Reading Recovery: Parent Tips

Tips for Parents

When a Child Reads... Your child is learning to read. It's an exciting time and you want to help in any way you can. There are no magic formulas to instantly transform your child into a fluent, effective reader. When your child was learning to walk, he first crawled, then pulled himself up and finally took those first tentative steps. You were thrilled at each and every stage. Readers go through stages too. Some readers put everything together so fast that it is almost impossible to observe each stage of development. Others need to do it step-by-step with support and encouragement during each stage. There are a lot of things you can do to help your beginning reader.
"What Can I do at home to help my child with his reading?" Read! Read! Read! Studies have shown that a child who has been read to grasps the idea early on that print contains a message. Storybooks have a langugae all of their own. So, the more stories that are read to your child, the better for him. Bedtime stories not only provide a world of adventure; they give a child wonderful memories of a sense of closeness with a loved one. Encourage your child to read to you. Ask him to bring books home from school. Have him look at the pictures of a book first and make a prediction about what will happen next. The prediction may not be right, but it helps the reader to get involved in the story. After reading the story, discuss what happened. This helps your child to think about what he is reading. Reading extends beyond storytime. Cereal boxes, store signs, road signs, even those bills in the mail can be a window of opportunity for the young readers.


"My child seems to be memorizing the books he brings home. Is memorizing reading?" Memorizing is an early part of a child's reading development. Think of it as a stage. Toddlers benefit from memorizing nursery rhymes. Beginning readers often match their speech to the printed words in a familiar rhyme. Repeated phrases in more difficult books are easily memorized by the child. This is actually a helpful strategy as the reader can now focus on the changing parts of the story and move quickly through the predictable lines. A child's memory for text builds fluency and helps him read smoothly.


"Why does the teacher encourage my child to point to the words in the book?" Pointing is one of the first strategies a beginning reader can use to check his reading. Teachers sometimes use words like "self-monitoring" to refer to this technique. This simply means that pointing helps to remind your child to really look at the words. Some children do not realize that words convey a message. Pointing helps a child to focus and to notice the details of our written language. As your child develops his reading skills and grows in confidence, you will see him pointing less frequently. He will be able to "point with his eyes." Eventually his eyes will move quickly across the lines of print. Pointing is just another tool to help your child read.


"My child is always looking at the picture and doesn't seem to be really reading. Should I cover the picture?" Experts have learned that good readers check the pictures for clues to the story. That is why the teacher encourages your child to use the pictures for help. Being flexible in gathering information is just another tool to help the child be successful in reading. Covering the pictures would make his search for the correct word or phrase more difficult. Good readers use every available avenue to help them read and understand.


"What are some of the ways I can help my child when he doesn't know a word?" There are many things you can do to help him figure out a word. First of all, help your child before he becomes frustrated. Have your reader check the pictures for clues. Tell him to look at the first letter of the unknown word, say the letter sound and think about what would make sense. His guess should always "sound right" and "make sense." Re-reading is another good way to figure out an unknown word- this allows your child to have another chance to think about the story. If your child is still struggling, simply tell him the word.


"Should I make my child sound out words he doesn't know?" Knowing the sound a letter makes is very important. But if we sounded out every word, reading would be very laborious and not much fun! Today children are introduced to words within the context of a story, not in isolation. Easier stories tend to have a pattern with very supportive pictures and are perfect materials for phonetic practice. For example, in the book "The Cat Who Loved Red," the text reads, "She loved to play with a ball of red yarn." Using this book, a teacher might ask the child what letter she expects to see at the beginning and at the end of the word "red." In this way, the letter-sound identification is reinforced for the early reader within the task of reading a real book. Knowing how to use beginning and ending sounds, as well as the context of the story and the picture, prevents your child from needing to "sound out" every word. Remember that phonetic skills is another one of the many tools a reader uses. To practice letter-sound identification, use alphabet books or flash cards with a letter and a corresponding picture. As books become more difficult, the reader uses many phonetic strategies. This could be searching through a word, using word patterns, or prefixes and suffixes. You'll see your reader grow and use many different strategies.


When a Child Reads... There are a lot of things you can do to help your beginning reader. Remember, reading should always be fun-so relax and enjoy! A frustrated reader is a reader who is not going to take the necessary risks to improve her skills. A reader is like an athlete. The more a child reads, the better her reading becomes.

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