Busy parents often feel guilty about not doing enough to help their children learn to read. However, even though you can’t sit beside a child every night to listen and help sound out the words, it doesn’t mean you can’t help. Sometimes helping means letting a child learn how to help himself – which is what happened to me.
I had finally I learned to read at school and was allowed to bring home the first reader we finished in the classroom to demonstrate my reading skill to my family. I was very pleased with myself and read the little book to everyone in the family in turn. When I finished, I wanted to read it to everyone a second time, but my sister balked.
“That’s a book for little kids,” she said, and I don’t want to hear it again. It isn’t any good.”
I was shocked. How could it not be good? It was a story about a little dog, as I recall. However, my sister was three years older and my heroine. “Give me a good book then,” I said, and she searched among her collection and handed me one.
I puzzled out a word in the title I didn’t know – my-ster-y?
“Mystery,” my sister said impatiently.
“That book’s too difficult for her,” my mother protested.
“No, it’s not. She can do it,” my sister answered, and that was that. I couldn’t let her down. If my sister said it was a good book and I would be able to read it, then I must be able to do it.
I struggled with the first few pages and ran to one parent and then the other and then to my sister for help with the difficult words – and there were a lot of them. Everyone in the family was very kind at first and then mysteriously became “too busy” to help me any more.
At that point, my sister gave me an invaluable piece of information that helped me with reading for the rest of my life. She said, “You don’t have to read every word to understand the story. Just skip the words you don’t understand and keep reading. After awhile, you’ll figure it out what they mean.”
So, that’s what I did, and she was right. I was able to figure out the story, although it actually took me a long time – many books and several years – to understand all the words. However, it really isn’t necessary to understand or to be able to pronounce all the words to understand and enjoy a story.
Maybe your child doesn’t realize that; tell him.
Turn Your Child Into a Believer – Yes, I Can Read
You can help your child become a better reader by encouraging and helping your child read even when you can’t sit beside him to help:
- Have your child read to you while you are doing something else – like ironing, or cooking, or repairing the car.
- Reassure him often that he can read better than he thinks he can.
- If he doesn’t know a word, ask for the first letter, and then the sound the letter makes. Have him read the sentence again making the sound of the letter and not reading the word. Now, have him guess what the word might be – you guess, too.
- If neither of you can figure it out, decide whether or not you need to know the word to continue the story. If you don’t, have him read the sentence leaving the word out; if you do, have him bring the book to you. (Enough is enough!)
- Find opportunities to have your child read material other than books to you – menus, and signs, etc.
- Attach a daily cartoon to the fridge and ask your child to read it to you.
- Leave a message on the counter after school that tells him where a special treat for him is hidden.
There are several things that can help turn a child into a reader: For me, it was watching my family read with enjoyment every night, my mother reading stories to me for many years, my sister assuring me I could do it, and passing along the great secret that I didn’t have to read every word to understand a story. It all helped.
I hope my stories help your children learn to love reading. Something’s Missing is for sale in paperback at this link to Amazon.com, or by clicking on this Amazon.ca link, and at Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores. If your child enjoys e-book reading, the Kindle version is available at Amazon.com by clicking here, or at Amazon.ca by clicking on this link. The second book in the series will be going to press in May or June.
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Maureen Grenier and a clickable link back to this page.