Top Tips for improving Reading Skills at Home

         “Children must learn to read so that later they can read to learn”

Reading with young children is very important for development of language skills and early literacy skills. To read fluently children need basic reading skills and comprehension skills.

Reading is not an innate skill, we are not born with the ability to read we must learn it.  Reading is a complex skill involving the word recognition, understanding the conventions of print, comprehension of text, fluency and motivation. A fluent reader will decode the text, and make inferences and predictions about the text to enhance comprehension, all at the same time. Your child’s teacher will focus on teaching them the skills of word recognition, decoding, phonics and ultimately foundational reading skills. You can support this at home by creating a literacy friendly environment in your home. Even before they learn to begin to learn to read, children should enjoy listening to stories and talking about the meaning and interpretation of words and illustrations with others. Local libraries are a great source of books and lending rules are very generous, so why not work in a monthly trip to your local library into your schedule?

There is some interesting research about the benefits of e-books, with extra features such as built in animations, suggesting that for children over the age of 3 they may be marginally better at vocabulary gains (BPS Research Digest 06/17) although crucially theses studies focused on basic e-books, with very simple animation. Whether you choose an e-book and a read-to-me app or a regular book there is no question that integrating reading into your family life will have positive benefits on language and literacy development.

What can I do as a parent to support reading?

  • A print rich environment: Make sure that there are lots of opportunities to read text in your home. Catalogues such as Aldi/Lidl/Smyths are really useful. For younger children ask them to find a letter or a letter sound in the text. For older children ask them to find a describing word or a doing word in the description. Read cereal boxes, juice boxes , connect the image with the words e.g. What is the juice flavor? How do you know? Where is the word orange? Can you find the letter O?
  • Model Reading- Try to ensure that children see you reading. Talk about the book before during and after reading using open questions e.g. why did that character do what he did?, If you were in that story what would you have done? Help break the sentences into word and words into sounds. Encourage them to use the letter sounds i.e. B A T rather than looking at pictures for clues.
  • Audio books-These are a great resource for children who are struggling as they can follow the text without the stress of having to decode the words.
  • Comic strips and Picture books- Learning to follow a story through picture is a valuable skill and encourages children to practice inference and prediction.
  • Reading and Thinking Activities- Let your child to listen to you reading a page of the story and encourage them to predict what will happen next in the story. Support the development of narrative skills by talking about the beginning, middle and end of the story, what is going to happen next? Play games and pretend to finish the story a page early and ask how do they know the story isn’t finished.
  • Family board games such as Boggle and Scrabble are a great way to develop language awareness in fun way.
  • Library- your local library is a treasure trove of books and community activities, www.libariesireland.ie
  • For middle primary students, the tasks of word recognition and decoding may be less of struggle but comprehension of text is a challenge. There is strong evidence to support the explicit teaching of comprehension strategies. This means that the student must learn how to break down the text in order to find the meaning. One useful way to do this is to activate prior knowledge. If there is picture of a Volcano, what do they already know about Volcanos? Another useful tip is Retelling, ask a child to re-tell the story to you.
  • For older post primary students who struggle with the second level text-books there is good evidence that a key word approach can be helpful. This means an explicit focus on subject specific words such as minus/divide/calculate etc. You can support your teen by creating literacy mats of key words for certain subjects. There are some great examples of literacy mats at www.nbss.ie
  • For post primary students it is also important to focus on functional literacy skills. This means do they have the skills necessary to live in the world independently. Adult literacy agencies have excellent literacy support resources that are targeted to the older student. Age appropriate learning materials are very important for this age group, these are often sold on education sites as High Interest books. Digital literacy is also important for this group. Can they read and send a text message? Can they read and send an email? Do they have sufficient literacy to manage their finances, pass the driver theory test, complete the Safe pass test.

References: whatworksclearinghouse.com, www.ncse.ie, www.nbss.ie, BPS research digest

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