Some of the best parenting advice you can implement is ensuring that your children learn to read and become decoding experts.  The value of literacy should never be underestimated in a world suffering from information overload. Learning how to read and learning to read well is a gift that, once acquired, can never be taken away.

Children need to hear words to tune their ears

  • Read stories to them from a young age
  • Listen to them read books to you aloud
  • Engage them in conversations

We literally need to talk our children clever!

Learning to read

This happens in the Foundation Phase between the ages of 2 and 8 where children are acquiring the skills to help them to recognise letters of the alphabet, read them, write them and blend them.  Shape and colour games are very important at this stage as they help children work out similarities and differences, either introducing concepts to the preschooler, or reinforcing them in the early primary school years.  In addition. the lines contained in shapes such as a square, triangle, rectangle, diamond and circle, form the basis of every letter of the alphabet. Think about the curve in the letter ‘a’ from a circle, and the straight line from a square.

There are dozens of perceptual skills that need to be acquired in the early years to help a child to learn how to read. Support your child’s educators by reinforcing skills at home.

Reading to learn

From age 9, or grade 3 onwards, basic reading skills can now be consolidated to enable children to read for meaning. This is the really exciting stuff that unlocks the world for your child.  Keep encouraging them and supporting them on their reading journey whether in real books or on a computer or tablet.

Test their comprehension

iStock-000007860143-kids-on-books - Copy Make sure your children understand what they are reading or what you are reading to them.

Can they derive meaning from it or are they just reading words? This is the value of learning comprehension skills at school.  When you are reading a story together check in with your child from time to time to see if they are really listening by asking a question or two about the content. This is the audio version of showing a child a very busy picture and getting them to spot a particular item within it.

In a world of information overload good comprehension skills are vital in order to be able to critically assess the quality of sources of information and to be able to rapidly find the informati0n you need.

Tell it in your own words

When children tell you about what they are reading, encourage them to always try and put it in their own words so that they develop the skill of paraphrasing.  Plagiarisation is easy to do in the cut and paste world of the internet and we need to help children to guard against the temptation of passing off someone else’s work as their own.

High frequency words

The more familiar children are with the 220 most frequently used words (a list known as Dolch sight words), the more fluid their reading will be. Here is an exercise you can do with children from 9 years and up to help them spot the words:

Give them a column / article of newspaper copy and a pend, and get them to circle all the ‘and’ words, then ‘the’ words, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘them’ etc.

Download the Dolch list here.

Word power as a sign of intelligence

Word power enables children to express their innate intelligence.  It is one thing to have good ideas and quite another to be able to communicate them.  Help your children to do both by ensuring that they learn to read. Word power is king!

For more free parenting tips and advice click on my Free Stuff page.

My colleague Marian Bailey, founder of Raising Readers also has a wealth of information to share specifically about how to help children to love reading, including fabulous sensory learning packs and book recommendations.

Read more about parenting styles and get actionable parenting advice from Nikki Bush.