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Speech Pathologist Vickie Leung is the former director of the Multi-Lit Literacy Centre at Macquarie University. Here she provides great at-home strategies for helping your child learn to read.
Why do some kids struggle with reading?
When we are learning a new skill, for example karate, some people will pick up the basics easily and become a master at that task, while others require someone to repeatedly show them and guide them through the steps.
This applies to children when they are learning to read.
Some children develop reading skills through schooling alone, while for some struggling readers, learning to read isn’t intuitive and they need further instruction from teachers, teacher’s aides, parents or health professionals.
Skills kids need to be able to learn to read
Research tells us that, prior to being able to read, children must have:
- No underlying speech or language difficulties
- No hearing problems
- Been exposed to text and books
- Good phonological awareness skills (which include the ability to rhyme, clap out syllables and listen for sounds in words)
Parents are important when children are learning to read
The Australian Government’s National Literacy and Numeracy website tells us ‘how well children do at school has a lot to do with what happens at home’.
As a parent, you can help support your child’s early literacy, such as reading and writing skills at home by reading to your children and providing specific strategies when your child is struggling.
4 strategies to use at home
Here are 4 strategies you can trial at home when you’re reading together and your child is stuck on a difficult word.
When you first notice your child has made an error, allow them to carry on reading until the end of the sentence. Waiting is the most difficult strategy to use, as we naturally want to correct the error immediately. However, waiting is the most important strategy, as it allows the child time to correct their error on their own and often they will go back and try and fix the word without our help. This is when we know that the ‘learn to read’ process is happening.
Help your child work out the word by gently guiding them to the right sounds or to spot the right letters. Some examples of prompts include:Emphasizing the importance of reading carefully by discouraging guessing and asking your child to focus on the individual sounds in the word. For example, if your child is struggling with the word ‘probably’ you could say Have a look at the first couple of sounds, it says ‘p-r-o-b’, try putting it together
Raising awareness about whether the sentence sounds plausible or correct. For example, when your child mis-reads the word ‘rubbed’ you could say He rumbled his eyes. Does that make sense? Rumbled his eyes? Check the word starting with ‘r’
When your child discovers a ‘road block’ in the middle of a sentence and can’t seem to move past a particularly tricky word, suggest that he or she reads from the beginning of the sentence to get a running start. For example, if your child has stumbled over the words ‘he jumped in the water and splashed’, you could say Try that sentence again from ‘jumped’, have another go at that word
- Give them the answer
If you have tried one or two different prompts on a word and it still doesn’t work, simply tell your child the correct word to prevent frustration and help with the flow of the story.For example, you can simply say “that word is ___” or “would you like some help with that word?”
By giving your child the answer, you spend less time prompting your child and they are more likely to gain a better understanding of what they are reading.
Finally, give praise for all of your child’s reading efforts. You can give a mixture of generic or specific praise. For example, generic praise might include words like That’s excellent, careful work or Great reading.
Specific praise, though, is always best because your child receive positive feedback that is likely to make them want to practice that skill again. Some ideas for specific praise include:
- Nice reading, you didn’t need any help for two whole pages.
- Wow, you did an awesome job working out that word. I liked the way you sounded out each of those sounds and put the word together!
- You read that sentence beautifully! Good job pausing at the full stops and changing your voice at the question marks.
The key to making progress with reading
The key to progress is a happy and motivated learner.
Remember to keep all your reading goals achievable for your child and make activities a positive experience by being generous and sincere with praise.
By encouraging a positive learning environment at home, you can help your child progress further in their schooling.
If you have any concerns about your child’s reading skills, perhaps they are a slow progress reader who has been stuck on a particular reading level for a long time, make an appointment to talk to your child’s school teacher, paediatrician or a Speech Pathologist who has training and experience in the area of literacy.
Does your child need help to learn to read?
Kids First’s speech pathologists have helped hundreds of children to learn to read well.
Find out more about what we do by clicking on the link below, or call (02) 9938 5419 to discuss your child’s needs.