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.

What actually is reading for pleasure and why is it vital for all schools?

What is reading for pleasure and why is it vital for all schools?

Anything from poetry to instruction manuals, magazines, comics, biography, fiction, history, information – it’s a lifelong resource. You can do it any time, anywhere.

When I was working in a children’s bookshop, every lunchtime for a fortnight a boy of about nine years old from a nearby Traveller settlement  would come in, ask if there were any books about dogs, and would browse and sample all kinds of titles for half an hour, then leave. I wasn’t sure whether he could read or not, but I sensed his pleasure.

At home with a small child, I used to think of sharing books as a kind of playing, especially since my two year old would demand to “play books” on a daily basis.It was entirely pleasurable and satisfying for us both, and later on we used to act out scenes from stories at her request. I have the same feelings when I am involved in any “reading lesson” at school. I approach each one with a strong sense of optimism and anticipation, and it feels like a new experience each time. As a teacher, I see myself as a sympathetic co-reader, ready to help but also to set up the reading experience for the child by giving him or her the expectation of enjoyment. This applies to all children, regardless of age or reading ability. I like to read with anybody, sometimes for no reason other than the shared pleasure of discovering in the text something familiar or unfamiliar, humorous or thought-provoking. Every home or school book  -sharing encounter between an adult and a child can be a quality experience carrying a positive message about reading.

Books For Any & Every Primary Classroom

Books For Any & Every Primary Classroom

Books To Feed The Habit – Are They In Your Classroom?

  • Wide range of picture books
  • Fairytales, myths, fables, folktales,
  • Dual language
  • Comic-strip format, graphic texts, comics
  • Joke books
  • Poetry
  • Newspaper

Fiction: Quick reads, longer reads, classics, modern classics, new writing.

Broad categories/genres:

  • Humerous
  • Animals (talking – or not)
  • Adventure /mystery /spy
  • Fantasy/ magic
  • Historical/ time-slip
  • Family & friends
  • Science fiction

Avoid stereotypes of race, gender, class.

Include Stories set in different parts of the world, books which reflect diverse social, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. AND (importantly): children’s own published texts.

Non-fiction: Reference books, autobiography, information, catalogues, instruction manuals, magazines.