As a Dyslexia tutor and someone who regularly assessed students in Further Education for examination arrangements, I am often asked what parents can do to help their child with reading. Not all children are avid readers. Some will actively avoid it. This is not, believe me, laziness. After all, I often tell parents, wouldn’t you avoid something you found really difficult?
So what can you do? There are so many ways a parent can help and, unfortunately, some discourage reading without realising they are doing it. One example is the parent who sniffs about comics believing these are not good for children. Well, I ask the parents who say this, do you want your child to read or not? If children read what they enjoy they will become the readers you want to see sitting absorbed by a book on your sofa.
First, have plenty of books around, on accessible shelves, coffee tables, in piles by sofas. Don’t insist they are put away tidily and kept on high shelves or inside bookcases. Let the child see you choose books in the library – don’t do this when they are at school. Make it a pleasurable outing, at least once or twice a week. Choose books together. Books about your next holiday destination. Let them read the map and the 10 best things to see in ? Read it together. Use the internet and read the screen together. Teach them to search on Google and read up on something they enjoy. It could be the latest Madagascar film. Read the reviews aloud and then let them read some.
DO YOU READ? Let your child see you read. Have quiet times when everyone in the family reads. Turn the television off at these times. Share what you are reading. Discuss the book or comic strip.
Read out news stories (with discretion) and encourage the child to find something worth sharing with the family
Limit screen time. This is worth a full blog itself. Reading screens is good but screen time should be restricted for many health and social reasons.
Read, read, read to your child even long after he or she can read for themselves. They still need to hear/see words jump off the page and feel the magic.
Put expression into your reading. This may mean looking at the book ahead of time. Don’t worry if your reading isn’t exactly perfect or accurate. Put on a gruff voice if necessary, a squeaky voice for a silly character, a fairy voice for the fairy. Use your own imagination to help your child access theirs.
Sit with your child and read together. Run your finger along the line so your child does not lose his place. Never jump in to correct the child. You can point out an error later. Don’t let them lose the flow.
Don’t forbid comics or similar. If your child enjoys reading something with pictures and words, it is better than if he does not read at all.
One novelty may be to have subtitles on television programmes.
Don’t resort to audio books alone but do encourage the use of an audio book combined with the text. Get the child to listen to the audio and follow the text with their finger. This gives them reinforcement of the sounds that make up the words.
Get a read aloud program for your computer and set this up so your child can hear the words on websites and other documents.
When your child reads to you, make a note of the words he misreads or gets stuck on. Tell him the word immediately so he can read on without hesitation. Don’t make him struggle or he will become disaffected. Afterwards look at a few of the words together. Find other words with the same pattern. For longer words break the word down into syllables.
For written homework or story writing, get your child to dictate what he wants to put on paper and write this down for him. If you are proficient on a computer, type the words for him, print it out (in large font) and then read it back to him. Then get the child to read it to you. To encourage responsibility, the child could highlight difficult words with a highlighter pen. This allows you to return to the work later and point to the words.
Encourage the writing of a diary and get the child to read it to you.
Visit your library and borrow books connected to something he is passionately interested in. Running? Cricket? Football? The key is for your child to ENJOY reading and see what it has to offer.
Make sure your child knows the sounds of the letters and can put them together eg c-r It is amazing how many children are brought to private tutors for reading and spelling tuition only for the tutor to find they do not know all the sounds. How can they possibly work out a new word if they do not know this basic skill? Unfortunately some sound ‘gaps’ are often missed by teachers faced with thirty five pupils of differing ability. TAs could be asked to check the sound knowledge of those struggling with reading.
Play Ispy from an early age. At least three times a week. When waiting at the doctor’s surgery, on the bus or train. In the car. Anywhere.
Buy Junior Scrabble and play in teams so that a younger child has some adult help and doesn’t struggle alone and give up. This encourages success which builds self esteem and improves reading.
Take every opportunity to read when out and about. Signs, posters, labels, shop signs. Ask the children to choose items from the shelves. Ask them to look for specific items ie certain brands.
When making Christmas lists, let the child get the information from catalogues or the internet and write down what they want. They will learn that reading has PURPOSE and see the benefit.
Reading is a life skill and it should enhance our experience. Children need to learn the value of reading and how it will provide valuable life experiences. You are the person who can help them to see this. After all, as a parent, you are not having to tick boxes.
Finally, if your child resists your attempts to help them with reading – this is very common as children find it hard and parents have difficulty being both parent and teacher – do take them to a tutor, qualified in teaching children with Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia). They are the tutors who will peel back the child’s learning in the same way you would peel an onion and find the gaps which are hindering the child’s progress. The money will be well spent.
And if you do use a tutor, listen to the advice given as the child leaves and follow it through. You have paid for the advice as well as the lesson, so LISTEN and DO IT.
Happy reading for all! You and your child!
Di Castle is a qualified Dyslexia Tutor and has worked with students in Further and Higher Education as well as with primary pupils.