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Reading with Children

Top Tips

A series of 'Top Tips' on how to assist your child with learning to read.

Children are becoming confident readers when they can:

    • Sound out words in different ways
    • Listen to themselves and notice mistakes
    • Correct their own mistakes
    • Re-read to have another go
    • Understand the book and can talk about the main ideas
    • Read in phrases so it sounds like talking


 Q: How often should I read together with my child?

A: Short ten minute sessions daily would be fabulous! It doesn’t have to be a long session, just regular.


Q: How do I encourage my child to read when they are reluctant to do so?

A: Reading is more than books, reading football programmes, the Argos catalogue, directions and signs, recipes, cereal packets all provide good reading practice. Make sure your child sees you read for a purpose or pleasure - it shows you value reading. Encourage your child to choose what he or she wants to read and follow their interests. Most importantly, enjoy reading with your child!


Q: Is it a good idea to read the same book more than once?

A: Yes! Yes! Reading a book 3-5 times over a couple of weeks improves a reader’s speed, confidence and fluency. It helps a reader to understand the book…for example what all the words mean. It will especially help readers to read in phrases without a finger.


Q: Should I sometimes read with my child?

A: Sometimes but not always! If you sometimes read one page and your partner reads the other, you will demonstrate what a good reader sounds like. That’s very helpful. But don’t do it for every book because your child needs to build up the confidence to read books by him/herself. Your child could read to an older or younger brother, sister, grandparent or even the family dog – anyone who is happy to listen!


Q: Is it a bad thing if my child uses the pictures to help read a word?

A: No, as long as it’s just for the occasional word. With hard words, good readers often look at the picture to help them get an idea of what’s going on and what word would make sense. However, if your child tries to do it a lot, the book may be too hard.


Q: Should I ask questions about the book after my child has read it?

A: Occasional questions can be useful to check out your child’s understanding of the book. Too many questions will make your child think he/she is on The Weakest Link! This could spoil the enjoyment of reading. Sometimes after a book try getting a conversation going with an opening comment like:

  • My favourite bit in the book was…..
  • I wouldn’t want a sister like Jenny would you?
  • I liked this word ‘clatter’….it’s the noise the spoons made falling out of the lorry
  • That wood was dark and scary wasn’t it?

Conversations will help your child to understand the words and ideas in the book. Conversations are better than question and answer.


Q: Is it good for a child to read and point at the words?

A: Pointing at the words is useful sometimes. It helps young, beginning readers to read each word so they don’t get lost. Also using a finger when we get stuck can sometimes be helpful for anyone. But if readers use a finger all the time, reading will sound like a Dalek! Pointing at each word also means that we can’t read in phrases, and so it makes a book harder to understand.


Q: What should I do if my child is stuck on a word?

A: You could:

  • Tell them the word
  • Say ‘it is … or …’ (give choice for the child to select from)
  • Sound out parts for them, they put them together – re-mem-ber – remember!
  • Say, what would make sense?
  • Help them to sound it out

Q: What should I do if my child makes a mistake?

A: Good readers make mistakes but they notice them and try to put them right. If your child hasn’t noticed a mistake do not try to sort it out straight away – leave it until the end of the page. Your child may realise and put it right anyway. If not, take them back to the sentence and read it back as the child read it. Ask can you find where it went wrong?’ In most cases your child will be able to locate the error. Help them to sort the error.


Q: Is it bad for my child to read a book that’s too easy?

A: No it’s fine – we all like to read easy books sometimes, but reading books that are too easy all the time will not help readers to develop the skills they need.


Q: How do I know if the book is just right for my child and not too hard?

A: A book is too hard if a child reads with less than 90% accuracy. Hear your child read exactly 60 words and count the mistakes.


Q: My child reads slowly, one word at a time and sounds like a Dalek! How can I help him/her read in phrases so it sounds like talking?

A: First, choose a book that your child has read before. Ask your child to read one page and you read the other. Read the whole book in this way. Your child will hear how reading in phrases sounds and may start to copy the way you read.

Second, make sure your child has lots of chances to read books he/she has read before. As your child knows the book and the words he/she may be able to work on reading it in phrases.

Third, if your child reads a book for the third or fourth time and uses a finger say ‘you know this book, you don’t need your finger’.

Fourth, after a book if your child read even a few words in phrases, say ‘I like the way you read this bit’ (and copy what he/she did. This will make your child want to read like this again.

Fifth, show your child the punctuation and explain what it means. Read a few sentences ignoring the punctuation…. and again using the punctuation. Ask them ‘can you hear the difference?