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Teaching children to read

As a parent, you have the exciting task of sharing the responsibility of ensuring that your children can read. A lot of material to assist you in this venture is freely available on the internet and there are organisations whose sole purpose is to advocate and campaign for reading. We have also adapted some tips for teaching reading from some of our publications, and we hope these will assist you in encouraging your children to read more.

On this page you will find information you can use to help your child read better.


Reading Focus Time

Every day, you should dedicate a minimum of 15 minutes to the Reading Focus Time. Reading Focus Time helps to ensure that you are teaching basic reading skills and reinforcing these skills regularly.

You can use Reading Focus Time for:

  • Read Aloud
  • Shared Reading
  • Independent Reading
Read Aloud

In Read Aloud (s), you read to the children using material that is at the listening level of the children.

Reading aloud to children helps them to develop a love of good literature, motivation to read on their own and familiarity with a variety of genres, including non-fiction. It provides them with new vocabulary, exposes them to a variety of literature and contributes to their oral and written language development. Reading aloud should occur every day in the early stages of learning to read to stimulate the children’s interest in books and reading.

Independent Reading

Independent reading is a purposeful planned activity. Children choose their own books according to their interest and ability. Children should be guided to choose texts that they can read with a high degree of success.

Emergent readers should be encouraged to use independent reading time to practise reading short predictable stories as well as books that have been read in the Shared Reading sessions.

Shared Reading

In a Shared Reading session, you read with the children using a large story book that has big bold print. The children share the reading task with you, and gradually take over the task of reading. The children become highly motivated, learn more sight words, read with greater comprehension, and are better able to repeat simple language structures.

The reading should take place in a relaxed environment. You should encourage guessing and risk-taking, accepting all attempts from the children. Praise the children for trying as a supportive environment helps the starter reader gain confidence.

Why Shared Reading?

During Shared Reading, you are teaching children the following:

  • Why we read certain kinds of text;
  • How we read this kind of text; and
  • The expression and intonation (tone of voice) suited to this text.

Shared Reading can be used for the following reasons:

  • It can be used with any age or ability group;
  • It allows for, but does not demand, active participation;
  • It extends learners’ sight and listening vocabularies.
Shared Reading can be fun!

Encourage the children to participate in the reading. They can clap, or dance, or stamp, or sing, or suggest other words. Here are some suggestions:

  • While you are reading, choose a word and ask the children to think of any other words that rhyme. For example, if you read the word “mean”, they can call out words like “lean” or “keen” or “bean”.
  • Ask the children to clap every time they hear the letter “L” e.g. “Lively Lulu loves her lollies”.
  • Ask them to suggest alliteration (the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words), e.g. “magic moments make me merry”.
  • Ask them to sing the “music” of words, e.g. “Does anyone know the tune of these words:
    • “Jan Pierewiet, Jan Pierewiet, Jan Pierewiet, staan stil…”
    • “Bana ba sekolo, bana ba sekolo, etlang sekolong, etlang sekolong…”
“Imithi igoba kahle, ithi, ithi, Kwanyakaz’amahlamvu, kanje, kanje…”.
Texts for Shared Reading

Choose a text that is above the independent reading level of the majority of he children you’re reading to. You will help the children to understand the text by reading it aloud, and then encouraging discussion.

Here are some of the different kinds of text that can be used:

  • Big Books
  • Enlarged texts of the following:
    • Stories
    • Learners’ own writing
    • Magazines and newspapers
    • Poems
    • Songs
    • Non-fiction materials (factual texts)
    • Advertisements
    • Pamphlets

The text you choose should be clear enough for all the children to see easily.

Each Reading Session should last between 15 and 30 minutes, and should be scheduled for every day.
An example of a Shared Reading session
  • Seat the children so that they can all see the text clearly.
  • Motivate the children by using a general introduction related to the content of the text.
  • Ask them questions on what they already know about the topic or context of the story.
  • Examine the cover information on the book, pointing out the title, the author’s name, and any other useful text(e.g. the ‘blurb’, which is promoting the text).
  • Model good oral reading for the learners, running the pointer under the text as you read.
  • Pause and ask questions about the text. Invite the children to predict what will happen next.
  • Accept all the responses from the children positively. Praise the learners by making comments such as “I liked the way you used your voice to show that the giant was angry!” (refers to “Jack and the Beanstalk”)
  • If learners join in the reading, let them, but do not insist that they all do so. Slight pauses often encourage this participation. Some learners will be at the listening level of participation.
  • At the end of the reading, invite personal responses to the text. Ask learners to comment on the story content, the story ending, or what they found to be the funniest or saddest part of the story.
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