Parents play priceless role in making reading fun

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 February, 2012, 12:00am


My Year Five daughter is withdrawn from class several times a week by the special needs teacher for extra help with reading. She does struggle with reading, so I don't want her to lose the support, but she says a few children in the class make fun of her. She doesn't enjoy going because some children in her group are silly and naughty.

This is not an ideal situation. It can be embarrassing for children to be withdrawn from class for extra help, depending on how this is done. But where schools are sensitive and open, it can also be a natural part of the rhythm of a typical school day and the most effective way to offer support.

In many schools, children may also be supported in class alongside the rest of the class. This can be better for their self-esteem and also allows them to follow the role models of more able peers and be included in classroom activities.

In an ideal world, your daughter might get one-to-one support that pinpoints her exact needs. However, a reading group such as your daughter's is more typical. There will likely be a wide range of pupils with differing needs and conditions, including, for example, attention deficit disorders. These children often find it difficult to concentrate and are sometimes considered 'naughty' by other class members. I suggest a meeting with your daughter's teacher to explain your worries and explore the possibility of her being supported in class some of the time. Also make the teacher aware of the teasing so she or he can try to put a stop to it. Make it clear that you want to maintain the support, as learning to be a competent reader is such a pivotal skill for most, if not all areas of the curriculum.

The approach to individual needs support is a whole-school issue, so the options may be limited, but at least it will bring it to the attention of the school. Other parents of children receiving support may share your views.

In many ways, you can be your daughter's greatest teacher, as you can give her the individual attention she needs. Give her lots of encouragement and positive praise, with reading at home to increase her confidence and develop her skills. Most importantly, try to engender a love of reading through tapping into the types of texts that she finds inspiring and enjoys reading.

Be aware that although reading-scheme books have a purpose and can be very useful for repeated reading and learning key words, they can be rather dry and predictable, so providing a balance of material is important. There is now a much wider array of suitable books around, including some excellent short chapter books and picture books, ideal for older primary children who struggle with reading. These are written with high-level content that does not patronise older children but a lower reading level that they can cope with. Books with CDs to listen to and read along with are a great resource, as are interactive computer activities, which sometimes include comprehension quizzes.

When reading at home, include plenty of discussion because comprehension is key to becoming a competent reader. Discuss the plot and characters of stories and pick out interesting facts in non-fiction texts, not forgetting the higher-order reading and thinking skills, such as prediction, reading between the lines and giving opinions.

Make reading fun and encourage your daughter to read anything she enjoys, including comics and children's newspapers. Take turns to read to each other. Even older ones like to be read to, and it is a way for less able readers to enjoy books. If you open the door to the world of literature you open the door to the world.

Julie McGuire teaches at an international school in Hong Kong