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Helping Your Child To Read

Updated on January 26, 2012

When your child starts school, one of the most fundamental skills he or she will learn is the ability to read. Reading is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of education, in that your child needs to master it in order to be able to reach their full potential in other areas. For instance, if your child cannot read, then he/she will struggle with other work, in that they will not be able to read the task at hand, or properly research the answer. Writing may also be compromised, as children who read well very often spell well.

My child started school in the September after he turned four years. Personally, I did not really feel he was ready for it - I would have been perfectly content for him to wait for several more months. However, that was not an option, so he began school - he was very excited on his first day and ready to face life head on.

However, this jubilance did not last very long, especially after he quickly realised that 'big' school did not offer the same freedom of choice as preschool. And I have to say that the task he found the most difficult was reading. He would bring a book home every week and the idea was to read it with a parent. Of course, the books were very simplistic; mostly only one or two words on each page, to start with. There was no pressure at all, but some of the children in the class seemed to take to it like ducks to water.


I am of the belief that the simple crux of the problem was that his brain was just not ready for reading. I came to this conclusion after observing that, even if the same word ('the', for example) featured twice on the same page, he could not even recognise that the two words were identical. Something just hadn't clicked into place.

This was not something that bothered me because I was sure it was just because he was young. However, one year on and another school year later and he still hadn't improved very much. Now he could recognise and read some words (and knew when two were the same), but most of the class seemed streets ahead and much more enthusiastic.

My Solution

As an avid book lover myself, I remembered just how much enjoyment reading had given me as a child. My son found it nothing but a difficult chore and was very reluctant to even try. What's more, he didn't even enjoy the books he was bringing home - except for the Oxford Reading Tree series, about Kipper and Biff, etc. But the school didn't have many of those books, so I went out and bought my own. Sometimes you just have to take a hand in your child's learning yourself, if you want them to achieve their full potential.

Each evening, before I read him a bedtime story, I got him to read just a tiny little bit of one of the Oxford Reading Tree books. (Stage 1+ contains extremely simple sentences, the Stage 1 books contain only simple words. As my child had already been reading at school for some time, I felt he was ready for level 3 or 4.) At first it would only be a matter of a few words. Ten words at the most, perhaps, probably less. It's better to start off really, really slowly and spend just a very small about of time if your child is a reluctant reader, like mine was. My experience was, that if you ask for too much, your child reverts to his 'It's not fair, I can't do this,' attitude. Asking too much is often too daunting.  And that sets the grounds for a battle.  Remember, what you want to do is nuture the grounds for a love of reading so that your child will continue to read when he/she is older.

Where To Start

If your child has already been reading at school for a while, you may not want to start at Stage 1, or even Stage 2. In fact, I began by buying books from Stage 4, though my child had already brought some of the earlier books home from school. Stage 4 might sound rather advanced, but it isn't really. the sentences are still very simple and there are only between 5 -10 words on each page. To quote from 'The Storm', a Stage 4 book, one of the pages reads as follows: 'Biff looked outside. There was a storm.' I wanted to include this to give you a guide of which level to begin at - if your child is below this level then perhaps you could start with Stage 3, or even Stage 2. If you think your child is above this level, then begin at Stage 5, The Magic Key.

Of course, if your child is completely new to the idea of reading, i.e. just beginning school, then you could begin at Stage 1, 1+ or 2.

The Magic Key

My way of helping my child to read worked absolute wonders. Happy with concentrating on the minimum amount of words, he really tried because he knew that in a couple of minutes I would be reading to him instead. Starting small stamped out the very negative attitude he had developed towards his reading because he'd thought it was just too difficult and that the other children were better than him.  Quite quickly, his reading really picked up. Each time he finished a book I bought him the next one, and as your child reads through the series he/she will find the stories become more exciting and involved. The Magic Key stories were my son's favorites. These stories begin at stage 5. Kipper, Biff, Chip and Floppy the dog have a magic key which leads them to other lands where they meet pirates and dinosaurs -and even back in time where they are introduced to vikings and children from the Victorian age. The tales are exciting and imaginative enough to keep your child focused, and as you read through each stage the books get longer and more substantial.

Well, it Worked

 My child soon began to really look forward to reading every night, and it wasn't long at all before he was even reading on his own, as soon as he got home from school.  His enthusiasm has remained - he reads every day and has the reading level of a teenager, even though he is only ten.  Many of the books he reads have been written for the young adult market, and he can get to the end of one of these in three or four days.  He costs me a fortune in books now!  I don't mind, however - for me the greatest thing is seeing him curled up on the end of the sofa, completely immersed in a story. 

Tips For Helping Your Child To Read

1. Start small, otherwise the task at hand will seem too daunting

2. To start off with, spend only a few minutes at most unless your child wants to continue

3. Give your child lots of praise

4. Practice every night, as part of your routine.

5. Reward your child by reading to them afterwards.


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    • Eleanor's Words profile image

      Eleanor's Words 7 years ago from Far and Wide

      Pamela, thank you for taking the time to read my article and to leave such a well thought out comment. I was particularly interested to learn the information about msg - it is already something I try to avoid for my children, but I had absolutely no idea that it could be disguised by using other names. I've always thought 'natural' flavorings to be the best option, but your information has alerted me to the fact that this might not be so. You are completely right, though, children need healthy foods without brain-destroying additives for good brain development. I really don't know why they allow these things in food at all.

      Anyway, thank you again for reading and for your comments, much appreciated.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 7 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I enjoyed this article. Also -- totally different subject for a moment -- parents with young children need to really be careful about allowing their children to eat foods containing MSG or drink fluids containing aspartame. These are brain-killing agents especially for a child's developing brain. Due to the allowances of the FDA, msg is allowed to be called the following (and many other vague names) on a product: spices, natural flavorings, broth. The makers of the products do not have to spell it out for us. There are approximately 30 words or names they can say instead of saying, "Beware, this has MSG in it and it will destroy your brain slowly and your child's brain quickly."

      So many children are having problems these days with speech development and reading development plus other normal growth development. There are well-researched books on this subject.

      Thank you for posting the excellent book options for helping one's child learn to read.