Let’s face it, teaching children to read is not easy. Everybody has their opinion on how it should be done. But as teachers we are only a small part of the puzzle in a child’s reading journey. Much of the ground-breaking work will be done at home, with their parents by their side. So how can we as educators support the parents of our students so that they have the knowledge they need to support their child’s reading progress at home?
1. Get Educated!
Often it is the simplest solutions that bring the greatest reward! Educating your parents on how you teach your students to read will help them not only understand what is happening in the classroom but also how they can then apply the same practices at home while they are listening to their child read.
You may like to do this in the form of a parent information afternoon or evening. Or you may choose to create an informative powerpoint or video that is sent home to your parents that demonstrates the key foundational principles of your reading program. Any accompanying resources, such as phonics rhymes, sounds charts or reading strategies may also be sent home so that they have a copy of the same resources you use in class for the children to refer to when they are needing prompting.
2. Remember the three ‘P’s’: Pause, Prompt, Praise
Explain to your parents that it is important that they allow their child time to work out the word (pause), use clues taken from the context (prompt) and then to praise their child for trying. While accuracy is important eventually, praise for trying will encourage their child to give reading a go without always feeling the pressure to get things right. The more they just give words a go, the more accurate and confident they will become over time. In fact, particularly in the early days of reading, it is entirely appropriate for them to tell their child the word if they notice them struggling. Again, taking the pressure off perfection will give them a sense of confidence and enjoyment of reading longer term.
3. Get Playful
Reading doesn’t just have to happen with a book! Reading is all around us and can be practiced in many ways. Here are some simple ways your parents can be practicing reading with their child without a book:
- reading signs and posters
- following a street map
- reading the back of a cereal box
- choosing a movie to watch
- using a recipe
- reading game rules
- reading the comics in a newspaper
- playing word games including crossword puzzles
- reading instructions
- reading the grocery list as you go shopping
- looking at letterbox leaflets
- finding certain brands at the shops
- reading magazines, poems, rhymes, song lyrics
4. Consider your environment
It seems obvious but sometimes the obvious can be easily missed: making sure children have access to reading material is vital to reading success. Encourage parents to have a variety of books/encyclopedias/comics/children magazines available for their child to reach. These reading materials need to also be easily accessible to them. Where books are stored and particularly their heights should be considered to encourage easy access to books.
5. Listen to your child read every day
As you listen to your child read, every so often you might like to do the following activities with them:
- look at the cover, title, pictures and talk about what the book might be about
- talk about the story so far and what might happen next
- after reading, talk about the story and ask questions (our reading questions bookmarks will help guide parents to know what questions can be asked)
- talk about the pictures and how they add meaning to the text
- take turns when reading a harder book
6. Don’t be afraid to put the book down!
One of the most important things to remember is that reading should never be a chore. In fact, we highly recommend that once it starts feeling that way, then a parent and a child should put the book they are reading down and find something else to do, leaving the book there to come back to later.
7. Learning to read takes time
So with all this said if you share nothing else with your parents, assure them that learning to read takes time. For some children that time may be short, for others a little more patience may be required. Children develop at different rates. This doesn’t necessarily indicate anything is wrong. This is natural. Make sure you encourage them not to compare their child with another child. Their child has unique abilities and developmental progression points that are completely out of anyone’s control. The best thing they can do is make sure they are doing everything else that we have suggested in this article so far and then the reading will come as their child is ready.
I truly hope there has been something in this post to help you encourage your parents in supporting their child to read at home. Do you have any other suggestions? Don’t be afraid to post them below!