We share a common roadblock in a child's learning journey and offer some simple tips to help parents read with their children.
We understand the title may seem a little obvious or maybe patronising (that’s not the desired affect). However, due to the busy lives families live this means that some areas of home educational support can get dropped and we fully understand that. If you are arriving home late from a full day at work, firstly, you are not going to want to read and or your child could be at an after-school club, completing homework, eating dinner or preparing to go to sleep; the scenarios are endless and unique to each family.
Through our experience, reading is one of the most important areas, particularly when a child becomes a ‘free reader’. A free reader can be defined as: able to decode new vocabulary and read with fluency. There is a key word missing from our definition, comprehension. It is at this point in your child’s journey of learning to read, we feel a change in approach is needed; the focus moves from blending and decoding, to understanding the larger quantities of the new vocabulary and understanding a story or a non-fiction text in greater depth. This is only achievable with the scaffolding from an adult.
This approach is aimed for families who find fitting time in for ‘quality’ reading with an adult at home a challenge. For years, we have heard, “But they read every night alone before bed!” This is great and not to be discouraged at all. Nevertheless, no child in KS2 will fully understand a story they are reading because of a few potential factors: the introduction of new vocabulary; traditional or common phrases; popular sayings and idioms. This is where the role of an adult is key.
Reading with your child once they reach free reading does not need to be a time-consuming activity. 5 days a week for 15 minutes is plenty, especially if they’re reading alone too.
1. Find a book both you and your child can read and will enjoy. This is a separate book from the one they may be reading alone and may take you 2 months to finish (please see our recommended reading lists for assistance: https://www.headwaytutors.co.uk/pogo-resources-english
2. Spend no longer than 15 minutes on this activity
· 10 minutes reading; this will allow you to cover approximately five to seven pages
· Spend the remaining time discussing and digging deeper into the story
Types of questions to ask
Questions that allow children to understand something that is not directly stated. E.g. how did____feel about_____? How do we know this? (expression of character in picture). Encourage your child to look for clues in the text that may inform them of why someone is behaving in a particular way.
Questions that allow children to work something out from previous information/pictures. E.g. What might happen next? Answers should explain why they gave an answer based on information already gained from the text.
Questions should relate to personal experiences in your child’s life. Does the character remind you of someone you know? How? Does this situation remind you of a time we spent as a family?
Language and Talk
Encourage your child to answer in full sentences, using your question to help form it.
This is arguably the most important area! Aim to question your child on 5 different pieces of vocabulary; they have got to try and provide a meaning and synonym, this is most beneficial when recorded in a vocabulary book. Ensure that your child begins to understand words can mean different things in varying contexts. Jotting down the new vocabulary and allowing time to find definitions in a dictionary is another great way of enhancing their vocabulary.
One of the most important resources for parents to use when reading and sharing books with their child are pictures. Great writers have a wealth of vocabulary, good imaginations and are able to express their opinions. These all begin with storytelling. Although some of the books you will take home from school will have words, the pictures are more important as they allow children to tell the story in their own words. They highlight vocabulary that your child may not know i.e. feelings, actions expressed by characters.
Encourage your child to be an active reader by asking questions about each picture which allows them to think how and why characters and plots are evolving. Model answers. Let them predict what will happen next. If they are unsure look at the picture cues and encourage your child to have a go. No answer is right or wrong if s\he can give reasons why they think something may or may not happen or is supported by or suggested by the text.
If your goal for your child is passing entrance exams, then this is the best support you can provide your child aside from any extra external support. The level of comprehension needed to successfully pass the eleven plus entrance exams is high, additionally the verbal reasoning challenges an individual’s vocabulary.
Embrace the opportunity and give the greatest gift to your child.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss