Learning to read with kids

I love reading and I really love reading with kids. I’m really fortunate that in a previous role I got to support a primary school near to my employer by reading with children who either found comprehension difficult or who didn’t like books.

I wasn’t in a situation over the last 3 years where it was possible to continue doing this, but I’m delighted I can now.

Last week I went on a training course run by the local authority and – despite having done this before – picked up some great tips for reading with young children. I’m already using some of these with my daughter. I hadnt realized, of course, that reading with a child and helping them to develop a love of books, is something you too have to learn:

  • I love illustrations in children’s picture books, but didn’t realize they are to help children understand the story as well as to encourage them to associate reading with enjoyment.
  • We learn visually – we read proficiently because we learn to recognize a word not because we can figure out a word phonetically. Phonetics is just a small part of reading. Mostly, it’s about word recognition and “best guess” based upon the sentence we are looking at and the context a picture places.
  • I’m starting to help my daughter with word, letter and number recognition by holding things at her head height and slightly to the left. Because she is right-handed, using her natural eye-accessing cues will help her remember and recall. (If you struggle to remember how to spell things, this tip can help you too. Good spellers tend to visualize words and recall them that way. )
  • Reading is really, really hard when we first start to learn. Spend a lot of time on the front cover, talking about what the story might be about to build excitement and anticipation and to buy the child’s engagement. Spend as much time on the pictures as on the words – it doesn’t even matter if you don’t get to read all or even any of the words on the page if the child is interested and wants to talk about and look at the pictures.
  • Once you get to the end, go back to the beginning and go back over the story, getting the child to tell the story in their words. My child does this to me automatically – as if I have a choice!
  • Encourage, encourage, encourage.

Some of this I was doing naturally, but I have to say it’s transformed my daughter’s reading and – so I am told – will transform any child’s enjoyment of a book.

I wonder, what are your tips for getting children to enjoy and understand what you are reading together..?


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