2nd February 2016

Hello!  It’s part 2 of the three part series on Reading With Your Child.

Today I’m focussing on those times when your child is reading aloud to you.  Maybe it’s a book off your shelf or their school issued “home reader”.

First of all though, I’ve got a question for you.

Why do we read?

What’s it for?

Have a think about that right now and see if you can come up with five answers.




What did you come up with?


You may have said things like:


We read for pleasure, for information, to discover, to know stuff, to find out things, to become smarter, to follow instructions…  You may have had other answers and you know what?  They would all be correct!

The thing to remember is that reading is a process of making meaning.  When we read, we are deciphering a code, making sense from patterns, interpreting squiggles on a page.  Amazing when you think about it huh?

So if we are reading something that’s really too tricky for us that we don’t understand then we won’t really be reading because we won’t be making meaning.  Here’s an example:


We conclude that the asymmetric model is a valuable extension to the symmetric logistic model when examining baroreceptor reflexes, giving improved estimates of the parameters and a new approach to examining the mechanisms contributing to baroreflex curve asymmetry. Furthermore, forcing the curves through the resting value is a statistically questionable practice when analysing RSNA, because it affects the parameter estimates.

(From A five-parameter logistic equation for investigating asymmetry of curvature in baroreflex studies James H. Ricketts, Geoffrey A. Head, American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology Aug 1999, 277 (2) R441-R454)


Technically I can read all the words in the paragraph above.  But in terms of making meaning… well, I’m really none the wiser.  So – just because I can ‘read’ it, does that mean I’ve really ‘read’ it?  Interesting idea, hey?

Good readers don’t just say each word (this is sometimes called ‘barking at print’).  Good readers read for meaning a develop a picture of understanding in their brain.


So what does this mean for your child?

It means that when your child is reading to you the end goal is to make meaning.  Reading is about comprehension, flow, understanding, mental pictures and prediction.  Reading is more than accuracy.

When our child is reading to us we need to sustain for them that feeling of meaning making.  We can do this by:

  • prompting them to use the pictures for clues
  • providing the words they don’t know
  • ignoring small errors that don’t change the meaning of the story
  • accepting meaningful substitutions
  • engaging in the story with questions and comments as it’s being read

There are some things we might try doing that we think are helpful, but actually interrupt the flow and the meaning making process.  Try to avoid:

  • making the child sound out every unknown word
  • covering the pictures
  • jumping in with the correct word before they’ve had a chance to try
  • leaving them struggling on a word for too long
  • appearing disinterested in making meaning from the story


Have a look at this video of Olivia (7 ½ years old) reading Eric Carle’s book The Bad Tempered Ladybird.  Now don’t start comparing her to your kid.  That’s not the point of the exercise.  The point is to observe how we read together.  Take a minute to look at my notes below as you are watching.

At 0:18 she mispronounces laughing as laughling and says eely for eerily.  I don’t correct her because she has maintained the rhythm and flow of the story and even the meaning.  She realises ‘eely’ could be a way to laugh and probably doesn’t even know the word eerily – so how would she be able to read it?

At 1:00, after a gorgeous rendition of a rhino, she misses and flew off but meaning is maintained so it doesn’t matter.

At 1:05 she encounters the word encountered.  There’s no way in the world I’m going to stop her flow and make her chunk that word and sound it out.  I just supply the word so she can continue making meaning.  Hear how she repeats the word?  She’s consolidating that word into her vocabulary.

From 1:24 – 1:26 she’s struggling with the word tusks.  She has a few tries and I think of this as a young reader taking a ‘run up’ to a hurdle.  She settles on trucks and reads on but then realises she’s lost meaning and goes back to self-correct.  She realised her substitution of trucks wasn’t making meaning.  Finally, before she becomes frustrated, I help with this tricky, unusual and subject specific word.

At 1:35 I ask What is gonna happen?  I’m with her in the story making meaning.  As the more able reader who is guiding her I am showing her that making meaning is the most important thing – not word attack, not drilling skills and not correcting words.  Reading is about making meaning, so that’s what I’m focussed on.

At 2:04, carried away with her story reading prowess, her reading is not 100% accurate.  But she’s maintaining meaning and listen to those giggles!  She’s enjoying herself.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?

At 2:15 we get some additional commentary!  This is allowed.  When students start making connections between their text and their own world we know they really are making meaning.  (5:30 is nowhere near her bedtime by the way – she wasn’t in til eight this evening.)  Some good prompts you can make to encourage discussion about the story include:

This reminds me of…

What do you think will happen next?

Why do you think the character….

These kind of little ‘in the story chats’ help young readers become critical thinkers, improves their comprehension and keeps them in the role of meaning maker.

A word of warning:  if you find you’re having to jump in and supply words or your reader is becoming frustrated or they aren’t making meaning from the story… that means the text is too hard for them right now.  They need to try a different book.

Your homework:

Think about how have your young readers been going at home with their reading?  When you next sit down to read with them, have the idea of making meaning at the front of your mind.  Try some of these strategies this week and let me know if they help.  Or if they make things worse!

I love hearing from you so please leave a comment in the box below.




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