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Supporting Your Child with Reading

One of the most exciting events at Primary School is when a child suddenly learns to read fluently. In this article, author Cora Harrison gives tips on supporting your child with reading.

I suppose the only thing like it is that moment when a mother realises that after months of single words, phrases and short sentences, her child is able to express himself or herself with ease and fluency.

With reading, this feeling of triumph is shared between the parents, the child and the school. Even worn-out teachers, on the downward straight towards retirement, will very often pick out, as the most special in their teaching career, the moment when after months, or even years of struggling with phonics, flashcards and simple, vocabulary-controlled beginner readers, the child is now devouring books – the story going straight from page to brain.

But how can this love of books, this thirst for reading be kept up?

Will the child become bored, as with a new toy, and revert to watching TV for their emotional nourishment?

A loss of interest can and does happen, but it’s up to parents and teachers to try to make sure that it doesn’t.

The most useful thing to think of is that books are like food. If the same old books are available all the time, it’s like having bread and jam for every meal of the day – the appetite will disappear.

Related: The Reluctant Reader and The Avid Reader

New Books

New books should be coming into the house continually – both from the library and from shops. I know that it is expensive to buy books, but if you think of the cost of a book – which may be enjoyed and reread for years – compared to that of a Big Mac and a fizzy drink – you will realise which is the better bargain.

I think myself that the possession of books – books that a child can go back to anytime – is very important. Children gain tremendously by a second or third reading of a book. The first time they read a book, they read it to get to the end of the story; on the second reading they usually get an insight into characters – something which helps this emotional development as well as their appreciation of literature. Also, they think more about the background to the story, and come to grips with difficult words that they may have skipped on the first reading.

Related: Great Picture Books for Kids

How to Choose Books

But what kind of books? How do you choose? Well, I think that it is best to move from the familiar to the new. If a child enjoys a book about a dog – say one of the Animal Ark series – you could then move on to John Grogan’s Marley – and next, when they are reading at about a ten-year-old level, to something like Michael Morpurgo’s Born to Run.

Similarly, if they enjoy an adventure story, such as Dinosaur Cove by Rex Stone, they may then be moved onto a more demanding read such as Way of the Wolf by Bear Grylls. Note the books that are a success and if possible get another by the same author.

Above all, I think that the parent should be always involved in the choosing of the books. Don’t just give the child the money and send them off to the bookshop.

Be there with them, commenting, reading the blurb (in a casual way), discussing the first page, leafing through and discovering an interesting paragraph.

Reading at an adult level is a hugely complex affair (no one has quite sorted out all the skills necessary for this) and it is important that the child has a parent at their side while they are on this journey.

And don’t forget to give your child the feeling that books are a treat for you as well as for them!

Do you have any tips for supporting your child with their reading?  Share them with us in the comments below.

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This website was created by Jill Holtz and Michelle Davitt, both of whom are mothers of young children. Jill and Michelle decided to create this resource themselves, and launched mykidstime.ie in 2007.