There is more to being a good reader than just being able to read the words accurately. It is also important to understand what has been read. Always talk to your child about the book they are reading; about the pictures, the characters, how they think the story will end, their favourite part.
- When a child doesn’t know a word, ask them to try and work it out by reading the phonemes (sounds) in order.
- If a child misreads a word, encourage him or her to say the correct word – use lots of praise and encouragement, and avoid criticism. It is important that your child becomes more confident with reading.
- Talk with your child about the book they are reading. What is it about? Do they like it? What has happened so far? What do they think will happen next?
- With younger and less able readers, talk about the pictures. Pictures help children to understand the words.
- With older and more able readers, discuss the characters and the words and phrases used by the author.
A range of question types to use with your child:
Recall questions – These are used at the very beginning of the reading process and continue throughout.
- Where does the story take place? When did the story take place?
- What did s/he/it look like? Who was s/he/it? Where did s/he/it live?
- Who are the characters in the book? Where in the book would you find…?
Simple comprehension questions – These are used at the beginning, and as your children become more confident readers and continue throughout.
- What do you think is happening here? What happened in the story?
- What might this mean?
- Through whose eyes is the story told?
- Which part of the story describes the setting really well? What words and/or phrases do this?
- What part of the story do you like best?
Can you think of another story which has a similar theme; e.g. good over evil; weak over strong; wise over foolish? Do you know of another story which deals with the same issues; e.g. social; moral; cultural? Which is better and why?
More complex comprehension questions – These are used when your children are confident readers and have a good understanding of the reading process.
- What makes you think that?
- What words give you that impression?
- How do you feel about…?
- Can you explain why…?
- I wonder what the writer wanted us to think?
- I wonder why the writer decided to…?
- Has the author used adjectives to make this character funny?
- Why did the author choose this setting?
- What is your opinion?
- What do you think about…? What do you feel about…?
- Given what you know about…what do you think?
- What would this character think about…? (Possibly a current issue)
- What makes a successful story?
- How can you back up your opinion?
- Is it as good as…? How similar is it to…? How different is it to…?
Helping Younger children:
Encourage your child to:
- Look at the cover and suggest what the book will be about.
- Ask them to find the title, author and illustrator’s names.
- Talk about the pictures – there is often another story within them!
- Say what they think will happen next – allow plenty of time for discussion before turning over the page.
- “Read” or tell you the story again afterwards.
- Tell you their favourite part of the story and why they liked it.
- Encourage them to read anything e.g. – books, labels, signs, comics, magazines, and websites.
- Don’t be afraid to ‘model’ to children how to read by reading a page or sharing a page.
Helping Confident Children:
As children become older and gain confidence in reading they become ready to move on to longer and more challenging books.
At this stage you can help develop their understanding of what they are reading by talking about the meaning of new words with them, discussing the characters and what is happening in the story.
If a child says something nearly right to start with that is fine, don’t say, ‘No. That’s wrong,’ allow them the opportunity to self-correct and encourage them to try unfamiliar words by:
- Sounding them out (encourage the use of sounds –phonemes – rather than ‘alphabet names’).
- Breaking the word into parts e.g. hos/pit/al.
- Reading the rest of the sentence and choosing a word that would make sense.
- Thinking of words that look familiar.
- Pointing to a picture, if this helps with meaning.
NB: It is better to tell a child some unknown words to maintain the flow rather than insisting on them trying to build them all up from the sounds of the letters. Boost a child’s confidence with constant praise for even the smallest achievement.