It’s exciting when it happens. First your child is matching sounds to letters, then stringing those sounds into small words…and suddenly…he’s reading! But listening to an emerging reader slowly sound out words is sometimes like watching a beginning swimmer dog paddle: it’s both exciting and painful. And for the beginning reader it can be frustrating.
“It’s very important for new and reluctant readers to experience success,” says Gabrielle Miller, Ed.D., Vice President of Literacy/Education Programs for Reading Is Fundamental. “Parents and caregivers should focus on opportunities to help children access materials that they can read independently, instead of just focusing on helping them to read difficult words. Take turns reading with the child. If the child misses more than two words in a sentence, consider another selection that a child could experience more success with.”
Most children experience a phase of burn-out as they are learning to read. What was once thrilling and new, becomes tiresome. So how do you motivate that reluctant reader?
“Reading to kids is still important at this age,” notes Celia Dyer, Language Arts Specialist at Athens-Chilesburg Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky. Dyer advises to look for books that are about your child's interests (animals, princesses, super heroes, etc.) “Even if the books are too hard for the child to read on his own, encourage him to read the parts or words he knows and you can read the rest. The comics in the newspaper are also a good place to start because they are short and easy to follow,” Dyer says.
Since an entire book can seem overwhelming to some children, start small. Find other fun ways to get your child reading the words around her.
Does he like to draw?
Divide a sheet of paper into fourths and label each box with what you want him to draw: six ducks, a sad boy, a red car, etc.
Does she like to move?
Make your own flashcards with words telling her what to do. Hold up cards that say jump, kick, run, and hop. Watch her read and move!
Does she like counting or math?
Write out the problems as word problems. Five cats plus three birds. How many pets in all?
Does he like games?
In the car, modify the “I Spy” game to include words on a billboard. I spy the word fast or big. Spell words out loud and wait for him to tell you what they are.
The important thing at this stage of reading is to practice, practice, practice. The more your child is reading, the faster fluency will come. At the same time, it’s important not to squash her love of books by making reading seem like a job. Find a way to make it fun and everyone will benefit.