There is such a sense of joy, warmth and togetherness that comes when we read with our children. It is a time when we can cuddle up together and let our minds float to the places the story takes us. This is a time for bonding with your child; a time when you are both relaxed, unhurried and un-harried.
By spending some quality bonding time doing reading together, you are also giving your child a deep-seated love of reading. Your child learns that reading opens doors to the imagination and he can learn interesting facts about his world just by reading a book. Reading is such an important life skill, that helping your child learn to read and to enjoy reading is one of the keys to helping him onto the path of success.
Here are five tips to help you and your child get the most from reading together:
- Make sure your child is sitting next to you and can see the words and pictures. Even if your child is too young to have begun learning to read, you will be improving his concept of printed words. By looking at the picture and trying to see all the details described in the story, he will be developing his visual perception in preparation for reading. If your child has already begun learning to read, you can point out some of the words he has learnt; this reinforces his learning and helps him realise how useful it really is to be able to read the different words because he sees them in the story which he is enjoying with you.
- Use the story as an opportunity to discuss aspects of his own life. Link the story to concepts he is beginning to learn, such as sharing with friends, avoiding conflict, good sportsmanship, or coping with bullies. By relating to the story, you can open discussion in a relaxed way. Talking about the characters in the story, rather than directly about him, helps your child feel safer to share his concerns. Stories do not only have to be about morals and coping skills, simply sharing views and thoughts with each other on how the characters are behaving, laughing together at their mistakes, yet noting what they could have done if they were wiser, gives you so many fun, light-hearted and relaxed opportunities to discuss life, behaviour and morals with your child.
- Paired reading. This is a great way to support your child once he has begun to learn to read. You begin reading a book which is at his level of reading. He must follow the words you read with his eyes (no pointing allowed) and then you suddenly stop reading and he has to carry on for awhile. He then stops and you have to carry on. This helps him learn to track with his eyes while you read more smoothly and slightly faster than he can. He therefore learns to improve the flow of his reading; similarly, he also learns to read with tone. You will probably find that he initially only wants to read a couple of words before stopping to make you take your turn. This is fine at first but as he develops his reading skill, you can make a rule that no-one can stop before having read a whole line, or two lines.
- When the story is finished, ask him which parts were his favourite. This helps him build his memory and comprehension. He must not feel that this is a test. He must know that you enjoyed the story as much as he did and that you are enjoying thinking back on the fun things that happened in the story.
- Find words. At the end of the story, choose about two or three words that are new to him but within his reading capability. Point them out to him and see if he can sound them out, then ask him to see how many times that word appears on the page or even on the next three pages. This builds his reading vocabulary as well as developing his visual figure-ground perception for written words. Figure-ground perception is the ability to notice the figure (or word, or letter) against the background and is very important for reading text.
Remember that children learn best when they are having fun. Spending time with you and enjoying the written word together is the best way you can instil a love of reading. Many of the children who come to me for therapy first need me to undo their fear of learning to read; they associate reading with a sense of failure. That is why I decided to write a book for parents, sharing my methods which use therapeutic strategies and fun to reduce the barriers to learning to read. For those of you interested in finding out more about my methods, go to: http://sharonstansfield.weebly.com/unique-reading-program.html
Reading is communication. It is how we communicate over distance and even time. By reading, we are able to learn from people far away or even those who died before we were born. It is a crucial life skill and every child deserves the best input to help them enjoy reading.