 2015 Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report shows that 86% of Australian kids aged 6-17 enjoy being read aloud to – the main reason being because it is a special time with parents. Over half of all children that are no longer read to, wish that it had continued. Reading aloud is a great way to bond with your child over quality time together, however doing so also leads to a host of other benefits. Early reading helps children with their emerging language and communication skills, boosts vocabulary knowledge and helps comprehension.
- Keep the reading atmosphere relaxed
It’s hard to convince your child to enjoy reading sessions when you treat it like a learning exercise every time. It’s best to make reading at home a pleasurable experience so that your kids will be happy to come back to it the next day. For example, did you know that the physical location can alter the way reading is perceived and enjoyed? Avoid reading when there’s a lot of background noise or at the dining table where homework is normally completed. Ensure the environment is relaxed, quiet and warm, such as the lounge room, mum and dad’s bed or even in the garden.
- Let children decide
Findings from the recently published Australian Kids & Family Reading Report shows that children’s favourite books are those that they pick out for themselves and those that make them laugh. As adults, we rarely ever sit down to read something we aren’t interested in – so why should we impose limitations on our children? Children need to learn that it’s okay to not like all types of books and that they have freedom of choice to pick books they enjoy when reading for pleasure. Giving children the chance to read whatever they like when shopping at the bookshop is a great place to start.
- Don’t be a word pointer
When children get stuck on a word, the parent often becomes the ‘instant word factory’, supplying the unknown word immediately. This is an unsustainable strategy and one that could result in children over relying on their parents. Help your child by reminding them of the strategies they can employ to figure out unknown words. Point to the illustrations and suggest them find a clue there, or encourage them to read further for more information.
- Don’t restrict book choice
Parents are often misled into thinking that there are only one or two types of books that children should be reading. However, this narrowly-focused approach may not be the most effective way to engage children in the long term. Always celebrate book choice and variety, and encourage your child to explore different types of texts, whether its comics/graphic novels or even casual literature like newspapers and magazines. After all, if the only experience a child has of reading is with boring, mass produced home readers from school, how likely are they to engage in the reading process?