By Meghan Walsh – Speech Pathologist, Nurture Family Health Centre
School is in full swing again and while many are getting back into the regular routine of weekly readers and sight words, have you wondered if there is more that you can be doing to support your child’s literacy development? Obviously this is a major part of your child’s education for the first three or four years at school and you may feel that doing anything beyond your child’s prescribed homework could be interfering or confusing for them, but there are things you can do to support your young learner on their reading and spelling journey.
Foster a Love of Books – something that tends to happen quite a lot is parents think that now their child is able to read for themselves, they should stop reading aloud to them. Learning to read is difficult and mentally draining – your little one has been doing it all day at school and there is nothing that takes the fun out of a book faster than having to figure out each word one at a time. Keep reading aloud to your kids, even the older ones, until they’re kicking you out of their room so they can read their novel in peace. This is a crucial time when some kids lose the love of books because all it means to them is hard work. By reading to your child, you are also building their comprehension and exposure to new words. You are able to explore chapter books and novels that they don’t have the skill to read yet, but will take them to a higher level of language and vocabulary whilst expanding their imagination and narrative skills. After all, learning to read is all about understanding and learning something new.
Know your school’s phonics program – ask your child’s teacher if they use a specific program at school and also ask if they will email you a copy of the sound targets for each week. If you can be reinforcing the ‘sound of the week’ at home as you go about your everyday activities, it’s more likely to stick.
“Time to put on your socks for school.Oh wow! I just said two words that started with an /s/ can you figure out which ones they were?”
Decodable Readers – The ability for your child to sound out a word (applying the phonics skills they have learnt in class) is crucial for their ongoing literacy success. Approximately half of ALL English words can be ‘sounded out’ or ‘decoded’. Ask your teacher if the school has decodable readers. If not, keep going with your normal school readers, but add in some decodable books at home. There are some fantastic free decodable readers (approximately 200!), developed by SPELD-SA that go step by step, right from prep level. These readers are supported by rigorous research and are a great way to get your kids applying their phonics skills.
The SPELD-SA readers are available in many formats to print or use on a device:
Modelling – The more your child sees you finding entertainment in reading, the more likely they will also see it as an enjoyable pastime. Swap out the iPhone for a novel and show your kids, instead of just telling them, how great reading can be.
Keep reading fun – Probably THE most important step in helping your child learn to read, is to not get frustrated! Easier said than done – trust me I’m guilty as charged. Try to keep in mind that reading is a skill that must be specifically taught and practiced over and over. It is not something your child is going to pick up via osmosis. Find a little patience and your child will stick with it a little longer.
Concerns? – Literacy is a complex beast. If you are worried your child is not keeping up with their peers in reading and spelling, an assessment with a speech pathologist may be necessary to define the difficulties and figure out the best path to correcting it so your child has every chance of success.