As a parent, you might worry about your child’s reading abilities and be unsure of how you can help. Be assured that you are not alone in this feeling. Evidence suggests that while 40% of children learn to read with minimal instruction, up to 60% will require more significant support to do so. That’s a lot of kids who will need extra help with reading along the way! The good news is there are number of things you can do to help, starting with these 7 easy strategies…
1) SOUND RELATIONSHIPS – This refers to an understanding of the relationship between the written letter and the sound or sounds that letter makes. It is a vital skill that children need before they can read. For example, a child needs to know that the letter ‘b’ makes the sound ‘b’ for bat. When teaching your child letter/sound relationships it is important to practice frequently (preferably on a daily basis) and systematically. Ensure that you include double phonograms (2 letters that make one sound (e.g. ay, ai, ow etc.)).
How you can help: Introduce a new letter/sound each day. For example, introduce the letter ‘g’ and help your child understand that the letter ‘g’ can say 2 sounds – ‘g’ (as in get) or ‘j’ (as in gentle). Show your child a ‘g’ and then ask them to tell you its sounds. The next day, review ‘g’ but add one more letter/sound. Continue to practise each day, even if you feel like your child knows all of the sounds, as the aim is to help them identify the sounds associated with each letter quickly and automatically. Flash cards can be helpful for this activity.
2) LETTER FORMATION – Forming letters correctly is an important skill for children, primarily as it is the most direct way of connecting sounds to their English letter forms. If kids are producing clear written representations of letters, they will be better able to recognise them in other texts.
How you can help: Simple things can help improve your child’s handwriting including ensuring that their feet are resting squarely on the floor and that their back is supported. Make sure you provide paper with appropriate line spacing for your child’s age. You can use Spalding ‘Clock Face’ method to help your child learn to write letters in a structured manner.
3) FLUENCY – Reading fluency is the ability to read accurately, quickly and expressively. If a child is struggling with reading fluency they will spend all their energy on that task and will therefore not be able to focus on comprehending the meaning of the text.
How you can help: An effective activity to help improve fluency is ‘repeated reading’. In this activity, you ask your child to read to you a relatively simple passage and time them for 1 minute. You count the number of words they read, and the amount of errors they make. Then, you ask your child to re-read the same passage for another 1 minute. Repeat the same passage 3 times. The aim is that your child increases the amount of words they read, with fewer errors. It is important to help your child understand that slowing down can actually help them read more words, as there is often less ‘stumbling’ and errors.
4) READING COMPREHENSION – This is the ability to extract meaning from written text using knowledge of words, concepts, and ideas. Predicting, summarizing and inferring are all important reading comprehension skills.
How you can help: I am a big believer in adding specific language to a child’s vocabulary in order to help label important concepts. What this means is that it is important to specifically teach a child words such as ‘predicting’, ‘summarising’ and ‘inferring’ and then teach them how to use these skills whilst reading. You can do this by asking your child to predict what they think is going to happen next in the story, or by explicitly helping them identify inferences in texts.
5) SPELLING/READING RULES – No one is denying that English is a tricky language to learn, especially when it comes to reading and writing! By explicitly teaching children associated rules for spelling and reading, it can help them on their way. The Spalding Method outlines 29 reading and spelling rules that you can find here, if your memory needs some refreshing!
How you can help: Choose one reading rule to discuss each week. As a challenge, ask your child to find all the words that follow that rule in books they are reading. This repeated discussion and identification will help them become familiar with words that follow these rules.
6) PRACTICE COMMON SIGHT WORDS – There are a number of words in English that don’t follow reading/spelling rules and that can’t be decoded phonically. These words, such as ‘some’, ‘one’, ‘who’ etc. can be difficult for children to learn so explicitly teaching them can help.
How you can help: Make a list of common sight words that your child should know. There are commercial products such as Magic 100 Words, which are flash cards and games for the 100 most common words in English. Alternatively, you or you can make your own. These cards can be used to play games such as ‘Snap’ or ‘Memory’ to help your child identify these words automatically.
7) A LOVE OF READING – In order for your child to improve at reading, they have to read a lot! And to read a lot, they have to want to read, so the best way you can help them is by trying to instill a passion for reading and amazing literature as early as possible.
How you can help:
- Reading to your child from a very early age provides a comforting, loving feeling associated with reading.
- Make sure you choose GREAT books! There are so many amazing children’s books it’s hard to know where to start but classics such as Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl and The Treehouse Books are all written to inspire a love of reading.
- Hearing books read aloud helps children learn important skills about fluent reading. Discussing books that have you have read aloud will also help develop your child’s comprehension of important aspects such as characters, plot, prediction, summarizing etc.
- Help your child find books they really enjoy. Even if you feel like these books might be too ‘easy’ for them, encourage your child to read these books silently to themselves. You should avoid using these preferred books for explicit reading ‘practice’ such as decoding and fluent reading; they should be kept for pure enjoyment only.
At Inner West Speech Pathology, we use the Spalding ‘Writing Road to Reading’ Approach to literacy development when we are helping our struggling readers. The Spalding Method is a holistic and explicit approach that incorporates all of the above strategies. We find that it provides kids who are struggling with literacy development with a new found confidence for reading and spelling. Feel free to contact us to find out more about how we can help you and your child with more great reading strategies.