Learning to read is only the beginning

Posted By Irena Sikorska  

So you've stripped the alphabet chart from the pantry door, given your sight words set away and returned the early readers to the library. Your children are reading independently and your work here is done.


Not so fast. 


Learning to read is only the beginning of your child's literacy journey. While it certainly is a big hurdle which warrants celebration, there is still a way to go before your child has the literacy skills they need to engage fully in 21st century life.


As a child moves through primary school, everything picks up pace and becomes harder. Reading is no exception. The focus changes quickly from learning to read, to reading to learn. Not only that, but children are also required to delve far more deeply into texts and extract not only literal, but also inferential meanings.


Some children have an instinctive feel for language and communication and can easily deduce subtle meanings from a range of books and visual media. Other children see the world through a literal lens and need to be explicitly taught how to interpret metaphorical cues.


Drawing on my experience as a high school English teacher, here are some simple ways you can prepare your child to look beyond the words on the page and develop their reading skills:

  • Continue to share books. Read aloud to your older child as long as you can. Use this time to encourage your child to think more deeply about a story and its characters. Here are some questions to ask your child:
    • Which of the characters is your favourite? Why?
    • What makes this character un/believable?
    • She (the character) said she doesn't mind, so why are we not convinced?
    • How does the description of the house (any setting) make you feel? 
    • What type of story is this? Knowing it's a comedy (or any genre), how do you think it will end?
    • What message might the author be trying to convey to us in this story? What are your thoughts on that message?
  • Try to choose stories that are increasingly complex. Books with characters that defy stereotypes, or are complicated, make for far richer conversations. 
  • Don't be afraid to completely disagree with your child. You can have wonderful conversations about different aspects of a story because you have different perspectives. This will prepare your child for the classroom and for life, where they are bound to disagree with others, and will encourage them to communicate their views effectively.
  • Have fun with language every day. Pun games - who can think of the best pun - are a fun way to encourage kids to think about how the same word can have different meanings. They are also a useful distraction when kids are bored!
  • Use similes and idioms often in your spoken language and ask your child to explain what they mean. Eg: "Your bedroom looks like a landfill site," or, "Don't shoot the messenger."
  • Chat about common similes and idioms and whether or not your child thinks they work. Eg: 'Work like a dog', 'sweat like a pig' or 'every cloud has a silver lining'.
  • Encourage your child to create and use their own similes.
  • Kids love parodies. Watch them on You Tube. Eat It by Weird Al Jankovic is still funny for kids. Encourage your child to create their own parodies. Chat to them about what makes the parody a funny version of the original. 

Contact Yellow Wood Education Consulting for more guidance about your child's education.