To me the process of helping kids learn to read, as a parent, is both amazing and down right torturous. It is amazing seeing the development and progress sometimes on a daily basis as they connect the dots and work out the code of the English language, but hearing them read is often torturous at the start as you tend to feel like there is no progress and the books are just deathly dull – Chip, Biff and Kipper and their blasted magic key regularly send me over the edge.
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Hearing them read when they are struggling
At the beginning almost all children seem to find it hard to make the connection between the sounds they have learnt. Both my sons could identify and say all their sounds fairly quickly and so could sound out the words in the books, but they could not blend them together. The whole process of helping kids learn to read can be extremely frustrating. When you don’t feel like any progress is being made the whole thing can become a battleground. Kids don’t want to do things that they are struggling with – who does? … and parents don’t want to see their kids struggle. Our inclination is to practise more, spend more time on it, but the child doesn’t necessarily want to and so tension mounts.
These 10 ways you can help your kids learn to read will change this dynamic. It definitely has in my household where I have one very reluctant reader. Read on to hear about how we have removed the stress from learning to read and found ways to make the process enjoyable.
Teacher suggestions for Helping Kids Learn to Read
- Little and often works best – you don’t have to read the complete book how ever short it is. Doing a little bit of reading everyday is better than creating a struggle where they have to read a lot on one particular session
- Cover the pictures – this may be specific to my son, but he looks at the pictures and just guesses the words so that he doesn’t have to sound them out. I don’t keep the pictures covered the whole time as using the pictures to decipher the text and associate words is really valuable. However, I do cover them sometimes just to encourage sounding out.
- Help more – When helping kids learn to read I was trying to encourage my children to sound out all of the words, but my children’s teacher advised that this isn’t always the best way. Her suggestion was that allowing them to struggle to sound out can damage that confidence so now I ask my children to try to sound out words that they don’t know, but if they are finding it tough I help. That way we don’t lose the sense of the text.
- Take it in turns – To enable us to move through the text more quickly and allow the child to enjoy the story as well as practise their reading. After all helping kids learn to read isn’t just about the sounds. They also need to understand the text and develop an enjoyment of reading which is tricky if you are struggling over every word. I do things like reading most of the sentence say and get the child to sound out and blend just a couple of words so that they start to build that confidence and from there we can expand.
- Let them practice combining sounds to make words – we have all the sounds cut out and laminated and so that my children can move them around on the table to spell out words. The rule is they can spell whatever they like so off course we spend a lot of time making words like bum and poo! Perhaps not ideal, but Ill take any spelling at this stage. Every little helps doesn’t it?
Other ways I have tried to help
I have definitely found my children’s teacher’s advice helpful. It has made hearing them read easier and helping kids to learn to read less of a battle. I am not forcing them to read loads every night and so stressing us all out. We just do a little bit everyday. That way my kids can focus more easily and I then don’t get irritated because they are moaning about having to read. I have also tried a few other things which have worked for us:
- We don’t always read the book in order as I have found that kids memorise the sentences pretty quickly and know what is coming next. That doesn’t really help them to progress and crack the code so although we do read the whole story I also pick out a random page and just choose a couple of words for us to read before moving onto another page. This helps to check that they are actually reading. It is important to read the whole thing as well though
- I ask the children to retell the story to me in their own words. This is more about checking their understanding, but that is part of reading and enjoyment of reading so I think it is important and I have found is best done with the early reader or beginners books as the stories are simple to easy to remember and sequence for young children
- I also read my children other books which they will find more interesting than the beginners books in the hopes that I will a) begin to foster a love for reading in them b) help them to expand their vocabulary and learn some other words. I have focused on finding books that will make them laugh and are a bit cheeky so that it engages their naughty sides and love of all things silly.
- Encourage them to have a go – When I am reading other books if I come across a word I think they will know or be able to sound out I ask them to do it so that I can continue to build that confidence
- We use the Reading with Phonics app which is great for getting them to have fun whilst learning and most kids love an electronic device so it can be easier to get them to get involved and practice using an app.
Hearing them read as they get older
I know that hearing them read is very important and so although I have a lot going on (and so do they) we do read together every day even with my 7 year old who can read really well. He sometimes resists as he just wants to go off and read his Famous Five book by himself, but I do always get him to at least read some aloud to me so that I can check he actually gets what he is reading. I also try to read some to him as well as it is tough when you are learning to get the intonation right so I want him to hear how I would read it. It is also just a special bit of time together and when you have 4 littles they crave that 1:1 attention. I am only one of two, but still some of my fondest memories of my childhood are my father reading the Famous Five to us and doing all the characters voices.
My two preschoolers just love books so reading to them is a daily occurrence. In fact right now they are fighting over a book despite the fact we have loads. They have a list of favourites which we read all the time and we also regularly go to story time at our local play centre where fab actresses read the stories in a much better and more exciting way than I can.
If you have any tips for helping kids learn to read or for making hearing them read be enjoyable for them and you then I would really love to hear them.