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All About Reading!

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Let's Learn About Reading

It is not essential that your child be able to read a book from beginning to end when they begin school. However, it is important that they be aware that books exist and that there are particular things we do with books.

• Read with your child: teach your child which way up the book goes
• Talk about the stories you read. Let the child know how stories go
• Share your love of reading to inspire the child to read too

Reading Behaviours

• Let your child see and hear you read regularly
• Read for your own pleasure as well as reading to your child
• If you are not too self-conscious, ‘doing the voices’ is a great way to get your child involved in the story
• Show your child how you read. Trace under the words you are reading with your finger. Ensure that your child is aware that reading is done from left to right.
• Make books and reading a part of your daily life. Take time to snuggle on the couch and share a book. Read at bedtime.
• Join the local library and let your child borrow books too. This cuts the cost of reading down considerably as well as exposing your child to a whole host of people who read.
• Encourage and support any ‘reading-like’ behaviour your child does on their own (e.g. holding the book and turning the pages, running a finger under the words, making up their own story from the pictures, using book language like ‘once upon a time’).
• Talk about the book before you start to read it. Look at the cover and try to guess what the story might be about. Talk about the title and how it gives clues to the story.
• Most importantly, talk about the stories you read. Stop in the middle and ask what your child thinks might happen. Help them explain why they think that might happen. The story has all the clues: use the pictures and keep going back to the story. Teach your child to be a thinking reader, to guess ahead: it’s the true joy of reading.
• When you finish a story, talk about what the ‘best part’ was. Ask questions and talk about your own reaction to the story. Tell the child what you found funny, sad, interesting and so on.

If your child is already involved in stories and books then they are ready for the next phase.

Learning about the sound–symbol relationship

It’s not as intellectual as that makes it sound. Learning about the sound–symbol relationship means developing the understanding that each letter in the alphabet stands for a particular set of sounds. For example, the letter ‘A’ makes a long sound like the name of the letter in the word ‘able’ and a shorter sound as in the word ‘apple’.

When we see the letter ‘A’ in writing we understand that it will make one of these sounds in relationship with the other letters. Your child does not need to know all that. (You probably don’t want to either!) It’s enough that you begin making your child aware that each letter makes a sound.

Most children know the alphabet (they usually can sing it) when they start school. Learning about the letters is the next natural step. Singing the alphabet is good, saying it is also good, and doing either while looking at the alphabet is better.

• Sing the alphabet.
• Say the alphabet while pointing to the letters you are saying.
• Talk about the sounds the letter makes.
• Talk about words with that sound.

Alphabet charts

You can buy an alphabet chart from the newsagents but, better still, why don’t you and your child make your own?

• Get some poster paper, fat felt-tipped pens, newspapers, magazines, junk mail.
• Write or cut out each of the sounds.
• Find something that begins with that letter to cut out and paste it on the poster with the letter. Draw it yourself if you can.
• Talk about the sound you are working on and let your child find pictures they want to include that begin with the right sound.

Then, when you sing your alphabet you point or have the child point to the letter as you sing or say it.

Flash cards

You can also make your own set of flash cards in the same way to help your child learn the letters.

• Play games with sounds.
• Use magnetic letters pulled out of a hat and have your child find things in the house that start with this sound. Just think of things that start with that sound.
• Draw or cut out pictures and have your child find the letter that the object begins with.
• Play snap, fish, memory with letter cards. (You’ll need a double set of letters for most games.)
• Play ‘I-spy’ as your child gets better with the sound (the starting sound of the letters).

Encourage and applaud all your child’s efforts. Reward the child with hugs, kisses, stickers or lollies (even though they are bad for teeth they tend to be a great motivator).

Some suggestions for learning the most frequent 100 words

• Talk about the words.
• Practise picking out the word from a set of about five words.
• Talk about how the word looks.
• Remember the focus is being able to recognise the word automatically.
• Stick a word up on the wall, door or fridge using magnets so your child sees it all the time.
• Focus on one or two words at a time—each should have a different starting letter for ease of recognition.
• Cut the word or letters to make up the word from junk mail or magazines and paste them together.
• Keep a scrapbook with a page for each of the words.
• Set targets, make charts and give stickers for the words your child recognises.
• Keep a chart of progress where the child will see it all the time and can show it to guests and others.
• Let your child show off the new knowledge—it’s all practice!
• Keep an eye out when you are shopping or travelling in the car for the words on posters, billboards, newspapers or signs.

We have created some flash cards for you! Just click here to download the PDF and print away.

Moving on to words

As your child gains confidence with letters, you can move on to the 100 most frequently used words. These are the most commonly used words and make up about half of all reading.

Expert or good readers become so familiar with these words that they no longer even need to read them, but skip along to the next word. This is called automaticity, or automatic reading. Seeing the words a lot of times is the key.

Some children will learn these words with only 100 exposures; others will need 300 exposures, while still others may need as many as 600 exposures to learn them. Every child is different and learns at a different pace. Be patient and don’t despair if your child seems to take a long time to learn these words.

Warning: Your child does not have to know all these words before beginning school. Applying too much pressure can be a great turn-off for learning! Have fun, and if it isn’t fun—stop.