Tuesday, October 19

8 Simple Tips To Help Your Child Read...

As a teacher of over 20 years (Dip Ed, Bachelor of Ed, and specialising in the area of Reading Recovery), the profound importance of learning to read is something I'm accutely aware of.  I wrote an article around 7 years ago (when I was still teaching full time as well as copywriting) about how to help your child read, and inspired by my book post from a few days ago, I decided to dig it out and reprint most of it here!

Books and reading should be a part of every happy home in my opinion, and parents need to give them the attention they deserve. Here's an extract from my article....


...Take away the skill of reading and not only books become a mysterious and foreign world, but reading train timetables, ordering from a menu, understanding bank statements, and any number of straightforward daily activities become virtually impossible.

If your child is struggling to read, the effects of their problem can reach into adulthood, be humiliating, and extremely limiting.

The world of a non reader is a mixed up place where only those who know the ‘secret code’ can decipher the strange symbols around them and fully participate.

At times a sad, lonely, and stressful place indeed.

The time to catch your child’s reading problems and support them in their quest to become a confident and capable life long reader is during Primary School. Preferably before they reach Grade 3.

Your school will be monitoring your child’s progress and implementing a detailed plan to improve their reading skills and strategies. But, if you’re worried that the school is not, then an appointment with the teacher is a must to thoroughly explore your concerns and issues.

Do not put this off!

Encouraging your school age child or children whilst they’re young is vital, and there are some things you can do at home to complement and support your school’s efforts.

Here are 8 simple ways to help your child if reading is a struggle for them:

1. Make your reading time a regular activity at a specific time each day. Children love structure and will look forward to the closeness and bonding this time brings.

For some children this may be the only intimate one-on-one time they get to spend with a parent on a regular basis. Making reading together a special time for just the two of you only takes 10 or 15 minutes a day, and the rewards are tremendous.

2. Vary how you structure your reading time together. Don’t always expect your child to read to you. Read to them sometimes. Take turns reading. Read out loud together! Make sure it’s a stress free and enjoyable time together.

3. Use the 3 P’s..... 'Pause', 'prompt', and 'praise'.

Pause when your child comes to a word they don’t know. Don’t jump in straight away by telling them the word or getting them to 'sound it out'. Let them think and try various strategies (such as re-reading the line of text) to solve the word.

Prompt your child if they haven’t answered after about 10 seconds. Say ‘Make your mouth say the first sound’. ‘What word would make sense there?’ Or, ‘Can you tell me what word would sound right there?’

Only sound out the word if it can be effectively sounded out. (Better yet, leave the spelling strategies to their classroom teacher, as you may unknowingly do more harm than good in this area.)

If your child doesn’t get the word after a couple of prompts or an attempt at 'sounding out', tell them the word straight away. You want to avoid feelings of failure, plus make sure they get on with the book while they can still remember what the story is about.

Home reading sessions are NOT for the teaching of reading (that's your school's job), they are for reinforcement, practise, and enjoyment. The book should not be too difficult or tricky, and the aim should be to nurture a love of reading, and grow their self confidence in their reading ability.

Praise your child for their efforts. Say something like ‘Well done, you made it look and sound right’. Or, ‘Well done, you used the first sound to help you figure out the rest of the word’. If they didn’t get the word, simply praise them for trying their best… ‘That was a great try - well done‘. Be as specific as possible whenever you can.

At the end of a page or the story you could make a comment like 'Wow, you read that book so smoothly, and I loved the way you made each character sound different.'

4. Not every word has to be right. Refrain from picking on every single error unless you want to make your child feel inadequate and fearful of making too many mistakes. This will contribute to a negative attitude towards reading and make their progress even slower.

If your child is gaining the overall meaning from the story or text, then they are achieving the major goal of reading - to decipher words and receive a message.

5. Talk, talk, talk….. Ask your child to retell their favourite part of the book in their own words. Talk about what they would do if they were a person from the book. Talk about the way the characters in the book felt and why they felt like that. Talk about interesting words from the book and what they mean. This will help increase your child’s level of comprehension.

6. Be seen to be a reader. It’s surprising how many kids never see their own parents reading a book. A newspaper yes - but not a book! Kids are the greatest mimics in the world, and they especially love to copy their mum or dad.

Sit down and read your own separate books at the same time. Share parts of your books with one another by reading them out loud and telling why you chose that part. Make it obvious that reading is something you personally value and think is worthwhile.

7. Don’t cover up the pictures!


E-V-E-R. (Consider that to be 'web-shouting'.... with a megaphone.... whilst standing on a soapbox.)

Many well intentioned parents do this, and it's actually one of the worst things you can do when trying to encourage a child to develop excellent reading strategies.

Using pictures is one of the ways children gather information to support their use of sound, letter, and word knowledge. Pictures support the meaning of a story and provide a context to help children solve unknown words.

Picture story books have pictures for a reason. Many times the text doesn’t make sense without the pictures, and asking your child to read it without looking at the pictures will often feel like trickery to them.

8. Last but definitely not least - make reading fun! The last thing it needs to be is a chore. You can‘t blame any child for being unwilling if something is hard AND a bore. Take-home books from school should not be overly difficult (when chosen correctly for home reading), and should encourage and support the continued practise of reading skills.

Hopefully you have lots of books to choose from at home too! Find books about topics your child is interested in. Read craft books and make things. Get out a cookbook and follow a recipe. Get out the words to favourite songs and follow along. Create a treasure hunt with lots of clues to read…. anything that makes reading something to look forward to.

Make your reading time together regular, interesting, stress free, and fun. Your child will benefit, and so might you!

Happy reading!

Linda. xox


More - Here's a very interesting excerpt from an aricle about the advantages of having a home library for your children. (And it's got one of my most favourite pictures ever!): A Home Library's Educational Edge


Let's talk on Twitter!
Straight from me to YOU - subscribe!
New to Heartfire At Home? Start here.
And if, perchance, you BELIEVE.... join here.



  1. Reading is so much important for every aspect of our lives. We can either relax or gather informations and knowledge, and I believe knowledge can cure most problems. I was lucky enough to be born in a family of heavy readers, and seeing all these people around my hous sitting with a book in their hands lilke it was the most natural thing on earth made me eager to learn and start reading myself. I've learned how to read basically on my own when I was four: my mom was always reading to me and I asked what letters those were, and slowly began to put together entire phrases. She worked in a magazine as an editor and AD, so we had every book we could possibly want. I really get mad when i see people who find every excuse to avoid reading. Also, I stay away from them. People who don't love books have something missing in their brain. Great post!!!

  2. p.s
    and I am dyslexic...

  3. linda - a brilliant post - thanks for sharing your experience.

    can i ask - do you have any tips for good readers ?

    we (and not just our family) are finding that the school is not providing enough acceloration for kids that are reading very competantly. we are trying hard at home, but lack the skills (and info) to direct even better reading.

    maintaining the mediocre seems to be a priority at class, and many of the kids are getting bored.

  4. Bobbi, I take my hat off to you. I so admire people with dyslexia who work hard at their reading and develop strategies to help them figure out unknown words and text.

    I've worked with young dyslexic children as part of my Reading Recovery sessions, and find once they are aware of their challenges and how it can effect their reading, they also monitor themselves and know when they have to use a certain strategy to help themselves out. It doesn't mean they get every word right, and spelling is really tricky for most, but they do get the meaning from the text and they can be a 'literate' member of society. Good on you for persisting. And, you're a writer now!! I love the things you write on your blog... beautifully worded. I admire you very much.

    Lee, of course I don't mind. A few questions in return though (hope you don't mind). What age group or grade are we talking about here (in general)? A few things would differ advice wise depending on this. Are you meaning that they're reading well within their age level, (ie when reading texts generally accepted as at their age level they read well), or are they reading books considered to be well above their age?

    Eg. Are they borrowing books from outside of school... from the library, or friends, or reading some of yours, that are beyond other kids their age? Or are we talking about them being fab at the general 'take-home' books (classically known as the 'reader') that comes home from school, and are aimed at their general age?

    And, (sorry about all this), do you know if the books they bring home are levelled? If they are in Grade 1 or 2, I'd expect them to be bringing home books anywhere in the range of levels 5 to 30. We expect our Grade 1s to be reading at level 15 by the end of Grade 1, and our Grade 2s to be reading at least level 20 by the time the end Grade 2 (preferably around level 25).

    After level 30, books are generally unlevelled number wise (but there are other 'teacherfied' ways we level them - lol).

    The type of reading instruction used within the classroom should also change during Grade 3 and 4... sometimes in Grade 2 if the class or a group of children demand this. It should be delving much, much more into the comprehension and inferential meaning of texts if appropriate for those readers. There are specific classroom small group teaching methods (very targeted teaching) to facilitate this (and it sounds like your school is not).

    I thought I'd post all this here in case others with kids in primary school are interested, but am also happy to email you with a more private response once we get going!

    Let me know a few of the details above, and I'll get back to you with some ideas (and maybe some questions to ask the school and get them 'on their toes'!) :)

    *Please note: I'm referring to practises and standards used in Aussie schools (and specifically Victorian), although I know that Reading Recovery book levels are used overseas as well.

    Linda. xx

  5. Thank you so much, Linda. I'm stubborn, that's my secret. And I wasn't diagnosed until I was 12, until that time I was always told to be distracted and lazy (!!), and I knew it' wasn't true. My biggest problems were with numbers. My very own method consisted in reading out lout, especially while sitting in the bathroom, eh eh. Reading silently in my mind I was very fast, but reading out loud I just couldn't follow the order of letters and words. Now that one is almost completly gone, it happens sometimes when I type, while I still have a few problems with numbers. Bur I know it so I pay attention. And Einstein was dyslexic too, so...

  6. A dash of stubborness always helps!! Isn't interesting how reading out aloud is different to reading in your head!

    I've often used the Einstein example with kids who knew who he was... it's really important they understand dyslexia has absolutely nothing to do with how smart you are.... Einstein was a genius! It's so vital to keep self esteem as high as possible within the children.

  7. I agree. This is a great post. Very thought-provoking. I love books so no problem with finding me with a book in hand. And my kids love books, though they are only three and five years old, so I sometimes worry about what else I should be doing to continue encouraging them, beyond reading to them often and providing them with plenty of books (mainly from thrifts, some new and our weekly trips to the library). We easily own more than 500 kids' books and have read 90 percent of them. We read together all the time throughout the day. I am building up a nature library and have a good sized shelf of craft books that we read from and do activities.

    I think they get the idea that books are indispensable for now, but I worry about the incursion of popular culture, ie. video games, TV and computer activities, as they get older. So far, I've resisted all these activities completely, but worry about influences from school and kids they meet there who all seem to be playing video/computer games even at five years old! Oh, I've gotten carried away here, but obviously you've touched upon such a vitally important topic.

  8. Thanks heaps for suring all your experience in this post! Our first born found reading very challenging. He is now much more confident and takes a lot of pride in his writing now though! Yay for him! And Yay to all wonderful teachers like yourself!
    I'm going to have a listen to Irene Cara now:)
    Have a wonderful day I hope. xo

  9. Wow Minnie, that's lots of books - how marvellous! The main thing any parent can do is the 3 biggies of reading....

    1. Listen to your child read
    2. Read WITH your child (take turns etc)
    3. Read TO your child

    Do those 3 things, and you're well on the way to providing the perfect reading environment!

    Sounds like you are doing an absolutely amazing job... I wish more parents were as cognizant of reading and it's place in the home as you are!!!

    So glad your first born is doing well with reading now Nerine, and great to have you back in blog land after your busy exhibition time!! Your exhibition paintings are divine. :)

    Linda. xox

  10. Great post Linda.

    I usually buy books as presents for my nieces (3.5 yo and 2.5 yo) and nephew (1yo) and also all my friends' children. My sister has read at least one story to her children every night since they were born. Reading was always highly encouraged in our family. One thing my mother emphasised was always to look up any word we did not understand and then to use the word in a sentence as a way of learning and retaining the meaning of it. She also did this herself in an effort to expand her English language skills.

    One resource I find invaluable, especially for reviews of literature for children, is Good Reading magazine.


    Sandy K

  11. Thanks for the advice, Linda. I will keep these tips in mind as my kids get older. My five-year-old son is learning to read now and it so exciting. My youngest "reads" to herself after having a book read to her numerous times and she remembers an amazing amount. I must say though that I have my first parent-teacher conference next week and am a little nervous.


I'm very grateful for your participation.

Until next time may your home be full of lots of love, laughter, and life!

Linda. xx

Related Posts with Thumbnails