Here are 8 simple ways to help your child if reading is a struggle for them:
Make your reading time a regular activity at a specific time each day. Children love structure and will look forward to the closeness and bonding this time brings.
For some children this may be the only intimate one-on-one time they get to spend with a parent on a regular basis. Making reading together a special time for just the two of you only takes 10 or 15 minutes a day, and the rewards are tremendous.
Vary how you structure your reading time together. Don't always expect your child to read to you. Read to them sometimes. Take turns reading. Read out loud together! Make sure it's a stress free and enjoyable time together.
Use the 3 P's. Pause, prompt, praise.
Pause when your child comes to a word they don't know. Don't jump in straight away by telling them the word or getting them to sound it out. Let them think.
Prompt your child if they haven't answered after about 10 - 20 seconds. Say 'Make your mouth say the first sound', or ' What word would make sense there?', or 'Can you tell me what would sound right there?'. Only sound out the word if it can be effectively sounded out.
If your child doesn't get the word after a couple of prompts or an attempt at sounding out, tell them the word straight away. You want to avoid feelings of failure, plus make sure they get on with the book while they can still remember what the story is about.
Praise your child for their efforts. Say something like 'Well done, you made it look and sound right', or 'Well done, you used the first sound to help you figure out the rest of the word'. If they didn't get the word, simply praise them for trying their best... 'That was a great try - well done'. Be as specific as possible.
Not every single word has to be right. Refrain from picking on every last error unless you want to make your child feel inadequate and fearful of making too many mistakes. This will contribute to their negative attitude towards reading and make their progress even slower.
If your child is gaining the overall meaning from the story or text, then they are achieving the major goal of reading - to decipher words and receive a message.
Talk, talk, talk...... Ask your child to retell their favourite part of the book in their own words. Talk about what they would do if they were a person from the book. Talk about the way the characters in the book felt and why they felt like that. Talk about interesting words from the book and what they mean. This will help increase your child's level of comprehension.
Be seen to be a reader. It's surprising how many kids never see their own parents reading a book. A newspaper yes - but not a book! Kids are the greatest mimics in the world, and they especially love to copy their mum or dad.
Sit down and read your own separate books at the same time. Share parts of your books with one another by reading them out loud and telling why you chose that part. Make it obvious that reading is something you personally value and think is worthwhile.
Don't cover up the pictures! Never. Ever. Using pictures is one of the ways children gather information to support their use of sound, letter, and word skills. Pictures support the meaning of a story and provide a context to help children solve unknown words.
Picture story books have pictures for a reason. Many times the text doesn't make sense without the pictures, and asking your child to read it without looking at the pictures will often feel like trickery to them.
Last but definitely not least - make reading fun! The last thing it needs to be is a chore. You can't blame any child for being unwilling if something is hard AND a bore.