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10 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Teaching Your Kids How To Read

Reading is an essential skill for a child to master and despite all the recent developments in technology, reading still remains as crucial as ever. A person who has not mastered that skill does not stand a chance in today’s competitive environment. 

For this reason, both parents and the government have been doing everything in their power to encourage children to read. In Singapore, children have access to multiple libraries (such as the Central Public Library of Singapore). 

However, in their pursuit of perfection, many parents make mistakes when they are trying to teach their child how to read. This article will help you avoid these mistakes which might discourage your child from picking up a book. 

1. Read the books together.

Reading is not just an academic activity. It also presents a wonderful opportunity for you to bond with your little one.

If you simply give your child a book and tell them to read it they are less likely to do so than if you sit down and engage in the activity with them.

Children want to impress the audience of people they love so if you are listening they are more likely to make an effort to pronounce all the words properly, especially if you praise them after all the successful attempts.

As they grow older and become teenagers you can slowly back away and leave them to tackle new books on their own. Hopefully, by then the love of reading will be deeply embedded in their minds so they won’t need you to constantly spur them on.  

2. Pre-reading questions spike curiosity. 

Many parents tend to be slightly impatient when they are teaching their child to read and jump immediately into the narrative. They focus too much on the story and what it is about. 

However, the child might not be as interested at that point in finding out about the plot. To tickle their curiosity and awaken their inquisitive mind try to incorporate several pre-reading rituals. 

For example, after the child has read the title ask them what they think the story might be about. These title-based speculations will promote your child’s natural sense of curiosity and they will be keener to get to the story. 

Also, after you have read about an important development in the story pause for a minute and ask your child to predict how the story will continue.

The more possible scenarios your child comes up with the more unanswered questions they will have about the story and the keener they will be to continue reading.   

3. Post-reading Q&A session. 

Another mistake many parents make is that after the child has finished reading one book, they immediately go to the next one without discussing the previous book with a child in detail. 

Remember that simply memorizing the plot is not the objective here. The child has to learn important life lessons from the book and they will only be able to do so if they analyze it from start to finish. 

Ask them questions about the characters and what might have been their motivation for doing what they did; ask them about the major themes of the book and about the context in which this book was written. How was the author's writing influenced by the real events that he witnessed?

However, it is also important not to overdo it with the questions as this will make the child feel overwhelmed and less confident which is the last thing we need when we are trying to encourage them to read more.   

4. Encourage children to re-read books.

This technique is beneficial for children of all ages (as well as adults for that matter). For young children re-reading familiar stories is beneficial because encountering familiar words will mean reading them out loud better this time around which will boost their confidence.

In addition, as we grow our worldview changes so when we re-read stories we are familiar with we look at them from a different perspective and we are able to see the details which we did not even notice before.

5. Choosing an age-appropriate book is essential.

The reason many teenagers dislike reading is that at school, they are often forced to read classical works of literature of incredible complexity written by geniuses such as Shakespeare and Plato.

And while there are some exceptional students who are able to comprehend the authors' ideas, for the vast majority of children the undertaking is too great.

In order to neutralize children's negative attitude towards books and encourage them to read more at home pick a book that is appropriate for their age.

The most important thing is to develop the habit of picking up a book. Eventually, their brain will get bored with small words and easy sentence structures and they will start craving something more complex; and this is where Hamlet and Othello swoop in.

6. Do not interrupt them to correct every little mistake.

It is not necessary to watch your child like a hawk and correct every little mistake they make while reading. Try instead writing down the words they mispronounced on a piece of paper and when they get through a page pause for a while and address those mistakes.

Demonstrate how to pronounce the words correctly and ask them to repeat them after you, if necessary, go back to the sentence and have your child read the word in context again. And don’t forget to praise them once they have completed the task successfully. Positive reinforcement and encouragement always work better than criticism.

7. Allow the child to pick the topic.

Another mistake adults make is that they want their children to be interested in the same topics they were interested in when they were little.

But, each person is unique so it is impossible for your child to be a carbon copy of you. Just because their interests lie in a different field than yours it does not mean that they are insignificant.

Do not dismiss the topics your child is interested in as silly or useless. Reading comic books about superheroes is not a waste of time, they are reading after all, and that’s what matters.

And keep in mind that they are still children, just because they are interested in dinosaurs and wizards now does not mean that they will be interested in them when they are 16.

Find out what they are interested in and use their interests to further your goal of getting them to read the written words.

8. Voice variations are vital.

If your child is too small to read by themselves and you have to read a story for them do not read it in a monotonous boring voice.

If you want to get your little one interested in books then you will have to unleash your inner thespian and make up a different voice for each of the major characters. In addition, you have to keep changing your tone to match their emotions.

All of this will help your child imagine the story more vividly in their mind's eye and they will be looking forward to the day when they can read all of these interesting stories by themselves without your help. 

9. Pay attention to illustrations.

If you are reading an illustrated book do not ignore the images and go straight to the words. You might be thinking how do pictures help develop the ability to read? Well, they help get the child interested in the plot and this interest keeps them motivated to continue reading.

So, if you are reading together make sure to pause for about 30 seconds at each illustration and discuss it. Not only does it help your child visualize the story better but it also helps them connect some new and unfamiliar words to images which expands their vocabulary.

If the book you have picked does not have any illustrations, then you can ask the child to create their own. All children like to draw and a box of crayons and some loose sheets of paper are not hard to come by.

Ask the child to illustrate their favorite scene and if they learned some new words from the story ask them to express these words in pictures.

10. Do not set unrealistic deadlines. 

Some parents tend to set unattainable goals for their children when it comes to reading. In an ideal world, a child would read one book per week every week, but in reality, life often gets in the way of achieving this goal. 

 While it is ok to know approximately how long it will take to finish one book, the exact deadline can’t be fixed. You have to account for the difficulty of the text and even for the child’s mood.

Do not rush the child. They may be feeling too tired or stressed to do any reading today, but they might read several chapters tomorrow. 

If you see that they have some free time encourage them to fill it in with reading. On the other hand, if they already have a lot on their plate for that day, forcing them to read will only make them more stressed.

To conclude, use children’s natural sense of curiosity to cultivate the love of books and reading. Avoid making the aforementioned mistakes and your child will grow up to be a book-loving well-read individual.

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About Author

Tutor City's blog focuses on balancing informative and relevant content, never at the expense of providing an enriching read. 

We want our readers to expand their horizons by learning more and find meaning to what they learn.

Resident author - Mr Wee Ben Sen, has a wealth of experience in crafting articles to provide valuable insights in the field of private education.

Ben Sen has also been running Tutor City, a leading home tuition agency in Singapore since 2010.