Strategies to Help When Children Make Reading Errors

Children reading for blog post Strategies to Help When Children Make Reading Errors

Strategies to Help When Children Make Reading Errors

This post follows on from the post A Guide to Reading with Children. You will find strategies on how you can positively support your children when they make reading errors.

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, this gives the teacher more time to teach.

The risk of making an error is very difficult for some children. It is important they know it is more meaningful to work out the words than to read perfectly every time.

If a child can read words but lacks 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.

How Can We Help When Children Make Reading Errors?

The importance of learning to read is not lost on anyone but that doesn’t mean it is an easy task.
 
Children face many challenges no matter their age or ability and will no doubt make reading errors. So how do we as teachers and parents deal with errors and still make reading a positive experience?
 
What follows are strategies to help you and your child through the reading process.
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Be Positive

Learning to read can be a slow and disjointed journey and a difficult experience for the adult and child alike. Be positive at all times.

Wait!

Waiting for a child to read an unknown word is frustrating for most adults! Try your best to resist the urge to immediately correct a child’s reading mistake. 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? If they don’t, ask them to check the sentence for context and understanding. Through this practice, children will realise their mistakes independently and correct themselves.
 
It may seem easy for you to rush in and tell them when they read a word incorrectly. But you are taking away the opportunity for your child to figure this out and learn a valuable reading strategy.
 
If your child is reading too quickly, then 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 problem solve. Help them figure out the word before you tell them.

This process is important to reinforce a child’s 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 change the meaning of the sentence then you should highlight this. Also, if they come across a difficult word that will be repeated throughout the story, like a character’s name, then give them the correct pronunciation.
 
If your child is 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 than labour over one word and lose the thread of the story. 
 
Do not make an issue of the fact they couldn’t read the word, just keep the flow of the story. You may need to re-read the beginning of the sentence again if they have paused for a long time 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 your child to read the story to you a second time. They will love the fact you want to hear them read again building their confidence. If your child is still feeling anxious about reading discuss this with your child’s teacher.

Quick Review

You need to use your judgement and decide on the best times to correct mistakes. Remember, a parent’s job is 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.
 
Here is is a quick review of strategies you can use to support children read an unknown word.
  • 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 your child when they are successful, and in their efforts when trying to read. 
 
Let me know in the comment section if you have used any of the tips successfully. If you have used other strategies, please share them with everyone! 

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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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