Congratulations!  Your child is entering the magical world of books and will hopefully become a lifelong reader.  All children learn at their own pace and encouragement and practice are vital right now. Learn what three things you should NOT say to a child learning to read.

Reading challenges

Your child’s teacher will take charge of the learning process.  As parents, your job is to make your child feel happy and comfortable learning to read. They need to practice and they need to know that even if it’s hard, you can help and you are interested.

As wonderful as this time is, however, it can be stressful for time-pressed and tired parents.  To best help your child, we’ve got three things NOT to tell your emerging young reader.

1. Don’t say “Just let me read it for you.”

Yes, we know it can be frustrating when a child battles to say a big word. And we know you can say it really quickly.  But be patient and let them try for themselves.  Give them time to sound it out.  Give nods of encouragement when they are on the right track.  This stage of sounding out a word is vital. If they have tried and still not mastered the word, say it once for them and move on.  Don’t overwork the word and make them memorise it by repeating it endlessly.  At the end of the book or passage you can write down the difficult words or say them again, but make it a fun exercise.

2. Don’t say  “It’s so easy!”

It’s not actually.  Learning how to read is one of the cornerstones of education.  It is not to be rushed or glossed over.  Reading is based on building phonemic awareness and some children pick it up quickly and some take longer.  Fluency – reading with appropriate speed, pacing, and intonation – is best taught through parent or teacher modelling and lots of practice.  Familiarise yourself with the mechanics of how we learn to read so you can understand the process.

3. Don’t say “You’ll fail the year if you can’t read.”

Most children in South Africa learn how to read from Grade 0, when they are five years old.  If your child can’t read by Grade 3 they would only be held back if there are other factors that need more work.  Usually struggling readers are referred to assisted learning programmes, and good teachers should pick up problems before Grade 3. If you are concerned, speak to your child’s teacher or have your child independently assessed to rule out issues such as dyslexia, speech and hearing problems, and poor phonemic awareness.

Enjoy this magical time and stimulate your child’s natural learning by reading together, building their vocabulary and exposing them to books from a young age. 

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Signs of a reading issue to look out for:

If you are concerned that your child has a reading issue, these signs may signal the need to do more investigation:

  1. No phonemic awareness – the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.
  2. Being a late talker
  3. Trouble decoding* and remembering simple sight words
  4. Inability to rhyme effectively
  5. Battling to remember sequences, like days of the week
  6. Getting mixed up when telling stories
  7. Inability to automatically name letters, numbers and colours
  8. Poor spelling

*Watch this video and read this article to understand what decoding is and why it’s so important.

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