It’s a common assumption that children need a qualified teacher and a systematic reading scheme in order for them to learn to read. This isn’t strictly true as many children actually start reading at home before they even come into contact with a guided approach through parental encouragement and support.
Each child has their own ‘reading readiness’; that period of time when other developmental factors are strong enough to allow them to begin reading. And there are no short cuts via reading schemes that will push a child not yet at that stage. It’s never a good idea to force kids to read.
But parents can have an impact on their children’s reading success, both at the outset and as they progress. Here are five tips to keep in mind:
– The activity that has the biggest impact on your child’s reading success is being read to. Being read to gives the child a demonstration of how reading works, what words do, how intonation sounds and how it means something. But even better than that, it’s a way of establishing a pleasure in reading, an essential element in them wanting them to do it for themselves. It’s important to continue to read to them as long as they want it. And not spoil it by asking them to read – unless they want to.
– The second biggest influence comes from your attitude. Your attitude to reading and books/eBooks influences their attitude. If your attitude towards reading is a positive encouraging one, that reading is something you enjoy, that reading is something that gives not only pleasure but value too, then that’s the attitude they will copy, valuing it for themselves.
– All reading matter counts as valuable reading. It really doesn’t matter what is read; picture books, non-fiction, comics, magazines, online, the back of the cereal packet, side of the bus, whatever, it is all valuable practise. It’s not what you read that matters, it’s that they do. There are opportunities for daily reading around us all the time. But avoid making it a chore. A game is just as good.
– Interaction through gaming, networking, using the computer and texting are all valuable uses of language which develop reading skills. Reading on a tablet is as valuable as reading a reading book. So is messaging or any language use on the computer. The more formats of reading material they come across and use the better.
– Keep the pressure off! As soon as it becomes a chore or a pressure then we need to back off. This is more difficult in a school situation than home educating for example. But most children read eventually. Some when they’re tiny. Some not until they’re teens! Children should be allowed to progress in line with their needs. If they seem to be finding it incredibly puzzling, yet are bright in other aspects of their development, you might like to explore the likelihood of Dyslexia.
One final point; most children want to read. Why would they not? Adults read; they want to be like adults, they want access to adult things (like phones). So children set out with a desire to read. We need use it and be careful not to do anything to put them off!