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Tips to help children become readers (2)

Two young boys sitting beside Grandma who is pointing to words in a picture book..
Have you ever wondered how children learn to read? Perhaps you struggled with reading at school yourself and don’t know how to help your own child become a reader. We all know that reading is the key to knowledge but reading seems so complicated that we don’t know when or how to begin. Don’t panic, help is at hand. Below are some tips to help children become readers, but first, let’s look at the stages we all pass through to become competent readers.

Firstly there is the “print awareness” stage which means that we realise that written words have meaning that can be understood by many people. Next we realise that speech sounds go with letters. Then we learn the small bits of sounds that make up words (phonemes) usually starting with rhyming words or the sounds at the beginning of a word. Blending sounds to make words and segmenting a word into separate sounds comes next. A big step is to recognise chunks of letter sequences and their sounds. Instruction at this stage includes teaching of silent ‘e’ and various patterns for long vowel sounds. Prefixes and suffixes come next and finally we learn to derive meanings for new words from base words and root words.

Here are some tips to help children become readers:

  1. Read books with your child as often as you can talking about the book cover, how to hold the book, pointing out where you will start reading and teaching the child to turn the pages carefully.
  2. Teach your child the ‘Alphabet Song’ and simple rhyming songs with actions such as ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’, ‘Incy, wincy spider’ or ‘I’m a little teapot’.
  3. Write shopping lists, labels and your child’s name on his / her possessions and point out some of the letters, e.g. This is a ‘J’ for ‘James’.
  4. Play word games such as “I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘mmm’ (not ‘em’ as the sounds of the letters need to be learned first)”. Play rhyming word games e.g. tell me a word that rhymes with ‘rat’ (answers: cat, fat, mat, chat etc)
  5. Teach them the names and sounds of the alphabet letters e.g. For ‘Bb’ say “This is the letter whose name is ‘bee’ and it makes the sound ‘buh’ as in ‘baby’. Teach them the short vowel sounds ‘a’ for ‘apple’, ‘e’ for ‘egg’, ‘i’ for ‘insect’, ‘o’ for ‘orange’ and ‘u’ for ‘umbrella’ before teaching the long vowel sounds.
  6. Play blending word games, e.g “What can I see? I see a ‘c-a-t’. Can you guess what it is?”
  7. Point out words that are repeated over and over again in a book or words that begin with the same letter as the child’s name.
  8. When the child is beginning to read and comes to an unknown word, give clues by asking questions about pictures on the same page, or about the text already read. Draw attention to the beginning letter (or blend) of the word and ask the child to make the sound of that letter. Ask is there a smaller known word in the word e.g. ‘and’ in ‘grand’. Read on to find the meaning of the word. If the word is too difficult, tell the child the word quickly and move on so the meaning is not lost.
  9. When mistakes are made, tell your child that we can all learn from our mistakes, and encourage him / her to try again using the strategies in 7. above.
  10. Show the child that you are pleased with his / her efforts at reading.
  11. Download and read a very helpful pamphlet ‘Empowering Parents: Reading Rockets Parents’ Guide’ from here: accessed 24/02/2017



Reading Rockets: Reading 101: What You Should Know About . . .  accessed 24/02/2017

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