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What Not to Say to Emerging Readers

Through the whole, sometimes long and painful process, it‘s easy for parents to become impatient with emerging readers. We want our children to feel comfortable and successful when they read, and to love reading. So when kids struggle to sound out every word on a page, insist on reading books that aren’t the "right fit" or read a whole page fluently but are unable to recall what they’ve just read, it’s frustrating.

Don’t get discouraged! We’ve listed common mistakes that some parents make, along with better ways to support your early reader. Here’s hoping it leads to relaxing read-alouds and stronger readers:

  • Do not say, "Stop. Reread this line correctly." If the mistake didn’t interfere with the meaning of the text (for example, if it was "a" for "the"or "fine" for "fun"), let it go.
  • Do not interrupt your child reading. Ever. You want your child to be comfortable reading. If necessary, make the correction when you read it the next time.
  • Do not say, "C’mon, speed up. You have to read a little faster!" Or "Slow down, you’re zipping through this!" Instead, model appropriate pacing and fluency. Fluency or reading with appropriate speed, pacing and intonation is something that is best taught through parent or teacher modeling and tons of practice. Fluent reading sounds like conversation or natural speaking, and it’s something that has to be learned.

    To help your child gain fluency, grab a level-appropriate book to read over and over again. Begin by having your child read the entire book from cover to cover. On the second day, have your child read the entire book again. Then echo read—read a paragraph or a page, then have your child repeat what you’ve just read. You may also want your child to track what you’re reading with her finger. On the third day, read the book the first time, and then read together in unison—this helps your child to learn pacing. On the fourth day, read the book first and then have your child read it by herself. Day five is all about showing off your child’s skills! Have her read the book again by herself to practice. Then it’s time to videotape or Skype faraway friends and relatives.

  • Do not laugh. Think about something serious and ugly and breathe deeply until you regain composure. If you can laugh together, that’s okay—most likely if your kid reads aloud "butt," she’ll break out into hysterics and you will too. But if she’s working hard and trying her best while making a mistake that tickles your funny bone, then just move on.
  • Do not say, "You know this." Help break it down for her by asking her if she recognizes parts of the word. Most likely she will recognize the "b" or "at" part of "bat" or the "th" or "ick" part of "thick." If she can pick up either part, help her put the parts together: "You got it! That does say ‘ick.’ Now let’s put the first part, ‘th,’ together with ‘ick’: th-ick. Thick!" Then put that word into the sentence and give her a high-five for getting through it.
  • Do not say, "You’re wrong. That says, (insert correct word)." Instead, say nothing. As hard as that may be, remain silent. Unless it’s a mistake that interferes with the meaning of the text, let it go. If every time your child gets stuck, she looks to you for the word, she’ll never get to practice decoding skills.

    If, however, she made a mistake that alters the meaning, at the end of the page, ask your child to reread the passage carefully. If she reads it incorrectly again, ask her to look at the pictures to help her decode the word or ask her if what she read makes sense. If she still misses the error, ask her to point out the tricky section. If she doesn’t know where it is, point it out.

    Once you resume reading, ask her on a page she reads correctly if she was correct. This isn’t to annoy your child; it’s to help her become a better self-monitor. As self-monitors, we’re constantly checking and rechecking to make sure that what we read made sense.

As parents, it’s important to make our children feel comfortable reading with us—and to want to read with us—at home. They need the practice, and they need to know that reading with Mom and Dad is safe, natural and enjoyable.

What Not to Say to Emerging Readers









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