Children Learning To Read: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly!

Children Learning To Read: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly!

If children groan and grumble when having to read with you or anyone else you might want to reflect on these strategies and think about how you approach ‘reading time’.  

The best things you can do when helping a child learn to read.

  • Devote time to it. Make it a quality experience. Show your own interest and pleasure.
  • Talk about both your responses to text.
  • Respect the text as the teacher. You are a co-reader able to offer sensitive support.
  • Provide quality stories. Rhyme, rhythm, pattern good for beginning readers, and books that read aloud well, have a narrative flow and use natural language rhythms.
  • Allow children to choose the text.
  • Let children construct a narrative from the sequence of pictures.
  • Offer to read the whole text to the child.
  • Be prepared to share the reading (one page each!)
  • Read with (in unison) – drop out – rejoin when necessary.
  • Accept memorizing of the text.
  • Encourage all strategies. These include:
    • Predicting,
    • Self-monitoring,
    • Self-correcting
    • Reading on,
    • Reading back,
    • Re-runs.
  • Encourage children to use (‘orchestrate’) the following cueing systems:
    • Semantic (meaning & context),
    • Syntactic (knowledge of grammatical construction of language),
    • Grapho-phonic (sound-symbol relationships).

Some of these sound rather technical. But fear not! For more information on these strategies – what they are and what they mean please visit here and all shall be revealed in simple language.

  • Allow for some errors/miscues – and give time for child to self-correct.
  • Return to miscues later – at the end of a page or chapter. Make a contextual or a phonetic point. (to draw attention to context or phonics.)

The absolute worst things you can do when helping a child learn to read.

  • Rush the experience.
  • Ask children to read text they haven’t chosen for themselves.
  • Control the reading.
  • Focus only on the text!
  • Insist on 100% accuracy in word-reading.
  • Correct errors immediately – stopping the child’s ‘flow’ or enjoyment of the text.
  • Ask child to read a text ‘cold’, with no setting up of the story.
  • Leave no time for discussion of response.
  • Think in deficit terms.

Let me expand on what constitutes ‘thinking in deficit terms’. Here is a genuine comment made by a teacher in a child’s home/school book:

“A. still not looking at more than initial sound. Only using picture cues. Trouble with decoding. Struggled with text.”

Yet A was; using pictures to make sense of the story & creating a plausible text. Showed great pleasure and enthusiasm, appreciated humour, wanted to discuss the story, was happy to “re-think” and correct self. Behaving as a reader, but needed help to focus more on print.

Think about what is happening as well as what isn’t.

What are early readers doing which you might not have noticed?

  • Making meaning, constructing narrative from the pictures,
  • Responding; finding pleasure; beginning to be reflective,
  • Showing they know how a story goes (understanding narrative structure),
  • Understanding the function of ‘print’,
  • Using a range of the strategies mentioned above,
  • Wanting to talk to you about the text!
  • Developing a sense of self and personality as a reader.

These are all things you can comment on in children’s reading records, to their parents and most importantly to the child. Make sure TA’s know that they can spot these things when they read with children too. For a guide on how to comment in children’s reading records click here.

The Four Week Reading Programme

The 4-Week Reading Programme

A project carried out several times in one primary school by two SENCOs. Hard work, but very rewarding!

Why did it come about? The two teachers felt they wanted to inform parents more about their children’s reading and to involve them more meaningfully beyond the customary comment in the home school reading record book.

They were also attracted by the idea of carrying out a small piece of action research and by the possibility of enriching the reading experience for both parents and children.

The Aims: To see if regular reading sessions at home with a parent (every night for 4 weeks, day off on Sunday) would have an impact on children’s motivation, attitudes and possibly, performance.

The Participants: 12 children of different ages took part in each programme – some who were finding reading difficult, and some who read well but were not turning to books as a source of pleasure.

What Was Done:

  • Publicity posters put up in school
  • Children & staff briefed
  • Parents invited to attend meeting (100% did)
  • Aims explained; “best way to read” discussed i.e maintain interest of story, encourage and allow time to use all strategies, give word if necessary to keep the ‘flow’. Learn when to join in, when to hold back
  • Short video shown of SENCOs reading with children.

The Materials

  • Small booklet for record-keeping spaces for date, title and parent/child comment, for each family.
  • Book-baskets with variety of texts to suit 12 children of different abilities and tastes. Children changed books as often as they wished. Contents changed every week.

Evaluation

At the end of week 4, parents and children wrote a final reflection on the experience. Comments were invariably positive; all parents spoke of shared enjoyment and many reported increased fluency.

It seems therefore, that there is something special for a child in being in the ‘spotlight’ for a limited time, and that this may raise the quality of the reading.

The parents involved were 100% enthusiastic and supportive throughout. The SENCOs wrote up the project and it attracted considerable local interest at the time.

And finally… other children queued up to join in!

To contact me about setting up The 4 Week Reading Programme for children in your school. You can contact me here.

Reading Record-keeping: How Are You Doing It?

Reading Record-keeping: How Are You Doing It?

Struggling with what to write in reading record books?

For an immediate comment to be made in the home/school reading record book, here are some suggestions you can definitely focus on:

Attitude & Style:

Does the child read with: Pleasure, enthusiasm, commitment, involvement, interest, ease, expression, fluency, confidence, stamina, understanding, rhythm, appreciation, independence, pace?

Has the child made comments about: theme, humour, own response – if so, what?

Is the child willing/keen to talk about books with you, share/recommend them to other children?

Choice:

Is there any difficulty experienced with choice? Does the child choose confidently? Has the child got firm favourites, definite preferences, favourite authors, favourite genres? Does the child have any idea of what to read next?

Strategies:

Does the child use several strategies at once? Or does the child over-rely on one?

  • Does the child read for meaning or sense?
  • Does he/she self-correct?
  • Have a “re-run” of some sentences?,
  • Read on and then go back and fill in?
  • Does the child use context or pictures to predict what is coming?
  • Does the child pay attention to word-structure, letters – and to structure of language?
  • Is the child progressing, developing, becoming more fluent and confident?

The Primary Language Record

First devised in the late 1980’s, the Primary Language Record gives teachers a framework for recording their ongoing observations of children’s talking, reading and writing. It is cumulative record of progress in literacy, and its special value is its ‘grassroots’ quality, since it included not only teachers’ and importantly children’s own assessments of their development as readers and writers. It is invaluable both as a long-term assessment of progress and as a basis for immediate forward planning. It’s also very user-friendly.
You are more than welcome to download my own version of it HERE.