Now that your child has begun learning to read, you may be anxious for him to progress to more advanced books, as fast as possible, But reading is a journey, not a destination. Learn how to help your child get the most out of reading with these expert tips.
Ask, what if?
“Ask specific questions to engage them in the reading process; to stimulate creative, active thinking; and to expand vocabulary,” says Kylie Bell, director of research and program development at Mindchamps. For instance, before reading, you can start by asking “What does the front cover picture tell us?”, she suggests.
As your child gets into the story, you could raise more questions such as “What do you think might happen next?” or “I wonder why…?”
After your kid has finished the book, discuss it with her by posing various scenarios: What could have happened if…? What else does this story make you think about…?
Imagine if you could make a new ending to the story, what would it be? Do you have a favourite part? Discussing topics in the book also reinforces your child’s understanding of what she’s reading without making her feel like she’s being interrogated, adds Kylie.
The rule of three
When asking questions during your book discussions, resist the temptation to jump in with your own opinions before your kid can even respond. “Wait three seconds to give your child time to think of a response,” says Kylie. Also, remember that there’s no right or wrong with these questions. The thinking process is the most important.
Inspire your child to create pictures in her mind in response to what she reads. Spur her imagination by asking what kind of images popped up in her head as she read that sentence, for instance. Or you could even extend reading into a drawing and arts and crafts activity, where your child doodles or creates little models of what she imagines the scenes in the book to be.
Bring it to life
Stories can evoke emotions. Draw out your child’s response to the story by getting her to read it out loud. Doing so helps her identify even more with the characters and make reading an interactive experience.
Even better, act it out. Throw in facial expressions, gestures, hand movements and action. “Encourage your children to retell stories by using props, to make them interesting,” suggests Raneetha Rajaratnam, assistant director, National Library Board, on how your kids can further dramatise a book.
Or recreate a new adventure altogether by getting your kids to rewrite or retell their version of the story. For example, if she’s reading a book on wizards, get her to create a short story on what she imagines her make-believe sorcerers might get up to instead. If she can’t write yet, write it down for her.
Read across genres
“Introduce books of various themes and genres to your children,” says Raneetha. Reading a wide variety broadens their horizons, and opens them up to different words and pictures. Your boy goes for action books or stories on dinosaurs, while your girl reads about princesses? Get them to swop books.
Read the book, then watch the movie version, or vice versa. Seeing text come to live on the big screen is also a great motivator in getting your child excited about a book. Discuss which is better (the story book or the movie) or how they’re different.
Make reading a game
Devise your own language game with words from a book. Perhaps you can ask your child to pick up sets of rhyming words, then create a poem, limerick or verse with them. Raneetha offers another game: “Play charades with your children based on their favourite characters or phrases from storybooks.”
Join a book club
In such a club, your child gets to meet other readers, share opinions and ideas, and learn about new books, authors and genres. Being able to discuss stories in a like-minded group also helps foster her self-confidence and communication skills. Public libraries run Junior Reading Clubs or you can start your own book club with your child’s classmates or neighbours.
Record new words
Read, then write. When your child does that, it helps reinforce what she has read. Help her write new or unfamiliar words into an exercise book kept for this purpose. Look them up together in a dictionary, then ask her to write the meanings and definitions, before making her own sentences using those words. Reading becomes even more enriching as her vocabulary increases.
When your kid hates reading