Last week I shared with you Top 10 Tips for Helping Your Child Learn How to Read. While it is not essential that a child begins school with the ability to read, it is beneficial to lay the foundations in order to set them up for reading success. If you haven’t read my previous tips, make sure to check them out here. Otherwise… continue on to discover 10 MORE tips to help your child learn to read.
1. Sing songs and rhymes.
Singing songs and rhymes is a great strategy to help your child develop pre-reading skills, assisting in the development of phonological awareness. Broadly speaking, phonological awareness refers to the understanding of words, rhymes and syllables, as well as being able to segment and manipulate sounds in words. Singing songs and rhymes helps with your child’s understanding of traditional speech and language patterns and also introduces new vocabulary. It reinforces memory skills and helps children develop their ability to predict, which is an important reading strategy.
2. Short sessions for short attention spans.
The younger the child, the shorter their attention span. Don’t be too disheartened if your child won’t sit still long enough for you to finish a book from cover to cover. The older they get, the longer they will be able to focus. In the meantime, keep sessions short. With sessions being short, the key is to read more frequently.
3. Expand your child's vocabulary.
Don’t shy away from using big words around children. Rephrase challenging words as you come across them and then reinforce the meaning. For example, you might say to your child, “The boy was sprinting. So, that means he was running really fast. He was sprinting”. Or, “I really like how you were so compassionate. That means you were really kind and caring. You were compassionate.” Use words that children already know and understand to make a connection to new words.
4. Become a grammar enthusiast.
Correct your child’s grammar. This is crucial when it comes to reading. An important reading skill is to be able to recognise when something doesn’t sound right. If your child is going uncorrected and constantly using grammatically incorrect sentences, then they will not be able to self-correct their own reading, as they will not be able to identify that there is a problem. During the reading process, readers should constantly be asking themselves, “Does it sound right?” If they are constantly using grammatically incorrect sentences, then to them, “yes, it does”… eek… Please don’t worry that they will be offended with you constantly correcting them. It’s not in their developmental nature. The video clip below shows my preschooler reading his Wonderbly story book (read the next tip for more information about Wonderbly). You can see that when he makes a mistake, he is able to ‘self-correct’. He realises that something doesn’t sound right, so he goes back and fixes his mistake. This is when we know that children are making meaning out of the text, rather than simply decoding words.
5. Purchase a personalised book.
Children are egocentric beings, which is a very normal stage of child development. Egocentrism refers to only seeing things from one’s own point of view. In other words, it’s all about them! This is why children love to hear stories about themselves. There are many books available on the market that allows you to personalise the story with your own child’s details (such as name, age, siblings/friends etc.) and choose a character to represent their likeness. This is also a great gift idea to suggest to family and friends when Christmas and birthdays come around.
Wonderbly is my top pick for personalised story books (the video clip above is of my preschooler reading his favourite Wonderbly book). They have a collection of 16 titles; all with positive and uplifting storylines, designed to inspire every chapter of your child’s life. As a bonus, if you click through the link below, you can grab a 20% discount on your first Wonderbly order.
6. Create your child's own personalised storybook/s.
This can be done using online photo book-creating software. What you do is upload your photographs, arrange the layout and input text to create beautiful stories centred on your child. I generally create these types of storybooks as a ‘holiday memento’, which my preschooler loves to revisit on a regular basis. Alternatively, you can create a much simpler version by printing off photos and pasting them into a scrapbook, accompanied by some handwritten text. Furthermore, if you go about this as a shared activity, it reinforces the idea that reading and writing go hand-in-hand and are intrinsically connected.
7. Model working out challenging words.
We’ve all come across a challenging or unfamiliar word. In reality, we are only taking an educated guess as to its pronunciation based on our own understanding of language rules and conventions. If we’ve never actually heard the word before (for example, it might be an unfamiliar cultural name that isn’t spelt phonetically), then we may in fact, be saying it wrong. And that’s ok. Tell your child. Show them that even as an adult, you are a learner too. Say that you are thinking about the word, trying to sound it out, questioning if it sounds right and guessing as best you can.
8. Use/create flashcards.
Using flash cards can be useful in helping children to learn high frequency words and sight words. High frequency words are those that appear most frequently in written text (for example the, and, of, said). Sight words are words that are encouraged to be recognised instantly as a whole, which is particularly useful for words (such as one) that can’t be phonetically sounded-out.
9. Do a word/letter hunt.
Reinforce letters and words by having your child ‘hunt’ for them in a book. You could even make it fun and engaging by giving them a magnifying glass as a prop for the search.
10. Realise that not all words can be worked out 'phonetically'.
When children have a basic understanding of letter sounds, they rely heavily on sounding words out phonetically. What this means is that the letter sounds can be joined together to pronounce the word, for example, “c-a-t says cat”. Whilst this is generally the most commonly utilised reading strategy, it is important to realise that this strategy does not work for many words and may be a stumbling block for your child. Take the word one, for example. Sounding it out phonetically would get you ‘oh-n-ee’. If it were written phonetically, it would be written ‘w-u-n’. Children can get disheartened when words they are trying to read don’t fit the ‘rules’. So it’s best to constantly remind children that letters make different sounds depending on the words they are in. Confusing, I know!
At the end of the day, you should not be concerned if your child is not able to read, prior to school. Instead, use shared reading time with your little one as a bonding experience for you both; engaging them with quality texts and focusing on igniting their passion for learning whilst sparking their imagination and creativity.
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