Often as parents it is difficult to find the balance between scaffolding our children’s attempts at reading versus figuratively ‘standing back’ and letting our children take the lead in solving the difficulties they encounter.
When it comes to reading, we will, usually unwittingly, remove their personal accountability of making sense of the text by directing their thinking (e.g., asking questions about the text), telling them how to deal with an unknown word and even telling them when to turn the page. When our external prompts are not available, then our children often lack the self-monitoring skills to determine if what they are reading makes sense and to use strategies that will make the text meaningful.
However, children don’t automatically learn the strategies that will help them become competent readers. So, we need to be continually making decisions as to whether we need to be providing assistance and teaching our children or letting them independently apply the skills they have been learning.
Before you start the book:
- Ask: “How can we work out what this book is about?”
- Ask: “What do you think it is about? Why?”
If your child misreads a word:
- Wait until the child reads the next word to see if he/she self-corrects.
- For older children, who consistently continue reading even when a word doesn’t make sense (or might not even be a real word) you might wait until they have read to the end of the sentence, then cover the sentence and say, “Excellent, you have read that sentence correctly” OR “”You read some words incorrectly. Read the sentence again and see if you can work out the word(s) you read incorrectly).
- If your child is unable to locate the error, read the sentence to your child and then ask your child to reread.
- Once your child has identified the error and can’t automatically read the word, ask: “What can we do to decode the word?” The strategy you want your child to be using is to determine the syllables and the sounds represented by the letters (see the Simplified Syllabification Strategy for help in teaching this process). Encouraging your child to look at the picture is NOT a good strategy as it just leads to a reliance on guessing.
If your child asks for confirmation as to whether or not a word has been read correctly:
- Whether or not the word has been read correctly, ask: “How can you check?” Strategies might include rereading the sentence or continue reading a little further to see if the word makes sense.
If the text doesn’t make sense to the child:
- Ask: “Which part doesn’t make sense?”
- Ask: “What could you do to help figure out what it means?”
- Model how you could work out the meaning by talking through the different pieces of information.
After reading, rather than asking questions about the text:
- Share your thoughts.
- Help your child make connections between the text and their own life experiences, attitudes, values and beliefs.
- Predict what will happen next. Although there is no correct or incorrect answer, there are some scenarios that wouldn’t be likely given the story.
- Compare and contrast with other characters/books.
- Discuss alternative actions for the character(s) and the possible consequences of those actions.
Hint: Try counting to 10 before you provide any feedback.
For children who have got into a habit of reading with no accountability, one strategy I use is to keep a record of the number of errors made with the aim of reducing this number each time. It is important to do this activity with a small amount of text (e.g., a paragraph), otherwise you will probably find your child becoming frustrated. I also encourage my students to ask for help and this is not included as an error.