It has been said that until the age of seven, children learn to read and after that they read to learn. But the truth is a little more nuanced. Learning to read is not just about the mechanical decoding of words with phonics and recognising a few tricky words. Reading is about comprehension and understanding the context. The meaning of unfamiliar words can usually be guessed quite reliably when the context is understood.
Once you have mastered the alphabet, spelling and phonics, and are in the habit of reading to your child frequently, then you can help them take their own reading to the next level of comprehension by following these guidelines:
- Always take a moment to observe the cover of the book. What is it about? Who is the author? Is it a story book or information? Do you think that you will like this book?
- After a couple of pages, ask your child to predict what is going to happen next.
- Draw characters in the book and discuss their physical characteristics personalities.
- If the book contains some unfamiliar words, try flagging them up before you read so the flow isn’t disrupted too much.
- Take a few key events from the book and try to arrange the events in order (use drawings if you prefer)
- Independent reading should be at what is called ‘instructional level’, where nine out of 10 words are familiar. This way your child can read quickly, understand the text without support and work out what unfamiliar words mean from the context. Too many difficult words reduces comprehension and dampens the spirit.