It is clearly understood that, in general, parents want the best for their chidlren and this includes their child's educational development and his/her ability to becoming a successful reader. Reading provides a door-opening experience to children as it introduces them to the world around them and provides opportunities to enjoy and learn. While a good deal of the reading and writing process happens at school, for many children, their first exposure to reading is done at home with varying degrees of success.
I recently had the opportunity to interview a fellow colleague of mine from the Literacy Department at the school we both work at and asked her to provide some further insights into strategies for helping a child to be become a successful reader. What follows is an insightful article that will, hopefully, provide tips, for those of you whose children are struggling with reading, in helping them to become successful readers.
Getting to know you:
Given that we also have international followers of this blog, can you tell us a little about yourself.
I'm Rebecca Sammut and I'm 26 years old. I am part of a team of tutors at San Anton School where we focus on guiding and coaching students to develop any skills that need to be worked on. I enjoy cooking (and eating!), travelling, reading, being outside and meeting new people.
Name three words that describe you as a person. Outgoing, happy and loyal
Favourite colour: Pink
Favourite song: Pyro- Kings of Leon
A book you really enjoyed reading: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
A favourite location that you have visited: Santorini
A place where you would like to visit at least once in your life: New York
How do you work to develop strategic readers?
From my experience working with students of varied ages, I find that trying to engage the students and discussing the book they choose to read will encourage them to delve into reading further. Part of strategic reading is also appreciating and understanding what the book is about, the characters and their dynamics together. By predicting what could possibly follow in the story and making connections with previously read material should encourage the readers to appreciate the joy books can bring, which will further encourage them to read more frequently and remind them to be strategic readers.
Please provide a strategy or activity that parents can utilise with their children that addresses each of the five elements of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary.
There are different activities that can be used at the same time to target all the elements of reading. The one activity that I can think of that will incorporate all 5 is actually sitting down to read. Whilst reading, you will notice the student struggling and areas that need work. For example: when it comes to reading comprehension, whilst you are reading together you could randomly close the book and ask them questions about what they've just read, about the characters etc. To ensure that they are not simply reading mindlessly. With regards to vocabulary something I enjoy doing with my students is creating a scrapbook that we decorate together which would be solely dedicated to new vocabulary which they can also use when they have writing tasks. They can either draw a picture representing the words or we can come up with a situation together that they can write down so that it would be easier for them to remember and apply these new words.
What is one of your favorite children’s books?Describe three literacy activities that you might use to help children internalize the story.
One of my favourite children's books is surely "The BFG" by Roald Dahl. Three activities that encourage children to delve deeper into the story are: active reading strategies which are split into 3 parts (before reading, during reading and after reading) whereby you can discuss the title of the book with the student, what they think the book will be about, what kind of story it would be etc, then concentrate on how the story will develop, how the characters link in together and how the story might end. After finishing the book it is important to look back and possibly make connections and think about what they liked and didn't about the story. If a student is finding trouble reading then another option is to have the story in picture form where you can discuss this together and eventually even jumble these pictures up and asking them to put them in order of the sequence of events in the story.
Can you suggest to the readers of this blog, some strategies that can be done at home in terms of supporting a child who is an emerging reader?
Paired reading with the student- this is when an adult and student read together but take it in turns. If the student is finding difficulty or is not confident then the adult may read with the student and slowly wean this off as they go along. Praise is also very important, even for the smallest successes because it truly encourages the students to keep trying even though they do struggle (perhaps a reward chart system will work here too to encourage them, depending on the student's age of course). Asking the student what type of books they enjoy reading. In order to encourage young readers to continue enjoying books, it is imperative that they get to choose what genre they enjoy as if they are forced to read books they don't like, this will put a damper on their reading experience! Visiting a library together would surely help as they would have a variety of books from different genres at their disposal.
Please share an experience in which you successfully taught a child who was experiencing difficulties in one or more of the 3 components of literacy. How were you able to be successful?
I once had a student who struggled with spelling. He just couldn't put his thoughts down on paper. I started targeting different spelling patterns that were mostly set in English and started to build slowly from there. Within a few months of rigorous work, there was a drastic improvement with regards to his spelling. The student internalised all the spelling rules we worked together and could successfully apply these rules when given a writing task. Through repeated practice and writing more frequently, there was a major shift.
How important do you feel that parents should spend time reading with their children? What benefits, do you feel, can be obtained from this exercise?
I believe it is imperative for children to read with their parents as they would associate their home as a comfortable place to read. If children see their parents encouraging them to read and that it is something they can do together this will also be of great benefit and motivational. A reward system could also be started as well to keep encouraging reading at home.
What advice would you give to parents who may have a child that is experiencing difficulties with or is not interested in reading?
First and foremost I would spend time discussing what type of stories are fun for the child to read. If they end up reading books they aren't interested it will most likely push them away from reading and view it as a negative experience. Like that, you would know what sort of books to choose for your children. Another strategy is that of a reward system that targets reading, a reading timetable stuck in their bedroom where reading time is slotted in as part of their week. Active reading strategies (discussing before, during and after reading questions as mentioned above) also encourage the reader to delve deeper into the story and question it as they read.
What advice would you give to parents whose children are regular readers and enjoy this activity?
Always know what genre of books your children enjoy reading. The fact that they love to read is already such a positive thing in itself, so encouraging them by buying/borrowing books that interest them will motivate them even further. Once they are regular readers, I would also suggest practicing some writing here. Every time they complete a book, give them the opportunity to write about it (or even create a presentation which might be more fun for them!) to show to family or friends.
Well I hope that you found some valuable tips and insights in this article. I'd like to thank Rebecca for taking the time out of her busy schedule to provide us with her thoughts and insights on this subject.
If you'd like to share any tips or thoughts of your own, you are very welcome to do so in the comment section below.