Knowing your child’s reading stage and how to help them

The key to engaging young readers is to get them started as early as possible. Reading aloud to your kids every day builds the foundations for successful literacy acquisition. As they begin to ready themselves guide them in how to choose a book that is right for them. And then, when they are reading independently, letting them choose the books they want to read and book ownership are two of the most important things you can offer as a parent.

Rather than judging your child’s reading progression by age, think about learning to read as occurring in three stages.

Emerging Readers

How to spot them

Emerging readers are usually just starting to gain an understanding of how text works. They will display good book handling behaviours, they will know where the book begins and ends, and they understand that text and pictures work together. At this stage, they can usually recognise a small number of high-frequency words (5-20 words) that occur regularly throughout a text.

How to help

You can help emerging readers by pointing out environmental print in their everyday surroundings. This includes words on signs, on your walk to school or at the shops. It’s also great to talk about the meaning of favourite books at bedtime and make a link between these stories and your child’s own experiences.

Beginning Readers

How to spot them

Beginner readers are becoming more confident with different texts and usually starting to read more independently. They can often recognise more high-frequency words (20-50 words) and they also begin to self-correct words as they are reading. While children may sometimes read slowly and word by word at this stage, they are still gaining valuable information from the text.

How to help

Talk about the books your child is reading in more detail. Ask them how, what, where, when, why questions. Perhaps discuss what could happen next after the book is finished or explore other books with similar themes.

Fluent Readers

How to spot them

Fluent readers are those who can identify most high-frequency words automatically. They can read from a wide range of texts confidently and independently. Readers at the fluent stage tend to use a range of different strategies to figure out unknown words, including skipping the word and allowing the wider context to convey the message, reading on for more information, and substituting the word with a word that would also make sense.

How to help

When you are reading with a fluent reader, talk about different types of texts, their purposes and how these texts are made up. For instance, when looking at graphic novels, you could talk about how images represent different aspects of the story and the impact that text placement has on how this is displayed.

How to make learning to read fun for children

  • Relax

The simplest way to encourage children to engage in reading is to relax around the process. Don’t treat reading as a learning exercise, it should be fun! Try changing the location where reading takes place and switch things up by reading on the lounge room floor, mum and dad’s bed, or outside under a tree.

  • Celebrate book choice

Book choice is vital to reading enjoyment. As adults, we very rarely read anything that we either don’t love or enjoy. Parents often feel they should select their children’s books but when we take the restrictions away, a child’s self-efficacy towards reading increases, resulting in an increase in enjoyment and ability. Allowing children to choose themselves (even if it’s something you don’t like) is essential for developing strong, self-sufficient readers.

  • Read aloud to children

The latest research shows that 85% of Australian kids aged 6-17 enjoy being read aloud to. Even if they are capable readers, children love this special time with parents. Reading aloud to your children produces a host of other benefits. It can help to improve your child’s social, interpersonal and literacy skills, as well as boosting their confidence.

You can help your child find their next great read and help a child in need too. Buy any children’s book during Dymocks Books for Kids (12-26 August) and Dymocks will donate on your behalf to help more kids in need, learn to read.

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