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GUEST POST By Ryan Spencer, Dymocks Literacy Expert and State Director of the Australian Literacy Educator’s Association
Reading is an important skill for children to learn, as evidence suggests that reading for pleasure from an early age can help increase brain power, boost self-esteem and strengthen language and communication skills.
Learning to read can be a complicated, developmental process, with different children often progressing at varying paces. Although tempting, parents should resist from judging their child’s reading progression by age as it is not a reliable indicator.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for parents to keep in mind when helping your child with reading.
  • Do read with your child every day
One of the best ways to help your child advance with their reading progression is to develop effective reading habits. Set aside time every day when you and your child can read together, followed by a family discussion to talk about your favourite parts of the book.
  • Do use supportive strategies
When you’re reading with your child and they get stuck on a word or feel confused, be patient and help guide them through the process. Ask questions like: Does that make sense? Does the picture give you a clue? Could you read on for more information? Asking these questions reminds your child of the various strategies they can use to figure out the broader meaning of the text.
  • Do make the reading process fun and interactive
Parents often shy away from novelty books but these types of books can help engage younger readers with useful book-handling behaviours and overturn the notion that “reading books is boring”. Books with interactive features such as pop-up displays, lift-up flaps and tactile elements are much more likely to immerse children and encourage them to read for pleasure.
  • Do give books as gifts
Encourage excitement by giving books as gifts to your child on special occasions like birthdays and Christmas. Suggest doing the same for their friends’ birthdays by getting your child to pick out a book from the bookstore. 
  • Don’t give it all away
Guilty of supplying the answer immediately every time your child is stuck on a word? Don’t be an ‘instant word factory’ as this is an unsustainable strategy for the long term. Give your child a chance to figure out the word on their own and help guide them to be a resourceful reader. If they’re still stuck after a while, ask them to skip it and read on. You can always drop that word into the conversation as you turn the page. This tactic essentially supplies the unknown word without shaming the child for being wrong.
  • Don’t cover the pictures
There’s a common misconception that when children are spending too long looking at the pictures in a book, they are getting distracted. This isn’t necessarily true. When a child is looking at the pictures, they are looking for valuable clues in the illustrations to help them figure out the meaning of the text. Instead of covering the pictures, encourage your child to use them by referring to interesting and important aspects of the story.
  • Don’t restrict book choice
To foster a genuine interest in reading, it’s important to let your child choose what they want to read. After all, children need to be engaged reading in order to practise reading. Once we remove the restrictions, a child’s self-efficacy towards reading increases, therefore leading to an increase in their reading ability. So the next time you’re out shopping with your child, stop by the bookshop and let them pick a book or several to take home. 
  • Don’t teach the book
Avoid treating every reading session as a learning exercise. Make the time enjoyable and entertaining instead to keep your child interested and engaged. Parents are often anxious when they feel that their child’s reading progressions isn’t advancing at the pace that they ‘should’, which then translates to the children that they are reading with. Try to relax around the reading process by changing the physical location and making it a time that is quiet, safe and warm. Other tips include reading together with funny voices or taking turns to read different characters. Don’t teach the book – enjoy it!
Can’t wait to start reading with your little ones? Choose from a wide selection of children’s books from Dymocks.