Suggestions on how to help your young reader

  • Suggestions

    Readers need to utilize three strategies while reading. Understanding these strategies can help you to prompt/guide your child through their reading.

    Meaning- Does it make sense?

    Readers need to look at the pictures and think about what is happening in the book. This will help them to decide if a word they said, fits into the context of this story.  As books get more difficult, there will be fewer pictures to help children maintain meaning and they will need to do more concentrating on what is happening in the story.  However, at begining levels, children should always be reminded to look at the pictures and use them as clues and support while reading.

    Structure- Does it sound right?

     Readers need to listen to the structure of the language and decide if a word works. Using the structure, you can tell if a difficult word is an object or an action. You might know it is a name or a place. All of this information helps you to choose which words to try.

    Visual- Does it look right?

    This is the process of looking at the letters and confirming the sounds they make. In the earlier stages, children need to use the initial consonant to "get their mouth ready" for the word that they will try.  As their skills grow, they need to begin to visually scan the whole word, looking for and using parts they know.  This strategy is most effectively used, to help confirm or check predictions based on Meaning and Structure.

    "Sound it out" is actually one of the most difficult and least effective ways to figure out words when used in isolation. 

    Following are some strategies that are used with children at school which may help you when reading with your child at home.


    Do not correct EVERY mistake! Children must SELF MONITOR to become great readers. After a mistake they need the chance to continue reading and to decide if the word they said "worked". They will need to monitor if the word sounded right; if the word made sense; and if the word looks right.

    Encourage kids to re-read after they make a correction or spend time on figuring out a tricky word. This will help them maintain the meaning which is always the most important thing!


    At a point of difficulty give your child a short amount of time to decide what to do, before you jump in and help out.

    Try not to prompt your child to use a visual cue ("sound it out') as a first defense. Using the initial consonant ("get your mouth ready") is very helpful but after that other strategies (Meaning and Structure) are usually much faster to use.

    Encourage your children to use the pictures, even when it seems they are not reading the book and are only using the pictures. The pictures in beginning books are what carry the meaning and it is important that children get used to thinking about what is happening in the story as an aide to figuring out tricky words. You should remind them to look at the pictures if they are stuck, or ask them what is happening.

    If a child skips a word and says "blank" or the initial sound, and then continues to the end of the sentence, they can often quickly figure out the tricky word by listening to the structure of the sentence.

    If a child tries to use meaning (look at the pictures and think about what is happening) and structure (skipping it and listening to the sound of the sentence) and still cannot get the word, then they should certainly try to sound through the word.

    If a child has tried each of these strategies and can still not figure out a word it is okay to tell them the word and then have them read the sentence again saying the word themself.