Help your child learn to read
As a young teacher I taught Year 7 students at a large intermediate in Auckland. The majority of our students were well below the expected level of achievement for their age, particularly in reading. I recall asking one parent “Do you read to your son?” and I don’t think I will ever forget her response; “No. Does that help?”. I vowed at that point to make sure that I explicitly told every one of my student’s parents that reading to their child will help them to learn to read.
The benefits of reading to your child are incredible. Not only does it develop your child’s impression that reading is an enjoyable and satisfying activity, it also creates plenty of opportunity for the development of important literacy skills.
There are simple but extremely important concepts that children are learning while you read simple books to them. Understanding that books share a story or information with an audience and that we read from left to write are essential things for children to understand as they engage with books themselves. As you read a book, talk about the pictures and the story, allow children to turn the pages, and occasionally point out a word physically or pretend to lose your place on the page and scan the words with your finger until you find where you were up to.
Understanding that sentences are made up of words, and that words are made up of sounds is also really important for children as they approach the challenge of learning to read. Reading rhyming books or books with alliteration in them helps children to hear and play with these sounds. Being able to hear that bat, mat, cat, that, and sat all end with the same sound will have a positive impact as children learn to read and write. A very good reason to read lots of Dr Seuss books!
Reading books that are slightly above your child’s own reading ability provides them with the opportunity to hear more complex language structures and features, and vocabulary, than they are currently able to read by themselves. As they hear this type of language they are becoming familiar with it and are learning to use this type of language. This allows them to feel more confident when they encounter those words or language features in their own reading.
Finally, reading aloud to your children is a lovely way for them to develop the very important comprehension skills they will need as they read more complex books. Four good comprehension strategies are predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising. As you start to read chapter books to your children do these four things with them. Predict together what you think might happen on the next page. Stop and talk about the vocabulary that was used – encouraging your children to look out for words they weren’t sure of. Ask questions that make your children think more deeply about the text, such as “How do you think that character was feeling? What makes you think that?”. At the end of the chapter help your child to practice summarising the main events.
There is a huge amount of learning that can take place snuggled up on your couch or tucked up before bed, so I encourage you to make the most of these, and keep reading to them, even high school students love to be read to!