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Helping Children With Home Reading

Here are a few ways to help your child with their reading homework.  Model reading for your child. They need to see you reading often – magazines, newspapers, the TV program, a book. This way they understand that knowing how to read is a valuable skill. They’ll want to be a better reader so they can be like you.

Before they start reading:

  • Look at the cover and read the title. Look at the title page and illustrations. Have the child guess (predict) what the book is going to be about.

  • Discuss what is happening and name some of the things you see in the illustrations. This will help the child create a context for their reading. They will have a better idea of what unknown words might be, if they have some idea what the story is about.

  • Ask the child what they know about the topic already, or if they have been in a similar situation before. (prior knowledge)

During reading:

  • Encourage the child to read to the end of a sentence if they come across a word they don’t know. Repeat the sentence saying ’something’ for the problem word. Have them fill in a word that could make sense in the sentence. Check that the word they give starts with the correct sound.

  • Encourage the child to use a number of strategies to work out unknown words. Readers should not rely on simply ‘sounding out’ difficult words.

  • Looking at the pictures can help. Recall the context of the story. Use this knowledge, and the letters (sounds) they recognise to help them work out what the word might be.

  • Look for familiar parts in the word – like an ‘ing’ ending, or similarities with other words that the child already knows.

  • If the child makes a mistake when reading allow them to finish the sentence to see if they recognise that there is something wrong and fix it themselves. If they do, praise them. If not, repeat what they said and ask, “Does that make sense?” Help them find the part that is wrong. Encourage them to look closely at the word and attempt it using their sound knowledge.

  • Encourage the child to re-read if it seems that what they are reading is not making sense to them. Often you can tell by the way they are reading that the words have no meaning to them.

  • As they become more confident, encourage the child to read with expression to make the story sound interesting. This means changing the tone of their voice for different characters and asking questions in a natural tone of voice. Point out punctuation marks and explain how you should read these parts of the story.

  • Praise their efforts. This is very important if they struggle with reading. Children need constant feedback that what they are doing – even the smallest things- are right.

During and after reading:

  • Discuss what is happening in the story and how the characters act and feel. Ask the child if they would act and feel the same way.

  • Stop and ask the child to guess (predict) what might happen next in the story. Check afterwards to see if their guess was right.

  • Discuss and enjoy surprise endings or favourite parts of the story

  • Ask what they learnt from the reading.

  • Ask if they think the story ended the right way, or if they could invent a different ending.

  •  Help the child respond in some way to the story and think about what they have read.

Try to avoid doing home reading when either you or your child is tired, cranky or rushed for time. Reading practice needs to be an enjoyable shared experience.