Engadine Public School

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Assisting children with reading

(Please Note :The term parent used in this article needs to be expanded to represent the diverse nature of families today. Parents today include carers such as fathers, mothers, grandparents, step-parents, family members such as aunts and uncles and non-family members such as friends and other out of home carers.)

Building children's literacy success

Parents and carers are key players in children's literacy success. They work together best when there is joy and happiness around reading. This happiness and success can transfer into the classroom and it may make a clear difference to children's opportunity for successes.

Parents and carers can have a profound impact on their children's literacy learning. They can make a difference to how their children discover the world of literacy ,  how or whether  they fall in love with books and, ultimately, how they view themselves as literacy users.

Most parents have a vested interest in their children achieving literacy success - they want their children to succeed. Many have ready access and in most cases they elect to make time and provide one-on-one assistance to children experiencing literacy difficulties. It is pleasing to note that despite their work commitments and home commitments, they will find time.

Going beyond just reading aloud, parents who read to their children in combination with literacy strategies contribute the most to positive outcomes.

Most parents, however, are unsure of how to teach reading or support their children's literacy development. Parents and carers need to be given strategies and ideas to support their child's literacy success. These strategies should be easy, enjoyable and consistent.

We recognise and respect the unique and differing ways that families participate and promote literacy in their own homes. Reading encompasses many parts of home life –reading for enjoyment (magazines, newspapers, novels), reading for life skills (letters, bills, labels on cooking products, recipes) – reading for safety (signs, medications etc). Reading is an important part of life.

It is important to remember, parents and carers, that teachers can provide assistance if you want to know more about how best  to support your child. Make an appointment and ask questions.

Here are also some strategies which may assist you:

  • Reading routines should be established at home. Reading is best when it takes place in a calm and comfortable environment – so away from the kitchen at cooking time is a good idea.  Making reading time a cosy, together time increases the feeling of enjoyment for both the reader and the adult. This could be on a bean bag, the lounge chair, the garden – a special place.
  • It is useful for parents and carers to keep a log of their reading activities. Planning for 10 minutes a day for younger children and extending as children get older and more able.
  • Success is based on establishing collaboration between the parent or carer and the child. Home reading is really not about tutoring the child, it's really about the parent or carer working with the child to achieve literacy success.
  • It is important to introduce the book – we call that Book Orientation.  We want to put the scaffolding into place so that before the child even starts to read a book, they're familiar with the vocabulary, the content, the genre. This helps to establish that the book is actually going to be of interest to the child.  So look at the picture and title and discuss what the child thinks the book may be about.  Ask the child whether they think the book may be factual (true) or fiction (make believe). Ask them why they think this. (Clues may be the title, or the types of pictures in the text.) Flick through the pages and together find words which may be difficult.  Share these words and their meanings before the child attempts to read the text. These strategies help to take away anxiety about new texts.
  • Neurological Impress Method.   This is a very simple strategy where the child and the parent share the book, with the child reading along and echo-reading behind the parent.  This supports a struggling reader who finds reading a challenge – it provides them with good role modelling and an opportunity to experience success when reading. This positive experience can change the child's thoughts about themselves as a reader.

For example:

Parent: In the dark and shaded undergrowth, the little field mouse hides. (Read whole  sentence)

In the dark and shaded undergrowth (Read segment of the sentence)

            Child:  In the dark and shaded undergrowth (Repeats segment of the sentence)

Parent:  the little field mouse hides.(Read segment of the sentence)

            Child: the little field mouse hides.(Repeats segment of the sentence)

  • When the reading material is other than a school reader, allow the child to select the book.  Let the child take responsibility for choosing their own book - We want the child to make informed choices when it comes to books and we want to find ways to celebrate the choices they make.  Your child may choose a book that's beyond their reading level but, as an adult and a parent or carer, it's important that we give the child access to that.  When they choose such a book it may mean just reading through, flicking through the pages and talking about illustrations. It might mean reading the first chapter and having the child read the second;  or even reading one paragraph, the child reading the next. We need to find ways of giving the child access to the books that they're choosing to read. Talking about the illustrations or the content of the text may do this.

For example:

Parent:  They're looking (sounding) a little bit scared, aren't they?      

Child:  Yes, especially Fred.

  • When a child struggles with a word, resist the temptation to be a "Word Factory" and immediately give them the word. Say things like, 'Read on', 'Go back to the beginning', 'Have another look at that', 'Does that make sense?'  These are the sorts of strategies that assist the child to become an independent reader and help their own development of comprehension strategies.
  • Structural language is also important. Parents and carers can emphasise this by taking notice of the punctuation  -  stopping at full stops and pausing at commas makes a difference to the way we read and hear the content of the message of the text. Getting excited at exclamation marks (!) or loud when they are used as commands (STOP THAT!) can make reading fun.  Structural language can also alter the context in which reading occurs. Put fun and enjoyment back into it. Do not be scared to use funny voices or to use a voice for a particular character (eg : soft and feminine for a female child – strong and deep for a male adult, soft for a small creature, loud for a strong and powerful one).
  • Share jokes; read newspapers; read the things that you love to read; a magazine that you've picked up off the shelf, labels, recipes, instructions for games. Your ten minutes reading together may just prove how important reading is for enjoyment, life skills and fun!  There is no right book, there's only access into many books and parents and carers can help children get really excited about that possibility.

Remember: When a parent or carer can instil a love of reading instead of a message of fear and failure, children respond accordingly.  We want parents and carers, and their children to work together in a context of joy and happiness around reading - because that's what will transfer into the classroom; and it's really going to make a difference to how that child feels about themselves as a reader, and give them a boost towards success.

Another useful document, about "Pause, Praise and Prompt" can be reached from this link:   

Pause, Praise, Prompt.