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How to build a reader in 5 steps

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Many will disagree, but it is my personal belief that there is a reader buried in all of us. Sometimes, it is obvious from an early age. Some children just love books. Often parents will tell teachers that their child does not like reading. This may be true. But, we try to be a bit more positive and say that we just need to find the right kind of book for each child. It is possible to nurture a reader.

Surround Your Child with Books
As soon as you can, surround your child with books and stories. Make reading a part of your routine. Get into a habit of reading stories to your child every night. Allow time for you to read stories to your child and for him to read to himself. Find the time to visit the library each week and allow your child to choose two books for the week. Attend storytelling sessions and drama performances. Singapore has plenty of affordable or even free activities for children; many of them are based on popular stories. If a child is familiar with a story or a character, then they are motivated to read more books based on the same story. A child may not like reading, but love Thomas the Tank Engine or Ben Ten. Encourage books by finding books on that character; at least it’s a start to reading.

Find the Right Reading Programme for Your Child
Make sure your child is learning how to read properly. Any sound reading programme will include a balance of phonics and sight words. Parents are bombarded with a variety of phonics programmes. The programmes are all essentially the same, but it’s how the teacher uses the programme that count. A programme based solely on phonics is going to frustrate the child who wants to learn to read quickly, because there are just some words that don’t follow the phonics rules. But a programme based solely on sight words is going to frustrate the child who can’t remember every word they’ve ever been taught and can’t sound out the words they haven’t. An effective programme gives the child the confidence to sound out words they’re not sure of and remember high frequency words by sight. Too many times have teachers seen students who could recognize ‘encyclopaedia’, but couldn’t sound out ‘sheep’. The wrong reading programme can have the opposite of the desired effect. If a child feels frustrated or that they’re incapable, they give up hope and start disliking it intensely. A student who dislikes reading is going to struggle unnecessarily at school.

Finding the Right Level of Reading for Your Child
Our generation of parents is the complete opposite of our parents. We are pushing our children way more than what is necessary, we are all worried about not preparing our children enough and that we will be to blame if their future is not bright. So we are trying to get our children to read at a younger age, to read more advanced books and to be a few steps ahead of their peers. Great idea in theory, but as teachers we have seen this idea backfire completely. Just like children hit milestones in stages, so do they need to go through different stages in learning to read. You can’t hurry or skip stages. Reading takes practice. Often parents will tell us that their Nursery child knows all their phonics, that learning a to z phonics is too easy for them. It may be easy, but the practice is essential. Do not be impatient with the system. Make sure your child is reading the appropriate books for their age. Skipping ahead may frustrate your child. Just because they can read the words, does not mean that they fully understand what they are reading.

One of the most difficult parts of English for Singaporean students, is reading comprehension. So make sure your child understands what they are reading. Get into the habit when your child is young, ask questions and ask them to explain to you what they have read. Once again, make sure that they are reading books which they can understand. Learning to read is a process. Miss a stage and your child will get frustrated. Reading needs to be nurtured, through encouragement, fun and love. Approach reading with an attitude of support and care and your child will have a long standing love affair with books and learning and make reading a daily habit.


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