Nothing is more important to academic achievement than being a good reader. Learning to read isn’t something kids just do at school. There’s a lot you can do at home to help your child improve his reading skills. And some of the activities are so much fun, he may not even realize they’re educational! Here is a list of ways to help your children become more effective readers:
#1. Phonics Pelmanism
Write or print a selection of words on cards, then cut each word into two – separating syllables is a good place to start. Your child must then match the halves together to form words. This is reading on a simple word level, but can be stretched to cut up sentences once he is comfortable with reading single words. This fun activity will help your child to recognise spelling patterns and collocations. (‘Pelmanism’ refers to a memory-training game using a system of matching cards.)
#2. Picture Dictionary
Get your child to help pick out a notebook, and use it to create his own dictionary. After every reading session, ask him to write down any unfamiliar words and draw pictures next to the words. The words can be organised in alphabetical order or by phonemes. This is a useful aid for preschool and Primary One learners, a visually stimulating way of helping them build reading skills and vocabulary awareness.
#3. Predicting Content
For preschoolers, it’s important to set time aside to read to and with your child. One simple task to keep him interested in the story and develop his reading skills is asking him to predict what will happen on the next page. This way, your child is able to visualise some of the content and begins to acquire some basic inferring skills. Remember, there is no ‘wrong’ answer – encouraging imagination is important too!
#4. Write Your Own Book
Start with a large blank notebook. Have your child draw a picture on a left-hand page, and make up a story about it. You then write the dictated story down on the facing page. Then read it together. Your child will be empowered to know he can be an author too! As his reading skills and writing abilities grow, have him write down the stories himself. This could also be the start of his own journal. Create recipe books (even if the food isn’t edible!), animal magazines, anything your child is interested in. Because writing helps children become better readers, and reading helps children become better writers too!
#5. Content Sequencing
After reading a storybook together, write down six to eight sentences that describe incidents in the story on separate pieces of paper. Your child must then arrange them in chronological order. Children will only develop a love for reading if they truly understand what they have read. Sadly, very often, fluency and pronunciation are emphasised at the expense of content and comprehension.
#6. Scavenger Hunt
Again, read a storybook with your child. Afterwards, give them a short summary of the story (about 100 to 200 words) but with several words cut out of it. Place these ‘missing’ words around the room or your home. Your child must then try to find the words to fill the gaps. This activity will help children to contextualise language. For a higher level skill, throw in additional words that don’t belong in the story as ‘decoys’.
#7. Correct the Sentence
This is one for more proficient readers. Write out six sentences from a story you’ve read together, but throw in some mistakes. Tell your child that he is now the teacher. His task is to correct the ‘mistakes’ by skimming and scanning the text. Start with simple spelling errors and make the activity more challenging (adding grammatical and factual errors, for example) as your child’s reading skills progress.
#8. Play Word Games
Games like ‘I Spy’ − “I spy with my little eye something beginning with shhh,” can help children make sense of how words are put together. Use sounds like “buh” and “fff”, rather than names of letters like “B” or “F”, and ask your child to guess what item you are looking at. Take turns to ask the question and encourage him to sound words out. Another game is to form words that rhyme (even if they’re nonsensical words) − “What words sound like ‘car’?” Rhymes help children learn word patterns and how words are created.
#9. Read Everything
Reading doesn’t always have to mean sitting down with a book. When watching TV together, make it a point to read words that pop up on screen. Read out a recipe as you make the dish while your child is in the kitchen with you. Take him to the library or bookstore and have him read the titles on book covers, then ask him to guess what the book is about. Ask your child to try sounding out words on advertising boards at bus stops and signboards on shop fronts. The key to encouraging a prolific reader is to never stop reading!