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Issue No 21

RocketReader Newsletter - Top 10 Tips for Helping Children to Learn to Read

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As parents, we want our children to read well because we know that reading is the key to future success. Reading well enables children to succeed at school, college and in their careers. Reading is an acquired skill, requiring patience, practice and persistence. So, as parents, how can we help? Listed below are ten practical things we can do to help our children become independent and confident readers.
  1. Read together every day
  2. Select appropriate materials
  3. Praise your child's reading
  4. Model reading aloud
  5. Allow time for self correction
  6. Check for comprehension
  7. Have fun with reading
  8. Use reading opportunities
  9. Build and use a collection of favorite stories
  10. Develop your child's vocabulary

Read together every day

mother teaching son to read Every day, spend time reading with your child - read to them and let them to read to you. This is more productive than having a single marathon session on the weekend. Be guided by the age, concentration and energy of your child as to the amount of time spent. You may need to adjust the length of the sessions each day.

Most children like routine - so, make reading part of their daily routine. Have a regular time when you read together such as before bedtime on weeknights and in the mornings on weekends.

Select appropriate reading materials

There are two parts to this - choosing material for them to read to you and for you to read to them. When choosing reading material for your child to read aloud, select material that is appropriate for his or her level of ability. If they are given something too difficult, they will quickly become discouraged and lose confidence. Build their confidence and enable them to succeed by selecting the right material.

If your child is just starting out, look for graded books which use a few simple words with repetition and picture cues. As your child's reading develops, progress through the graded books. These books gradually increase in complexity and advance to text with more complex sentences, chapters and vocabulary. Graded materials are available through schools, libraries and on the internet.

When reading to your child, read widely from a range of resources - stories, non-fiction, snippets from newspaper and jokes. Your child will be fully engaged if you choose material that is fun or interesting. Tap into your child's interests. For example, if your child is fascinated by a particular character or series e.g. Scooby Doo, borrow or collect and read books about Scooby Doo.

Praise your child's reading

father and son reading Boost your child's reading confidence by praising his or her achievements. Recognize your child when they read well and when they try hard. Congratulate your child if he or she decodes a word by sounding it out or recognizes a word the next time. Encourage reading by giving regular praise. Use stickers as a reward from time to time and recognize special reading achievements with treats, fun excursions or small gifts.

Model reading aloud

Start by discussing the book. Look at the front and back of the book. Read and talk about the title and the blurb. Your child now has an outline of the story. Read a sentence to your child, so they become familiar with the pattern and fluency of the text. Then ask your child to read the sentence back to you. Progress through the book using this method. As your child becomes more proficient at reading, you can read the whole book and then ask your child to read it. If the text is more complex, gradually increase the length of the passages you read. Build up your child's stamina by increasing from sentences to paragraphs to pages to chapters.

If your child is easily distracted, ensure that your child holds the book so he or she can only see one page at a time.

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Allow time for self correction

girl reading If your child makes a mistake, don't correct them immediately. Give your child every opportunity to self correct. Prompt your child by holding your finger under the word. If your child does not say the word after a few seconds, say the word.

Assist your child to decipher words by giving them clues when necessary. Ask questions referring to the picture cues e.g. 'What is the boy holding?' or compare the word with a word they know e.g. 'it rhymes with cat.' Ask your child 'Does that make sense? What word would make sense?' Your child might also be able to decipher a tricky word if he or she reads to the end of the sentence.

Check for comprehension

Discuss the story at the end. Ask your child 'What did you like about the book?' Ask questions about the content of the story. Make comparisons and let your child make comparisons, 'that's like..' Your child is more likely to identify with the story if he or she can compare it to something familiar.

Have fun with reading

Make reading fun! Choose engaging texts and use different mediums such as books, magazines, the internet, computer programs and interesting photographs and snippets from the newspaper. Read with enthusiasm and do the voices. If the text is - "'Be quiet' she whispered", whisper the words 'Be quiet'. Allow toys to participate in reading by letting the toys take turns at reading. If toys become a distraction, remove them. Play reading related games, such as 'I Spy' and rhyming and spelling games. Use time spent travelling in the car to play such games. When friends come to play, read a story to the children about characters they like and you might find that they incorporate the story into their play later.

Use reading opportunities

Words are everywhere - on signs, at the supermarket, on packages, on TV. Use these as reading practice. Your child will quickly learn that words have a practical purpose. Looking at the back cover of a DVD or navigating through a computer game can motivate a child to read.

Build and use a collection of favourite stories

Collect stories that you can read and reread. Books with collections of stories can be used again and again. Book series are useful, as your child can collect the whole series. Select book series about characters your child likes. Your child will enjoy building a collection and seeing his or her collection grow. Ordering and sorting is a powerful mechanism of learning. Your child will also enjoy hearing those stories read again and again as your child knows what happens next. Read favorite stories regularly to build your child's confidence. As your child's reading improves he or she will be able to read some of these stories to you.

Develop your child's vocabulary

girl in pigtails reading Focus on common words first, as knowing these help improve reading fluency. There are also books and resources on the internet which list common words.

Use a rich and varied vocabulary. Use words from stories you have read, so your child learns how to use those words in conversation.

If you have concerns about your child's reading

Talk to your child's health care providers and, if your child is in school, talk to your child's teacher. Your child may need more time or may need extra help. Don't delay - if extra help is required, early intervention is best.

Further Information

If you would like to read further or compare other lists, please consult the reference section below or do some quick searching on the internet.


National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Retrieved May 23rd 2007 from /publications/nrp/smallbook.cfm

National Institute for Literacy Put Reading First: Helping Your Child to Learn to Read Retrieved May 23rd 2007 from partnershipforreading/publications/ reading_first2.html

Top Ten List to Get Children "On the Road to Reading". Retrieved May 23rd 2007 from Literacy/Top%20Ten%20Reading%20Tips.pdf

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Reading Tips: ‘…Especially when children are young, engendering in them a sense of curiosity about words is important.…’  read article