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How to support your child's reading development.

Have Fun - Read Together

As simple as it sounds, ten minutes a day of quality time having fun with a book can make the difference between someone who struggles with reading and someone who discovers the love and joy of reading. The ten minutes spent with your child and a book should be the best ten minutes of your child’s day. It is not about reading today but about coming back to read again tomorrow and the day after. Eliminate the stress and anxiety of reading together – try the strategies on this website.

If you always sit in the same place to do home reading, vary the location. Go outside and read under a tree, take the book to the coffee shop, or simply sit on the loungeroom floor. Children sense your anxiety. Reading is about trust. Readers (especially struggling readers) are vulnerable. Parents' expectations often get in the way if they experience anxiety and fear around reading. Alleviate the stress by doing shared reading, NIM, or echo reading. Laugh. Lighten up. Children learn when they are having fun.

If your child insists on reading his favourite book for the 55th time, read it with pleasure...and then say “I noticed this book on your shelf, I would like to read that to you when we finish. Reading a book is an invitation and children need to be given the opportunity to choose.

Book Orientation


Before you start reading with your child, take two to three minutes to discuss the book. It is important that the child holds the book. Flip through the pages and talk about the title, illustrations and any unusual words that you notice. You could also read the blurb together. By having this initial conversation, you are setting your child up for success. You are putting into place the necessary support for your child to read with confidence. 

It is not necessary to spend a long time doing a book orientation. Two to three minutes is enough. Spending too much time could become boring and discussing every page takes away from the enjoyment of discovering the plot or discovering something new. Enjoy sharing the book and use it as an inticement to discover what happens in the story.


Strategies that work and take away the angst and stress of reading at home


Echo reading

Negotiate with the child whether you will read a sentence, paragraph or page. The adult then reads the sentence, paragraph or page first. The child rereads (echoes) the sentence, paragraph or page back. Continue in this way to complete the book. Echo reading eliminates the frustration and anxiety that is too often associated with reading aloud. 

By “echoing” your reading, the child has an opportunity to sound like a fluent reader. This is important in building a child’s sense of what it feels like and sounds like to be a good reader. Your child can feel confident, relaxed and will enjoy the experience. 

There is no loss of comprehension and together you can have fun reading the story.

You are modeling good reading. When you make a mistake, share the experience. This gives the child an opportunity to understand that all readers make errors and self-correct.


Shared reading


Negotiate with the child to take turns in reading. You could take turns reading a sentence, paragraph or page depending on the book. With shared reading, when the child comes to an unfamiliar word, he/she will hear you read it correctly and will self corrects next time the word appears. 

Shared reading ensures that comprehension is maintained. Any meaning that is lost when the child reads is restored when you read the next sentence, paragraph or page. 

Shared reading eliminates the frustration of reading together because you are modeling good reading and filling an misunderstandings or mispronunciations the child may experience during his/her turn at reading.


Neurological Impress Method (NIM)


Read a story out loud while the child reads aloud with you. The child will "mimic" the words behind you. Track the reading with your finger so your child can keep up. The child mimics your reading and by tracking, you are directing the child to where you are reading. 

Avoid pointing to individual words – instead, move your finger under the line of text in a fluid movement. Read at your normal reading pace. 

When using NIM, the child has an opportunity to sound like a fluent reader. This is important in building a child’s sense of what it feels like and sounds like to be a good reader. Your child can feel confident and relaxed while enjoying the experience.

You are modeling good reading. When you make a mistake, share the experience. This gives the child an opportunity to understand that all readers make errors and self-correct.

If your child looks away from the book, don’t stop reading or give up in despair! Continue to read with enthusiasm and you will find that your child returns to the book.

Prompting Unfamiliar Words

When your child comes to a word, he does not know: WAIT. Avoid eye contact. Keep your eyes on the page. Count to 10 if you have to. Your child needs time to piece together the clues. When we read, our eyes look ahead, reread, skip along to the next line to pick up clues, or gather information from the illustrations —this takes time.

If he substitutes a word that does not make sense say:

  • Does that make sense?

  • Try that again, go back to the beginning of the sentence

  • Read on to collect more information


Avoid jumping in to rescue your child. By being the "instant word factory" you are not supporting your child to use the clues that are available. We want independent readers who understand how reading works. You will not be sitting next to your child in the classroom. We want your child to be confident to try different ways to solve the puzzle. Avoid unnecessary interruptions.

The clue is in the book. Do not give a clue that takes the child out of the book.


Give praise after the reading. Remember to praise the reading not the reader. You are reinforcing good reading habits when you respond with:

  •         I liked the way you read ahead.

  •         I like the way you worked out that word by using the clues in the sentence.

  •         I liked how you self corrected when you read the word incorrectly.

  •         I liked how you did not stop and get worried about that word. You kept on reading to gather more clues.


IN Summary



When your child comes to a word, he or she does not know, do the following:


  • Wait

  • Avoid eye contact

  • Say:

Read on to collect more information

Keep reading to see what would make sense…

Skip the word…

Try that again, go back to the beginning of the sentence

Does that make sense?

  • Avoid unnecessary interruptions

  • Praise the reading not the reader…I liked the way you read ahead…said XX and kept on reading…self-corrected when it did not make sense.


 1. How can I help David figure out the word?

Firstly, avoid fixating on the word! Give David time to look for the clues in the rest of the sentence, in the illustrations, or simply encourage him to go back to the beginning of the sentence. Relax and trust... he needs time to piece it together.

We want David to be independent so don’t jump in to rescue him. Avoid eye contact because the clue is in the book and not on your face. You will not be sitting next to him in the classroom when he next comes to a word he does not know.

Ask David to read ahead to collect more information. If he can’t read ahead, it is ok for you to finish the sentence and then ask: “What word do you think would fit here and make sense?” Encourage David to reread, skip the word, or guess a word that would make sense. These are the strategies he will use as an independent reader.


2. I’ve sounded the word out, but Sally still doesn’t know what the word is! What can I do?

Sounding out a word is the least effective strategy. Most words can’t be sounded out. Children often look like they are sounding out a word when, in fact, they are looking ahead and taking some time to piece the sentence together. Encourage Sally to read for meaning – ask, “What word would fit here and make sense? “ Or simply say: “Read on, reread, look for clues in the text such as the illustration, or skip the word”. Struggling readers often try to sound a word out and they become frustrated when it does not work. Avoid the frustration. Reading is not a test. Set Sally up for success. Complete an orientation to the book prior to the reading. Introduce her to unfamiliar words and talk about the book. By spending the first few minutes doing an orientation, you can avoid interrupting the reading and Sally can build confidence and fluency because she comprehends what she reads.


3. How do I make Jordan read faster?

There is no magic speed for reading. We talk at different speeds and we read at different speeds. If your child reads particularly slowly or extremely fast, try echo reading, NIM or shared reading. These strategies model how good reading sounds. Children need to develop a sense of what a good reader sounds like and these strategies help their confidence and fluency. By modelling good reading, you support your child’s success.


4. Sam only ever wants to read the same book over and over. How do I get him to read others?

Never make a child’s choice wrong. If there is something in this particular book that Sam enjoys, enjoy it with him. Every time Sam comes back to a book, he finds new things; things he may not have noticed before. It could simply be an illustration, a word or something about the setting or characters. Ask him why he likes this particular book and maybe you will learn something more about your child’s interests.

Take time to share the book one more time and then say, “I would love to read your book with you and then I would like to share this book that I found on the shelf”. Keep offering invitations into the world of books and without pressure your child will expand his repertoire.

Children will keep going back to the same book while ever they find something worthwhile to revisit. They may have done a similar thing with favourite food, clothing, and friends. Trust that they will move on when they discover something else that is more exciting.


5. Katie never reads out loud. How do I know she is reading correctly?

Reading is not a test. Children need opportunities to read aloud and silently. Not every reading session has to be done out loud. Try relaxing with your own book and read in silence with your child.


Reading a book is not about reading correctly; it is about understanding. All you need to do is respond as you would to your adult friends. Talk about the book with Katie. Avoid interrogation. Have a discussion about the content, events, characters, author’s style or share opinions. Celebrate when Katie takes her book to bed to read with her the bed-light. That is what independent readers do!


6. Lucas refuses to read at home. How can I get him to read?

You create a community of readers. Reading time is a family routine. Does the family have access to interesting books? Are the books prominently displayed? Does Lucas have a place to store his books? Does Lucas have opportunities to borrow books from the library or select books from the local book shop? Does he have a reading light so he can go  to bed and read independently? Does Lucas see his parents enjoying reading? Are books discussed at the dinner table, while driving, while fishing... at every opportunity? Does your family make regular visits to the local library? Do you turn the TV off and have a time when the family reads together? If you only turned the TV off for 30 minutes a night, Lucas might find a book to fill the void!


7. I’m worried that Jane is only reading the words on the page and she does not understand what the book is about. How can I check this?

There are two ways you can understand what Jane comprehends when she reads. The first is to ask questions such as: “Tell me about this story so far...”. “Why do you think that X happened? ” “What do you think will happen next?”


The second is to listen to Jane’s miscues. Miscues are deviations from the text and give you a good insight into whether or not she is reading for meaning. When Jane substitutes a word with a similar meaning to the one in the text, she is reading for meaning. The word might be “horse” and Jane reads “pony” – in this case, meaning is being maintained and she does not need to be corrected at this point. If however, the word is “horse” and Jane reads “house”, this miscue could indicate that she has lost meaning. If Jane continues to miscue and lose meaning, simply switch to echo reading, shared reading or NIM.


8. The other children in Matt’s class seem to read much better than he does. How well should he be reading at age 8?

How do we gauge “good reading”? This is a difficult question for the best researchers in reading. Does good reading have to be reading out aloud? Reading out aloud is a performance and many factors impinge upon how we sound reading aloud. Good readers can often read well silently but, feel embarrased or anxious when reading aloud. 


The most natural way to read is silently. Children need lots of opportunities to snuggle up with a book. Spend time with Matt, relaxing with books. Talk about books and build a sense of confidence and encourage his desire to read the books that are of interest to him. When Matt discovers the love of books, establishing his reading age will be significant -- you won’t be able to stop him from reading.


Enjoy reading together and model a love of books. Both parents are important in the process. Boys in particular, need to see their dads enjoying books,  newpapers, sport's magazines. Dads need to read to their sons.


Parents often become overly anxious and concerned that their children are “slipping behind” their peers. All children are different. Matt may have learned to talk early, or much later than his peers. He may have learned to walk before 12 months, or much later. As his parents, you accommodated such differences. You expected him to succeed – you knew that he would eventually talk and walk. When it comes to reading, parents’ expectations are often tainted with fear and anxiety. It is this fear and anxiety that often gets transferred onto the child. The child senses “there is something wrong here” and responds accordingly. The essential thing is to build on your child’s strengths. Link reading to his interests and make reading a fun family thing to do. Relax and enjoy the time you spend reading together and you will find Matt responds positively. Limit the time to 10 minutes in the first few weeks so that the anxiety is lessened and you can share the best 10 minutes of Matt’s day with a book.


9. How do I know that Kristy hasn’t just memorised the book?

Memorising the book is just part of the reading process. It may look like memorising to you but Kristy is actually modelling reading and behaving like a reader. These things need to be celebrated. Sit back and enjoy watching Kristy grow and develop in the world of literacy. Acknowledge that she is actually picking up a book and wanting to read. Many children are not interested enough to find a book. A child who feels like a reader, looks like a reader and acts like a reader will continue to develop a love of books and master the reading process.


10. Should I cover up the pictures? Ben seems to be just making the story up using the pictures.


Pictures hold vital clues to what is happening in the story. Readers need all the support they can get to understand the events of the story. Readimg is not  test!!!! Sometimes pictures complement the story; other times a different story is being told through the pictures. Either way, pictures are a story within the story. Allow Ben the time it takes to look at the pictures. Prior to reading together, spend time discussing the pictures. This is part of the book orientation and can be most beneficial in scaffolding his reading attempts. 


When Ben is reading independently, he needs to know where to look for extra clues to help piece the story together. These clues are often in the pictures.


When children begin to read, they retell the story through the illustrations. When they do this, they are indicating that they know how books work. They often use the language of the books. They recall the events of the story and it is not unusual for young, developing readers to gather an enthusiastic audience of their friends.

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