Developing reader: Guide for parents and carers

How parents, carers and mentors can help

Before reading

  • Talk about the strategies they can use to find out the meaning of a word.
  • Remind them of any predictions they made about a text last time.
  • Focus on what they do well, encouraging them to build on their strengths as readers.

During reading

  • Remind the reader to use the strategies they have learnt (e.g. see Budding reader guide) when they become stuck on an unfamiliar word. Give them time to try these before you read the word for them.
  • Use the internet to find information on a range of topics or read newspapers together to look for specific information, for example weather, television programming, sport, etc.
  • Draw the pupil’s attention to how the text has been laid out and organised.
  • Read yourself – show them that reading has a purpose and is enjoyable.

After reading

  • Record the new words learned today and their meanings.
  • Talk about strategies that they used when reading. ‘Did you visualise the main character?’ ‘What questions came into your mind when reading?’ ‘How did you feel about a particular issue, character or event?’.
  • Discuss what the text made them think and feel.

General advice for supporting young readers

Reading is like running in that some people find it easier and can go faster than others. Those who find it easy to read quickly generally derive more satisfaction from the activity, but may still choose not to read when alternative activities are available. Slower readers usually find reading harder work and so require more encouragement. They do need to persevere though as practice will improve their performance and they can go on to derive a lot of pleasure from reading once they identify the reading material that suits them.

To improve their reading skills, young readers need to read a mixture of material – some that they find very easy to read and some that challenges them a little. Just like adults, readers will not want to read something challenging every time they pick up a book. But the more they read, the better.

Nevertheless, reading is not simply a process of devouring the pages but an active process of constructing the meaning of the text. Good readers make sense of what they read and increasingly are able to reflect on the implications of what the author has written. The ultimate purpose of reading is to understand and appreciate the writer's intentions and his or her art so that a confident response can be made.

Encourage reading

  • Encourage reading by valuing what they choose to read voluntarily and by suggesting other material to widen the range and increase the level of challenge a little.
  • Try to make some space for reading in the young person's day.
  • Take an interest in what they are reading. Ask interested questions, not questions that sound like a test. Read the material yourself and discuss it. Talking about what you have read makes you reflect on it and deepens understanding.

Before reading

Try to ensure that the reader has a clear understanding of the task set, for example:

  • a detailed response will require close reading
  • looking for information will require skimming and scanning the text, which will change to close reading when the relevant sections are found
  • the reader might need to know if they are reading the text for a very specific purpose, for example to compare it to something else.

It may also be useful to help the reader establish the social and historical context of what they are reading.

During reading

If readers are reluctant or the assignment looks as if it will be tough going, it is good to stay on hand. It is possible to support the process of reading without taking over.

Avoid jumping in too soon if the young person hesitates over an unfamiliar word; try, instead, to encourage them to work it out for themselves. 'You read some, I'll read some and then we'll talk about it' is a last resort but still better than reading the text for them. If possible, organise rewards for reaching certain milestones in the reading and know when to suggest a break.

After reading

Give praise for effort and perseverance where it is due and encourage the reader to say something about what he or she has read. Ask open questions that prompt description of what has been experienced without raising the fear of being wrong. Above all try not to reinforce the idea that reading is a chore that has to be endured. Focus instead on the constructive outcomes – what was discovered, what was enjoyed.