For an ‘untrained’ parent, hearing your child read can be a very frustrating experience.
Reading with your child at home can easily become very stressful if it is not handled correctly. It can cause great frustration if you feel that your child is not learning to read as fast as you expect, or if you have discovered that your child is dyslexic. This article will set out some guidelines which have proved extremely helpful to many parents.
The first point is to realize that reading a book together must be for pleasure, and is not the time to be stopping over difficult words and trying to work out what they say from the sounds of the letters.
If your child cannot read a word within a second or two then use the Golden Rule: just tell them the word and move on with the story. This goes against most parents’ instincts, but is the only way for the two of you to get on with the book and enjoy the story. When you read the book again the following evening, you will find that your child remembers more of the ‘difficult’ words you had to supply, and will improve each evening. The important thing is that your child is learning to be confident that you will always tell them a word which they do not know, and can trust that reading with you will be a pleasurable experience.
Unfortunately, the alternative scenario is all too well-known to us all: your child sees a difficult word, tenses up and makes a frantic effort to work it out. Meanwhile, you also tense up, feeling that your child will never learn to read!
Because of the history of the English spelling system, which has grown from lots of different sources, many words are impossible to work out from the sounds of their letters.
‘Cat’ is straightforward, as are ‘log’, ‘hit’, and ‘get’. But what about words like ‘though’? The spelling has no resemblance to the actual word that we say, and no-one can possibly know what the word says unless they are told. No-one can work out how to read words like ‘said’, ‘early’, ‘was’, ‘phone’ and thousands more from the sounds of their letters. Unfortunately we have inherited a highly irregular spelling system which we are stuck with!
However, with the growing confidence that you will always tell them a word they do not know, children do learn to read. You will notice them using other clues, like the pictures on the page, or guesses from the meaning of the sentence, and it is good to encourage them to use these clues. Provided that they have the opportunity to go over the same book on different evenings, they will gradually come to learn the new words in it, and to enjoy the story – which is what reading is all about!
Another simple method to make things easier is to share the reading with your child: read one sentence each (while still coming in straight away with any difficult words for your child). This will teach your child to look out for the next period/full stop, and will help them get an idea of what a sentence is.
Repetition of the same phrases also helps tremendously in the early stages, when your child knows that the same sentence will be repeated at each stage of the story.
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