As a parent you can do so much to help your child’s reading and spelling, especially if you practice ‘Paired Reading’ together. Find out what it involves below.
Reading is the key to everything. If you can’t read properly you are disadvantaged. If you never experience the joy of books you miss so much enjoyment in life. And perhaps more importantly, children learn much about life as they read about characters and personalities and the story situations they find themselves in.
From an early age it is important for parents to share books with their children.
From an early age it is important for parents to share books with their children. Just looking at the pictures together and talking about what you see, including asking questions. Ask open ended questions like “How do you think that person is feeling?” The child then starts to relate to literature and it helps with language development. More closed questions as “Can you point to the red van?” are fun and encourage observation skills.
Children learn to read words in different ways. Some will learn more easily by using a visual approach – that is recognising shapes of words and being able to memorise words from just looking at them. Others will learn more aurally and will use phonetics more heavily. Many children will use both equally. Be wary of breaking down words into sounds as a strategy because it doesn’t always work. Try breaking down ‘night’ or ‘bought’!
One fun way of giving your child support and encouraging confidence with reading at all levels is the ‘paired reading’ approach. The most important starting point is that the child or young person is allowed to choose their own printed material. It can be anything the youngster wants to read. This is vital – don’t impose your choice.
You can offer suggestions, but in the end it is up to the emerging reader you have there. If a comic or magazine is chosen, that’s fine. It may be a story book, an annual, the back of a cereal packet or a set of Lego instructions. Some youngsters will never read a lot of fiction, but will always gravitate towards non-fiction and factual matter. The important thing is that they are reading something.
The Paired Reading Technique Is Simple
The reading partner (parent, sibling, grandparent or family friend) reads alongside the child. As the child grows in confidence and wants to go it alone, they give a pre-arranged signal (often a tap on the arm) and the supporter stops reading alongside. If the child starts to falter, the reading partner slides in unobtrusively and begins to support again until the next signal is given.
Sometimes the under confidence is so great that the child may need to be encouraged to ‘fly solo’, so to speak. In this case the partner may decide to gradually fade out and almost read under the child, letting the youngster lead.
Let your child choose what they want to read – don’t impose your choice
If the two of you are comfortable with the method it will prove hugely successful. Most importantly, make it an enjoyable experience for both of you. Reading shouldn’t be a chore!
Helping Your Child To Spell
Does your heart sink when your children come home with endless lists of spellings to learn? Or even a little tin of cut up words? Ever thought that spelling could be made fun? It can! And one way to help make it fun and, more importantly, make it ‘stick’ is to use “cued spelling”.
Let’s look at some examples to illustrate the technique. It can be used with all ages from early spellers to adults. In fact cued spelling can be applied to any word, but children find some words more fun than others (in my experience, silly words or toilet humour never fails to engage kids!)
Take the word ‘diarrhoea’ – a problematic word that many have difficulty spelling.
- Get the speller to look at the word and tell you what bits he or she can remember how to spell. It’s likely they’ll give an answer along the lines of: “I know how to spell dia and it ends in a.” Fine. Underline or highlight those two components of the word – maybe use different colours. So it is the bit in the middle which causes difficulties.
- Tell the youngster that you are going to look for cues. For example, ask the question “Can you see another word inside the big word?” The answer will probably come back as “hoe”, but if they struggle you can always prompt. Highlight that word within the word. Now that just leaves the double r.
- Talk to your child and ask how you can remember two ‘r’s. (One child I worked with declared: “I know – ‘rr’s = arse! And that reminds me of ‘diarrhoea’!”) Silly and memorable cues should be encouraged. Get your speller to tell you what cues were used and then test it out. That word will then be remembered.
Try and get your child to come up with the cues themselves, because then the cues are more likely to be recalled. The example used above is a good one to do together and get started.
It is worth remembering and relating that the word ‘diarrhoea’ comes from the Greek meaning ‘through flow’. Children love that! Dia means through and rrhoea means flow. Other words and their meaning can be mentioned with dia as the prefix – diamond; diameter and so on.
I remember once asking a severely dyslexic boy to apply the cued spelling technique to help him remember how to spell ‘beautiful’. He looked at it and told me that he could recognise the word ‘be’ at the beginning and ‘ful’ at the end. He had also ringed the word ‘if’. So it was the middle bit ‘aut’ which he puzzled over. Then he suddenly said that he could see the word ‘ant’ in the middle. I pointed out that it was a ‘u’ not an ‘n’ (remember – he was dyslexic and had turned it upside down). So thereafter he would refer to it as ‘ant with its tummy upside down’. Using the syllables of the word to sound out to himself and applying the cues, from that moment on he was always able to spell the word correctly.
This method gives kids confidence and embeds the spelling in the memory because of the cues. Below are some other methods to help with spelling cues:
- Look for ‘words within words’
- Use mnemonics if it helps – that is a word itself which could benefit from cued spelling! Such as – laugh (lots of aunts under great horses) If the child comes up with the mnemonic on their own they will remember it.
- Use other more personal cues which come from the spellers themselves – some of them might be quite unusual.
Once your child is shown this technique it will be a support for future use.