Monday, March 14, 2011

Helping Reading Comprehension

It's very exciting when your child can make sense of what are, to the uninitiated, essentially squiggles (letters) on the page and read real words. You can see the feeling of empowerment children get with early reading. But, to be able to decipher the words and not understand or remember them, is very frustrating. Research shows that reading to even a 12 year old child, aids their reading comprehension ... and what a great way to bond, by reading together. Keep reading!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Where READING all begins

I just received an email from a good friend whose little boy has just turned one today. He said his first word yesterday and is beginning to cruise around the furniture as well. Heavens! It’s ‘all systems go’ for a one year old!

How can these things be the start of reading???? Reading is just talking in print. Build a strong language foundation for your little person and read to them daily. You’ll set them up to be a real lover of books and all things printed. Talk about the pictures even though they may not reply to you just yet. Make books fun by using special, different voices for the different characters. Don’t feel embarrassed if your child’s only little, they won’t tell anyone how goofy you sound! Choose books that your child can relate to…. books about everyday happenings e.g. going shopping; running out of bread for their sandwiches; their clothes getting too small for them, as they grow; washing the dog etc etc.

This is the most exciting part of child development, I think…but I could be a bit bias. ENJOY!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What's happening with my upper primary child?

Upper Primary school – why is it all so different to lower primary?
Often we see children who have done fairly well in the lower primary school years, who suddenly hit upper primary and begin to really fall behind their peers. As speech pathologists, we ‘hear alarm bells’ when this happens. Parents wonder what on earth is going on? … Is it a clash of personalities with the teacher? … Are they being bullied at school and therefore can’t cope with the academics as well? … Is it because the teacher doesn’t know his or her job? …. What on earth is happening?

Concerns can be allayed when we understand that the teaching strategies in the upper primary years have dramatically changed. In the lower primary years very practical teaching materials are used, concepts are demonstrated using visible materials e.g. adding is done by counting blocks or other objects e.g. if we have 3 blocks and we add one more what do we have? Let’s count them 1,2,3,4 and there’s the answer right before our eyes. Children often use their fingers to count at this point in their development. The books they read or that are read to them have glorious pictures in them, often leaving little to the child’s own imagination.

Once children enter the upper primary years, the concepts taught are more abstract and fewer visual aids are used in the classroom. Children are expected to be able to perform Maths tasks in their heads, not on their fingers and now they’ve moved onto ‘chapter books’ with all sorts of adventures happening that are not supported by many pictures. If your child is not quite at this abstract level, they may struggle with this shift away from these learning supports.

Some actvities that may help bridge this gap, at home, away from their peers can be found at

Friday, January 21, 2011

Give your kindergarten child a head start with reading

Parents are often keen to give their children a head start with reading before they get to school. The best things to do are playing little listening games e.g. they think of words or even nonsense words that rhyme with a word you say e.g. what rhymes with 'cat'?.... pat, mat , sat, blat, tat, nat etc etc. or you can play a game where they tell you the SOUND that words start with e.g. ‘cat’ starts with a ‘c’, can you hear the ‘c’ at the beginning of ‘cat’? What does 'pop' start with?'

If you want to really help teach your children some early reading skills, teach the sounds that the letters make, not the names of the letters. While the little song ‘ABCD, EFG, HIJK, LMNOP, QRSTUV, WXY and Z. Now I know my ABCs, next time you can sing with me.’ Or whatever ending you know, sounds cute, it doesn’t help them one iota to read, by sounding out. So teach the letter sounds not the letter names and they’ll be ahead of their peers.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Does reading accurately mean a child can understand and recall what they’ve read?

For those of you whose children can already read, it’s vital to make sure they understand and remember what they’ve read. That’s the purpose and joy of reading. Many children ‘slip under the radar’ at school, because they can read the words on the page accurately. But a great deal of these children do not have any understanding or a recall of what they have just read.

That may seem unbelievable, but it is true. In fact, in the last many years, we have seen not only children but adults, who have very poor reading comprehension. Some reading programmes offered at schools only focus on a child’s reading accuracy skills, what are often known as decoding skills.

It is important that children learn to recognize sight words (i.e. high frequency words that are hard to sound out e.g. ‘are, the, when’) – this gives them some immediate success in reading. Once about 30 or so sight words are mastered (remembered), children then move onto sounding words out. Ultimately, once they master this skill, they can in theory, read any word they are presented with. But just being able to read words doesn’t mean you’ll be able to retain what you’ve read. If you are not making sense of what you’ve read, there will be no joy in reading - reading will be a purely mechanical task. Some children who struggle to master the mechanics of reading, put so much effort into that task, that they do not have any mental space to retain what they’ve just read. Children who retain what they’ve read, make images in their mind of what they read, as they read. You can encourage this, once they have some basic mastery of the mechanics of reading, by asking questions about what they think a character or a place looks like. See if they can paint a picture, with their words, of what they are reading.

Let me know how you go.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Developing Print Awareness

Encouraging ‘Print Awareness’

Print awareness is one of the first, very exciting stages in your child’s development of learning to read and write.

At about four to five years of age, along with your child developing speech and language appropriately, they begin to recognize familiar words in their environment. You can encourage this by drawing their attention to signs they may see frequently. These are words that we read and understand so automatically, it doesn’t occur to us to make any kind of comment about them … words such as ‘Ladies’, ‘Men’, the words ‘street’ or road’ in your neighbourhood, ‘Stop’ or ‘Give Way’. Even drawing your child’s attention to familiar symbols they see such as a 'round-about' symbol on the road or the ‘pedestrian crossing’ sign is the beginning of making a connection between a symbol (just like a letter) and its associated meaning. You can play a game in the car, seeing who is the first one to spot a sign or symbol.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reaching Academic Potential

If your child has challenges with their speech or learning, the best thing to do is to get professional help.

But there are other ways you, as a parent, can help as well to
make sure your child excels and reaches his or her full potential.

Reading to your child, listening while he or she reads, gently
correctly when appropriate and generally spending more time
with your child will help your child grow in confidence.

And confident kids make better students.