Helping your child with reading: 3. Children reading BY themselves

This is the third of three short posts for parents who have children who are learning to read. The first post focused on reading TO your child/ren, the second on reading WITH your child/ren and this third one offers some support for helping your child to read for themselves.

What is reading?

    . . . a message-getting, problem solving activity which increases in power and flexibility the more it is practised.  (Clay, 1991, p.

It takes time to learn to read. (They didn’t learn to talk correctly straight away.)

Set a good example

Children need to see their parents reading – they need to understand why they are learning to read – they will work hard at learning if they understand the advantages of being able to read. If they never see you read, they will wonder why they are having to work so hard to learn something that you don’t value. Be a role model for them.

Sources of information

There are three sources of information used when we read:

  • Meaning (includes General Knowledge / pictures are part of this);
  • Structure (Grammar – or how words go together in sentences); and
  • Print (grapho-phonics).

We use all three of these sources interactively as we read.

Choosing Books

Choosing the right books for children to learn to read from can be a challenge so if possible get some help from the school. We want books that the child is interested in and that are easy enough for him or her to read with a minimum of assistance. The books sent home as ‘readers’ are usually okay, but not always. If a child is really interested in a book, or already knows a lot about the topic, it will be easier to read than one he or she isn’t interested in or knows nothing about. 

Level of Difficulty.

  • If there are more than 5 errors in 50 words (1 in 10), the book is too difficult for the child to maintain meaning. Choose another book or read the book to the child. If the book is a ‘home reader’ from school, contact the teacher and ask for some different books. A selection of books, so that the child can have choice, is best.
  • If the book seems easy, or your child has read it before, that is perfect – we learn more easily when there is not too much challenge.
  • A lot of children prefer non-fiction books even from a young age. For example books about insects or animals or building things may have more appeal than a story.
  • Share the responsibility for the reading. Sometimes if you read page about, this can allow for better access to meaning and allows the child to hear what the book sounds like when read by an experienced If you are reading, read at a normal pace and use expression – you are a model for your child.
  • Don’t stress about people’s names in books – tell the child.
  • Talk about punctuation from time to time. Help the child notice and use punctuation to help him read with expression.

Ten minutes of reading ‘out loud’ for a learner is enough in one sitting (unless the child wishes to continue or you are almost finished the book). If you sense the child is tired or has had enough, you should read the rest of the book or put a bookmark in and return to the book later.

  • The first word of a sentence is the hardest to read. If the child can’t get to this word easily give it to him.
  • Don’t worry if a child wants to read the same book over and over again. This is normal.
  • Don’t be tempted to cover the pictures. The beginner reader needs the pictures to help with meaning.
  • Pause and allow for independent problem solving and try not to correct all the errors.

Prompts that may be helpful when your child stops at an unknown word:

  • Say – Have you had a look at the picture?
  • Say – What would make sense? What is happening?
  • Say – Do you know a word that looks like that word?
  • Say – Do you know a word that starts like that word?
  • If you are confident that the word is in the child’s oral vocabulary you could help him/her break the word up into syllables – eg. hel – i – cop – ter and then put it back together – helicopter.
  • Say – Try that again (from the beginning of the sentence and think what would make sense).
  • Say – Could it be . . . (eg ‘Could it be pony?)
  • Say – Could it be . . . or . . . (eg Could it be ‘pony’ or ‘horse’?)

Praise: Be specific with praise.

  • Say – I like the way you made that part sound interesting.
  • Say – I like the way you checked the picture.
  • Say – I like the way you went back and had another try at that.
  • Say – I like the way you tried to work that tricky word out.
  • Say – I really enjoyed listening to you read today.

Reading should always be a positive experience for your child – if learning to read is a stressful process for your child, seek assistance from your child’s teacher.

Not everyone finds learning to read easy. 

If you found this post useful, please share the link with other families.

Published by nmackenz

My name is Noella Mackenzie and I am an Associate Professor (Adjunct) at Charles Sturt University, Albury-Wodonga Campus in NSW, Australia and a Senior Fellow of the Australian Literacy Educators' of Australia. I also work as an independent education consultant. I am also a daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother who loves to read, garden and travel. While my career has always been in education, there have been four distinct phases. The first phase was that of classroom teacher – teaching children from 5-12 years of age in a number of primary schools. The second phase of my career saw me working as a specialist professional development provider working with teachers in early intervention and special education. The third phase had me working as an academic at Charles Sturt University. That role involved me teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students, researching and continuing my work with teachers and parents of young children. The fourth phase sees me working as an independent education consultant, supporting school systems and schools with professional learning input for teachers. I am passionate about teaching and in particular early literacy development. I am proudly the product of public education. I grew up on a farm and went to the local primary and high schools where I was fortunate to have some fabulous teachers. My Diploma of Education (Early Childhood) was earned at the Riverina College of Advanced Education in Wagga Wagga NSW. My Bachelor of Education, Master of Education and Doctor of Education qualifications were all earned at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, Vic and were spread out over a number of years as I studied part time and worked full time. I completed my doctorate in 2004 and started work at CSU in the same year.

2 thoughts on “Helping your child with reading: 3. Children reading BY themselves

  1. Lots of great information that would be SO valuable at this time for parents who want to support their children from home.
    I think it would be a very useful reminder for us all as educators too!



  2. Ah, the 3rd in a series of three. I’m so happy to have read this. All three articles about teaching children to read is very helpful for parents and educators alike. Thank you for sharing these 3 articles Ms. Noella. 🙂


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