Getting reading right from the start

Learning to read is one of the greatest ‘life changing’ skills your child will undertake. Literacy Coordinator Fiona Hawat from Prince Alfred College gives us some tips to setting our kiddos on a positive reading trajectory!

Learning to read is one of the greatest ‘life changing’ skills your child will undertake.

Unlike oral language, which we know develops through exposure, learning to read is a skill that needs to be taught. Ensuring our children become skilled readers requires patience, practise and a clear and explicit plan to get there.

As children learn to read, they are connecting the sounds they hear every day to a visual representation, creating new neural networks and connections in the brain. Learning to read is a complex and refined set of skills, interweaving language comprehension with word recognition to build comprehension, knowledge and essentially the ‘gift’ that is reading.

Developing new neural networks does not happen by chance. It is a process built over years. An explicit, planned and sequenced development of skills that slowly entwine to develop fluent and confident readers. Reading with your child is one of the most obvious ways to strengthen their skills as lifelong readers, in fact research shows that regular reading to your child starts firing neurons in the brain and the stronger they become the faster they fire.

PAC prep school

Setting your child on a positive reading trajectory

Read books that are fun and play with words.

Choose books with a strong rhyme, alliteration, repetition, beat or subtle changes to the sounds in words (children love them because they can be a little bit rude!!). A strong phonological awareness is the biggest early predictor of long-term reading success.

Read books that connect knowledge and extend vocabulary.

Good quality picture books allow our young readers to make connections to their knowledge, experiences and understanding of the world. Exposing young readers to books with a varied vocabulary strengthens and builds a wide repertoire of words that will support their success now and in the future. The correlation between high level vocabulary and academic success are strong.

Read books that have a good narrative (story structure).

These books appeal to us as adults as they connect to our own knowledge and experiences. Spend time discussing characters, setting, how the story made us feel and why. As independent readers we need to be discerning in what we read, and we must teach our children to be the same. Value your role in sharing thought provoking books that allow provocative discussion and challenge our children to think beyond their experiences and what they know.

Read favourite books again and again.

Help your child understand that re-reading helps us to enjoy and improve our comprehension. When we feel comfortable with a text we can experiment with fluency and prosody, important aspects of reading comprehension.

Finally, when your child is learning the mechanics of reading give them time and confidence to build and strengthen their skills. Play games that identify the building blocks of words and be explicit when helping ‘map’ the code to the sounds they hear. Importantly, as they are mastering the mechanics of reading, our role is to maintain the connection, the joy and love of reading.

Books to read with your child

  • Room on the Broom – Julia Donaldson
  • Magic Beach –  Alison Lester
  • The Coloured Echidna – Eunice Day
  • Ella and the Ocean – Lian Tanner
  • Pirates Don’t Read – Robyn Adolphs

You may also like