Strategies to Help When Children Make Reading Errors

Strategies to Help When Children Make Reading Errors

Reading strategies to help when children make reading errors post provides guidance on how you can positively support children when they make reading mistakes.

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Strategies For Reading Comprehension

Learning to read involves multiple skills that all need practice. This includes word recognition, fluency, comprehension and enthusiasm. A parent’s role is to support their child’s reading in a less pressurised environment and build their motivation and interest. If parents can practise reading at home, the teacher has more time to teach.

Many children face the real and stressful risk of making a reading error. If they can read words but lack understanding, there is little point in reading. These children will often answer “I don’t know” or “because” to comprehension questions.

On the other hand, some children have amazing story recall but struggle to decode words. Their inexperience in either comprehension or reading will leave them feeling deflated and defeated.

What Can We Do to Support Children’s Reading?

Everyone understands the importance of learning to read, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Children face many challenges, no matter their age or ability, and will undoubtedly make errors. So, how do we, as teachers, deal with errors and still make reading a positive experience?

Be Positive!

Learning to read can be a slow and disjointed journey and a difficult experience for both adults and children. Be positive at all times.


Waiting for a child to read an unknown word frustrates most adults! Try to resist the urge to correct a child’s reading mistake immediately. A child may just need time to process a difficult word.

Let them read to the end of the sentence and then stop. Have they noticed the sentence doesn’t make sense? Ask them to check the sentence for context and understanding if they don’t. Through this practice, children will realise their mistakes independently and correct themselves.

It is easy to rush in and tell them when they read a word incorrectly. But you are taking away the opportunity for a child to figure this out and learn a valuable reading strategy.

If a child is reading too quickly, encourage them to slow down and focus on the text. Rushed reading results in missing parts of words, reading small words backwards or skipping words.

When should you step in and help?

If they have misread a word and they lose the meaning of the sentence, then stop. Ask them to check the word for understanding. However, as mentioned above don’t jump in and tell them the word. Use questions to guide them towards figuring it out for themselves. 

Example Questions

  • If a child says ‘moose’ instead of ‘mouse’ you can ask “Does that look right?” They may think because it begins with a ‘m’ sound and it is about an animal it makes sense.
  • Re-read the sentence to see if the child notices the mistake, alongside the illustrations. “Does that sound right? The moose lived in a tiny little space.” At this point, the child should realise that a moose cannot live in a tiny space!!
  • Ask them to read the sentence again and solve the problem. Help them figure out the word before you tell them.

This process is important to reinforce a child’s strategies for reading comprehension. They will also learn not to rely on you. You are there to support them not read for them.

Give a Little Guidance

Use your judgement about interrupting the flow of the story to correct reading errors. However, I believe there are two occasions when you should interrupt, and they both relate to comprehension and understanding. 

If a child substitutes another word for the word on the page and, as a result, changes the meaning of the sentence, you should highlight this. Also, if they come across a difficult word that will be repeated throughout the story, like a character’s name, give them the correct pronunciation. 

If they are really struggling to identify an unknown word, give a little guidance. For example, tell them the initial letter or ask them to break it into two words. If a child still can not read the word, tell them the word immediately and move on. Don’t let them labour over one word and lose the thread of the story. 

Do not make an issue of the fact that they couldn’t read the word; just keep the flow of the story. If they have paused for a long time, you may need to re-read the beginning of the sentence to remind them of what is happening in the story.

Keep Building Confidence

Maintain focus on the understanding and enjoyment of the story. Remember the most important thing is to keep confidence high. Ask them to read the story to you a second time. 

They will love the fact that you want to hear them read again, building their confidence.

Quick Review

You need to use your judgement and decide on the best time to correct mistakes. Here is a quick review of strategies you can use to support children reading unknown words.

  • Look through the illustrations before reading to familiarise them with the story
  • Read the sentence again if it doesn’t make sense
  • Say the beginning sound of an unknown word
  • Check the pictures for cues
  • Guess a word that makes sense in the context of the sentence
  • Skip the tricky part, read to the full stop/period and go back and try to fix it.

Always reinforce and praise children when they are successful, and in their efforts when trying to read.

In Summary

If you are a parent reading this, it is your job to promote reading as a fun and positive experience. You can do this even when pointing out mistakes. If you catch these mistakes early, you will prevent your child from having an issue with reading as they get older.

Teachers, let me know in the comment section if you have used any of the tips successfully. If you have any other strategies for reading comprehension, please share them with everyone!

2 thoughts on “Strategies to Help When Children Make Reading Errors”

  1. These are all great tips! It’s so easy to jump in and give the word for a child when they are stuck, but you are right, it’s important we let them try to figure it out. I’m curious as to your thoughts on what to do with a child that just doesn’t care what the word is?

    1. Hi Heidi, thanks so much for the comment!! In my experience a child who doesn’t care what a word is often doesn’t comprehend what they are reading. It is almost like they are reading for the sake of it. I would ask them to double check that what they said made sense. It is worth pausing to make sure they are comprehending. Hope that helps!!

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