Children Learning To Read by @lit4pleasure

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly!

Children Learning To Read: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly!

If children groan and grumble when having to read with you or anyone else you might want to reflect on these strategies and think about how you approach ‘reading time’.


This is a re-blog post originally posted by lit4pleasure and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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The best things you can do when helping a child learn to read.

  • Devote time to it. Make it a quality experience. Show your own interest and pleasure.
  • Talk about both your responses to text.
  • Respect the text as the teacher. You are a co-reader able to offer sensitive support.
  • Provide quality stories. Rhyme, rhythm, pattern good for beginning readers, and books that read aloud well, have a narrative flow and use natural language rhythms.
  • Allow children to choose the text.
  • Let children construct a narrative from the sequence of pictures.
  • Offer to read the whole text to the child.
  • Be prepared to share the reading (one page each!)
  • Read with (in unison) – drop out – rejoin when necessary.
  • Accept memorizing of the text.
  • Encourage all strategies. These include:
    • Predicting,
    • Self-monitoring,
    • Self-correcting
    • Reading on,
    • Reading back,
    • Re-runs.
  • Encourage children to use (‘orchestrate’) the following cueing systems:
    • Semantic (meaning & context),
    • Syntactic (knowledge of grammatical construction of language),
    • Grapho-phonic (sound-symbol relationships).

Some of these sound rather technical. But fear not! For more information on these strategies – what they are and what they mean please visit here and all shall be revealed in simple language.

  • Allow for some errors/miscues – and give time for child to self-correct.
  • Return to miscues later – at the end of a page or chapter. Make a contextual or a phonetic point. (to draw attention to context or phonics.)

The absolute worst things you can do when helping a child learn to read.

  • Rush the experience.
  • Ask children to read text they haven’t chosen for themselves.
  • Control the reading.
  • Focus only on the text!
  • Insist on 100% accuracy in word-reading.
  • Correct errors immediately – stopping the child’s ‘flow’ or enjoyment of the text.
  • Ask child to read a text ‘cold’, with no setting up of the story.
  • Leave no time for discussion of response.
  • Think in deficit terms.

Let me expand on what constitutes ‘thinking in deficit terms’. Here is a genuine comment made by a teacher in a child’s home/school book:

“A. still not looking at more than initial sound. Only using picture cues. Trouble with decoding. Struggled with text.”

Yet A was; using pictures to make sense of the story & creating a plausible text. Showed great pleasure and enthusiasm, appreciated humour, wanted to discuss the story, was happy to “re-think” and correct self. Behaving as a reader, but needed help to focus more on print.

Think about what is happening as well as what isn’t.

What are early readers doing which you might not have noticed?

  • Making meaning, constructing narrative from the pictures,
  • Responding; finding pleasure; beginning to be reflective,
  • Showing they know how a story goes (understanding narrative structure),
  • Understanding the function of ‘print’,
  • Using a range of the strategies mentioned above,
  • Wanting to talk to you about the text!
  • Developing a sense of self and personality as a reader.

These are all things you can comment on in children’s reading records, to their parents and most importantly to the child. Make sure TA’s know that they can spot these things when they read with children too. For a guide on how to comment in children’s reading records click here.


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About Literacy For Pleasure 13 Articles
This blog is written and run by two UK Primary School Teachers. We both work in the same class in KS2 – one as a TA and the other as the class teacher. Our school is a very ‘normal’ Local Authority State School. Biography 1 I studied French and Russian at Birmingham University, and later gained two MAs, one in Linguistics and the other in Children’s Literature. I am a serving Primary school teacher of many years’ experience. I have worked in both the maintained and the independent sectors as SENCO and Deputy Head. With a strong background in language and literacy I have worked with School’s Television, developing storypacks to support children new to English. I am currently interested in the possibilities of teaching literacy through process writing throughout the Primary phase of schooling. I began my teaching life on a Wednesday morning in a tiny Victorian school building inside a square of iron railings up a backstreet in Handsworth, Birmingham. I was there because I needed to earn some money to support myself in beginning a Ph D, and the Education Office had sent me to St. Silas’ C. of E. school where they had no teacher for ‘Infant 2’. Thus I found myself on that day without preparation, training or support, required immediately to take charge of a class of thirty six infants, some of whom were new to English. I can’t remember exactly how I passed the day, but I do recall that the next day I took in my copies of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and ‘Just-so Stories’ because I had loved them as a child. Amazingly, they went down well. After this initial baptism of fire, followed by several months of surviving mainly by picking up tips from other teachers, I gradually began to feel that I might be getting somewhere. In the end, ‘Infant 2’ won out over the urban poetry of Baudelaire. I have never regretted this development. Later, doing an MA in linguistics and one in children’s literature gave me an academic background which convinced me of the rightness of the psycholinguistic theory of reading and writing, which foregrounds the achievement of meaning and communication. This has always been the one for me and I’ve based my teaching on it. I’ve stayed firmly in the classroom because there is no better place to discover and try out ways of enabling children to read and write with enjoyment and commitment. Through this website I am hoping to share the kinds of “quality” experiences we can give children at home and school which might create and enhance for them the pleasures of being literate. Biography 2 I studied Primary Education with History & Geography as my specialism, at The University Of Brighton, and later gained an MA in Education with Linguistics. I am a serving Primary school teacher of around five years experience. I have worked in both the maintained and independent sectors. When I was young, I didn’t realise that literature and the written word were for me to use or enjoy. If I can be honest with my reader for a moment – I very often still don’t. However, everyday, I’m turning what feels like a foggy day into bright sunshine alongside the children in my class. This history, I feel, puts me in an excellent position to give children writing advice because it is very likely I’ve been through their writing issue recently myself. I now write often. I’m finding my writing voice all the time and now I am teaching children how to find theirs too. As a result, you can understand why I am currently so interested in the possibilities of teaching writing as a craft and creating a learning environment which produces: readers and writers for life and children who can use writing to act out onto the world (for a multiple of reasons and for many different audiences). I want children to enter the literacy club as early as possible, so they have control of it and can use it effectively and for pleasure in their futures.

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