It's a thrill to hear your little one begin to sound out words and read stories — but it can be difficult to listen to his halting pronunciation, missed words, and other mistakes. How can you help him learn without stifling his confidence or turning reading time into a chore? It can be a tough call, but these guidelines will help.
- Bite your tongue — most of the time. If your child is making it through most words, but doing it at a snail's pace, be patient and let her carry on. She needs the practice. Frequent interruptions can interfere with comprehension (and the pleasure of reading).
- Speak up for sense. An exception to the stay-mum rule: Gently correct your child if he alters the meaning of a sentence by skipping or substituting an important word.
- Help with stumpers. If your child encounters a new, difficult word that is key to understanding the sentence or passage she's reading, or that recurs frequently, step in to pronounce and define it for her.
- Answer appeals. When he asks for help, give it. Encourage him to figure words out on his own, but if he's genuinely stumped, come to her aid so he doesn't get frustrated.
- Use pictures as helpers. Reviewing the pictures in a storybook before reading it can give your child an idea of what the text will be about.
- Encore! When she finishes a passage or a story, ask her to read it again. Your interest is a confidence-booster, and the extra practice with familiar text will also boost both her skills and her self-esteem.
- Be a drama queen. When you're the one doing the reading, use lots of expression. Really put on a show! This will encourage your child to do the same when he reads. If he can, you'll know he's understanding the words he's reading, and not simply parroting them mindlessly.
- Notice patterns. If your child repeats the same kinds of errors frequently, mention this to the teacher. A pattern of similar mistakes may be a sign of trouble. The teacher can help you diagnose it and get help quickly.