To me reading is a magical process. I’ve always loved books, simple as that. As a child I was a member of the book worm club and devoured books at a great pace. I looked forward to my weekly comic. As soon as I heard the sound of Bunty landing on the mat I was there, like a shot. I was over the moon whenever I received a book as a prize or a gift. I still have my little Ladybird books from junior school, a bit bruised and tattered, but still cracking good little books.
And so it saddens me when I see children who find the thought of reading terrifying. I just wonder what has happened to turn them off books so completely.
It’s not hard to work out though is it. It’s so easy to rob a child of confidence. A thoughtless comment from an adult, a callous remark from a sibling. Worst of all is the child’s own knowledge that they aren’t progressing as quickly as their classmates. They stumble over words and then the fear begins.
How can we help?
Just a few minutes each day can make a huge difference.A teacher I know used to say ‘Drip, drip, drip,’ meaning you don’t notice a dripping tap until the sink is full. He set up paired reading in our class. Every day, straight after lunch, for five minutes…no more…the children would read to each other. It was a routine they enjoyed and looked forward to.
At home, some children never see their parents or carers read. There may be a lack of books, comics, newspapers in their homes. We have to be their role models. We have to show them that reading is great fun. So how do we do that?
Well, for a start, we can talk about things we have read and enjoyed. We can have interesting looking books and comic books around the classroom. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover but children do just that. Books have to look the part. They must appear to be age appropriate. Sometimes, when children’s reading is falling behind, the books available appear babyish. Not great for a cool nine year old.
Information books can be an excellent choice. With their small chunks of information and plenty of illustrations they can be more appealing for some readers.
Introduce some of the key words first by talking about the book. If readers hear the word before trying to read it, they stand a better chance of working it out in context. Encourage them to look at the initial phoneme, the middle phoneme, the final phoneme. Break up the word into chunks. Sound it out. Look for smaller words inside long words. Look for patterns in words. You know all the technical stuff.
When listening to children read stories we should show a real interest in what’s going on. Focus on the storyline and characters rather than on word recognition and punctuation. Pick a random character and throw in an open question about them. Have a bit of fun trying to work out what’s going to happen next. If a child struggles to read fluently they can find it hard to understand the meaning of the sentences. It can be useful to read alternate pages, to share a book to keep the momentum going. Encourage the child to follow the text. By using intonation and noticing punctuation you are modelling good reading practice.
Try standing up to read. Act out the parts. Make it fun.
Little and often. Drip, drip, drip.
Before you know it the sink will be full.