The ‘reluctant’ reader and how to help.

Learning to read is a complicated and long process. We have to understand that these black squiggles on paper actually mean something, and then when the black squiggles are put together in different ways they make words. When a child learns to read they have to first identify the letters, then blend them together, then recognise the word they are blending and say it aloud. Then move onto the next word. It takes a lot of effort just to read a sentence in the early days and reading can become a chore for both the child and their parents. Hopefully I will be able to give you a few tips and tricks to keep reading fun as well as enabling your child to continue using the skills they are learning at school.

The school reading book 

School reading schemes vary from school to school and are usually an eclectic mix of a variety of schemes put together. In my experience schools would love to have more reading books and the most up to date versions of everything, however with funding issues this isn’t always the case and so they do the best they can with the resources available to them. The authors of the books are also limited as they can only use a certain mix of words to write their books and for those early readers the choice of words can be very limited and with the best will in the world they are not going to make the most exciting stimulating stories. This said there are some great books out there and the ones that are completely phonetically decodable are the best ones to start with as it means your child is able to practise the skills they are learning in their phonics lessons at home.

How to read the school reading book

I’ve decided to add this section in because over time I have spoken to many parents who think it is ‘cheating’ if they tell their child the word. I have experienced people covering over the pictures so their child doesn’t get any help with the words and I have witnessed tears of frustration from parents and children over a single word.

These tips work whether you are reading picture books, single word books, as well as more complex sentences.

  1. Look at the front cover of the book together. What can you see in the picture? What do you think is happening? Read the title (either parent, child or together) what do you think this book is going to be about?
  2. Look at the first page and look at the picture together. Who are the characters in this story? What are they doing? Where are they? Look at the words together. Ask your child to point to the first word. Can they say the sounds in the word? What does the word say? If they don’t get it the first time encourage them to say the sounds again a couple of times. If they still cannot read the word then tell them and ask them to say it back to you. Move on to the next word and repeat the process. This gets quicker as your child becomes more confident, they will also start to recognise some words which again makes the process quicker.
  3. Before reading each page remember to take time to look at the picture. They are really important and are there for a reason, they give clues to what the words are saying and this is an important link for children to make as they are starting on their reading journey.
  4. In the middle of the book, can they predict what might happen next? What makes you think that?
  5. When you have reached the end of the book it is very tempting to breathe a big sigh of relief, say (quietly) thank goodness thats over and pack the book away. But before you do ask your child which part of the book they liked the most and why. Was there any part of the book they didn’t like and why. These are important steps as they are early comprehension questions. As your child is more confident and is reading more complex books ensure you take the time to ask questions about the story. This helps children to understand the words they are reading as well as decoding them.
  6. Each book should be read a minimum of two times (for the shorter books). When they read the book for the second time they will be much more confident, they will know the story and will remember some of the words. It will give them a chance to go over the words they may have stumbled on in the first reading.

What to do if your child does not want to read

Most children go through this phase at one point or another. It is more common in the early days because learning to read is hard, it takes a lot of effort and when you are little you get tired and frustrated easily.

  1.  Speak to your child’s class teacher, they will probably have noticed the reluctance and frustration and already be putting things into place to support your child.
  2. Ask if your child can choose the book they bring home to read, often if a child has chosen something themselves they will already have an interest in the book.
  3. Choose a time to read when both you and your child are relaxed and well rested. For us it is in the mornings, Isabel is so tired when she gets home from school she just needs to spend time relaxing. We are up very early in our house and so we have plenty of time to take 10 minutes after breakfast to read her book.
  4. Read in short bursts. You don’t have to read the whole book in one sitting. Spend 10 minutes of good quality focused time and then stop. If your child finds 10 minutes hard then start with 5 minutes and extend it over time.
  5. Reading the school reading book is not the only form of reading that your child can do. There are so many things they can enjoy- comics and magazines are ‘reading’ especially if they start picking out words they know or sounding out words in the text. If your child is keen on horses or tractors then buy them a copy of tractor weekly. I used to have a range of hobby magazines in my classroom and the children used to love looking through them, even the most reluctant reader would give some of the words a try if it was about their favourite subject. Story books are usually written in simple language. Your child will be able to read some of the simple words in them and will enjoy reading their bedtime story with you. You could write a word on a card and every time that word comes up in the book they read it. Signs and labels are everywhere and once children have started to learn phonics they are usually keen to decipher the signs and labels they see in the world around them. Take time to look at the signs in the street, shop names, labels in shops and encourage your child to read them if they are showing an interest.

Usually it is just a phase and it will pass as your child becomes more confident. My main tips are keep it relaxed, give them a choice, give the word if needed, and seek support from your class teacher.

Happy reading 🙂

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