Helping with reading

Recently I sat down with my own daughter to listen to her read. I knew what I wanted! She was going to read the print, sounding out harder words or making an educated guess based on the meaning of the passage or the pictures supplied on the page. Unfortunately, she had other ideas which included paying little or no attention to the print, taking careful note of the pictures (and asking for my comments on them) whilst virtually describing the entire story with little or no help from the words on the page.

This listening to reading is a frustrating business! It’s at this point that we really need to remember why we read and what is important to the child. What originally generated their interest and desire to take part in the stories that we read to them?

When children go to school we can sometimes lose sight of the real purpose for reading which is to gain meaning and pleasure from books. An over emphasis on the task of identifying individual letters and words can often detract from the pleasure of books and take away one of the key ingredients to reading success – ENJOYMENT!

Keeping the enjoyment of reading

Each child needs to have a balance between the struggle to read words and involvement in a good story.

We can achieve this balance by asking questions like:

  • What do you think this book is about?
  • What has happened or may be about to happen?
  • What do we think of the characters?
  • What do the pictures tell us?
  • What or who do you like or dislike in the story?

By asking these types of questions we help the child see that it is the meaning that matters and that words are a means to an end. By involving ourselves in books with our children we will automatically develop and support the child’s curiosity about text and the meaning it conveys.

Children will be encouraged to examine print and discussions take place about the meaning of words and the relationships of the book’s ideas with the world beyond. We need to encourage our children to make connections between what they read and their own experiences, knowledge and ideas.

It’s important to talk about books and what they mean to you so that reading is seen to be an activity that is highly valued at home. Children don’t need to read good books all the time. Sometimes they like comics, joke books, magazines or computer manuals. It doesn’t matter what they read as long as they are reading to enjoy it.

Our most important task as parents is to give our children the opportunity to get hold of all the books they want and to let them enjoy reading. If you are looking for a place to start our library or the community library are wonderful places!

How parents and carers can help

You can help your child with reading as they make their first steps towards using and understanding books and other texts.

You can assist them by:

  • reading to your child and talk about books
  • providing books for your child to read
  • enrolling your child at the local library – the Tea Tree Gully Library is located in the Civic Centre, opposite Tea Tree Plaza.
  • encouraging your child to select books
  • helping your child to recognise their name
  • teaching your child nursery rhymes
  • making use of book and audio tape sets
  • selecting books that describe familiar experiences, concepts and objects
  • drawing attention to the pictures when reading
  • selecting books that use repetition to capture the rhythm of language, such as The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • labelling some items at home
  • letting the child hold the book and turn the pages
  • encouraging the child to join in and read too.
  • pointing to words as you read
  • holding the book so the child can see the pictures and writing
  • settling your child and talking a little about the book before reading
  • accepting and praising your child’s attempts to read
  • establishing a reading environment in the child’s room with posters, books, pictures or mobiles of book characters.

There’s some excellent literacy and numeracy information for parents on the Department for Education website.