Reading has to make sense to your child. When choosing books to use as you begin to teach reading, make sure there are complete sentences – one simple sentence per page. And that there is a very simple story line. This helps make the reading meaningful.
There isn’t much meaning in a bunch of letters and sounds so if you’re teaching your child to read only through phonics, that is, by sounding out the letters, the reading will not be meaningful. And you’ll be severely limiting your child’s reading tool box.
Phonics is just one of the tools, but the “mega-power tool” is the meaning strategy. Reading for meaning is the most powerful reading strategy that we use. When your child is attempting to read a sentence and comes to a word she doesn’t know, the most powerful thing you can ask is: What word would make sense here? You can also add: Look at the picture.
If your child says a word that doesn’t fit, you can say: You said________. That doesn’t make sense. You could add: What would make sense? Look at the picture. Or, think about the story.
With all of these prompts, you’re appealing to meaning. You’re teaching your child to think for herself. You’re not asking your child to “sound it out”. When a child tries to only say the sounds, meaning is lost.
So, how do you teach your child to use this strategy while reading a book? It’s really quite simple and flows naturally.
One of the most obvious ways to teach the meaning strategy is through the use of pictures.
Once your child is at the pre-school or kindergarten stage, you can do a bit more while reading a book together.
1. What to do before reading a picture book
Read the title. Look at the cover. Talk about what’s on the cover. Ask your child to predict what the story might be about by looking at the picture on the cover. This can take just a few seconds.
Take a picture walk through the book quickly and simply. Don’t read it yet. Just look at what’s happening in the pictures. You can ask your child: “What’s happening here?” You can also name objects in the pictures. “Oh, what a lovely, pink cupcake!” Or, “She’s wearing a crown!”