When should I start reading with my child?
It is never too early to introduce your child to books. Babies and toddlers love looking at picture books and hearing you read aloud. You can share books from birth onwards!
When is the best time to read with my child?
When nothing is competing for their time. If you choose good books and really enjoy them together, so that your child is actually preferring a cosy read with you, you are winning!
Should I teach my child the alphabet before they start school?
Parents often think teaching the letter names, aee, bee, cee, etc. will give them a head start before school. In fact only 5 letter names (a, e, i, o, u) are ever used in reading! So this is not the best time to emphasise alphabet names. But do get your child interested in letter shapes and their sounds. To make sure you are teaching the sounds correctly, see Shapes and Sounds section of Learn to Read & Write - a Parent's Guide, page 11.
My child wants me to read the same book over and over again. Surely we should be reading other things by now?
Young children often ask for the same again and again. This can be very frustrating, especially since they seem to have a knack of loving the book you like the least! However, rereading familiar stories gives them confidence and there is obviously something in the book that has captured their imagination. Give them other new book choices and eventually they will move on and find another favourite.
My child is a confident reader, but still wants me to read to her books written for younger children.
As children grow older and become more independent and skillful, they still like to return to things they remember from younger days - books, toys or television programmes, for example. It might be that reading simpler books gives them happy or secure memories of being younger and more dependent, or that they feel more secure reading a book that they know they won't struggle with. Reading easy books, both to and with them is still useful, but you might want to combine them with longer, more challenging stories where you take turns, with your turns longer than theirs.
My child is on a lower level reading book than the rest of the class.
Children develop in different ways and at different speeds. Literacy is a complex skill involving many developmental abilities, and children of the same age in the same class will be at completely different stages of literacy development. In addition, a reading scheme may have different sub-levels within a reading level, which will have their own numbering scheme and be difficult to compare. What is more important is whether your child enjoys reading and can talk about the story. If you think your child's reading book needs changing, or you'd like to give more informed help, speak to their class teacher. However, try not to compare levels with other children in the class as reading schemes are not designed to be a race!
Should I correct my child's spelling?
In the early days of writing your child is unlikely to get every word right. They may also spell purely phonetically e.g. 'froot' for 'fruit' or 'berd' for 'bird'. Encourage and praise them for what they are saying on paper, rather than pointing out wrong spellings. Too much correcting can discourage them and put them off writing.
What do I do if my child gets stuck reading a word?
In the early stages, just say the word for them, especially if it is a difficult one. For easier words, you may want to give them enough time to try sounding it out before jumping in, or just sound out the irregular part for them. On balance, if there is a risk that their stumbling will destroy their interest in reading, quickly give them the word.
Should I correct my child if they make a mistake in their reading?
The meaning is the most important part of reading in the early stages, but at first a child may be so busy putting the sounds together to make the words that they can't pay much attention to the story. So rather than interrupting to point out a mistake, try saying, "OK, now let's both read that sentence." Your second reading, done together, restores the story and helps them to hear themselves sounding more fluent.
Does it matter if my child writes in capital letters?
It is best not to teach writing the capital letters first, except perhaps for the first letter of your child's own name, and of family member names. Since most words in books are lower case, these are the shapes that are more valuable for them to learn to write with before capitals. When they first begin to write squiggles that look like letters, this is your chance to help them make the correct a-z hand-habits from the start. This is important because if they begin with an awkward grip and write letters the wrong way round, these awkward ways can quickly become habits they do not want to change, so it becomes difficult to correct them without upsetting them.
My child writes certain letters back to front like b, d, p, q. What should I do?
It is very common for children, especially in the early days of learning to write, to get letters the wrong way round. For help see page 13 of Learn to Read & Write - a Parent's Guide.
My child is really struggling with reading and writing. Is she dyslexic?
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that mainly affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. It is estimated that four to five per cent of the population are dyslexic, and that 375,000 pupils have dyslexia. Just because your child is having difficulties doesn't necessarily mean they have dyslexia. You could look up dyslexia on the internet. If your child seems to fit their typical dyslexic descriptions, the best thing to do first is speak to your child's teacher.
My child used to love reading but now she is refusing to read to me.
It may be that you child is worried about getting words wrong, or that their tastes in reading are changing, or simply that they are tired. Check if the reading is progressing normally at school. If so, get the teacher to recommend material to read that your child can feel more confident in read, but do carry on reading to him or her, so you are still sharing stories together. You could also encourage them to read other things, e.g. signs, lists, websites, information books, and find enticing books for them to read for themselves, or to younger siblings.
My child seems to have stopped making progress in her reading or writing.
Take care not to make your child feel as if they are doing something wrong or being lazy. Children develop at different speeds and there are times when they need to be secure in what they know before moving on. Or it may just be that they are taking longer to master a more difficult stage than the one before. Consider checking with their teacher. Meanwhile continue to read stories together, hear them read books at the same level, follow some of the tips in this book and praise and encourage. When they are ready they will progress again.
I'm not a very confident reader and my spelling is poor. How can I help my child have confidence in their reading and writing?
The most important thing you can do is encourage and praise your child when they read to you or do some writing, and support them in their learning. You could even share with them that you never became a good reader, so they may well be able to teach you some things they learn at school that you didn't know. Some schools or local education centres also run classes to help adults with their literacy skills. Joining one will show your child that learning is good for grown-ups too.
My child seems OK with reading but doesn't follow the story very well.
Some children seem to read words fluently but have little understanding of the story. Although they may seem fluent, in fact they could be concentrating so much on decoding the words that it is hard for them to focus on the meanings of whole sentences as well. Try focusing on the meaning by asking them to get ready to answer one or two questions you will ask them after they reread a section to you. Then ask questions about what's happening or what they think might happen next.
English isn't my first language. Which language should I use to talk to my child about books?
Use which ever language you feel most comfortable speaking. It doesn't matter which language you use, you are still talking about books and enjoying them together. If you prefer, read books in your own language as well. You can also get an increasing number of picture books in dual language versions from libraries and bookshops.
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