How not to be a pushy parent
Helping your child learn to read … at their own pace
It can be really tricky to know how best to encourage your child with their reading. As parents, we all want our children to learn to read as smoothly and quickly as possible – after all, it’s the gateway not just to educational success, but also to a lifetime of reading fun and enjoyment! But sometimes, it’s hard to know whether you’re supporting your child to read, or pushing them to acquire new skills before they’re ready. If we try to rush children through the process of learning to read too fast, we risk confusing them, slowing down their progress, and turning reading into a chore to be endured rather than a pleasure.
So how can you tell the difference between pushy and supportive – and what’s the best way to support and encourage your child to reach their reading potential?
Pushy or supportive?
Helping your child learn to read definitely requires some persistence on your part! It’s important to make reading together a part of your daily routine. Most children will go through patches where they’re finding reading difficult, and at those times it can be easy to let the reading practice slide. If you gently persist with a few minutes of reading together every day, that’s not being pushy – it’s helping your child move beyond whatever’s currently blocking their reading progress.
However, if you regularly find yourself locking horns with your child over reading, or if you’re always worrying that your child isn’t working hard enough or learning fast enough, rest assured that it doesn’t have to be that way. The good news is that there are lots of ways to make reading time more effective and less stressful – for both of you!
Listen, watch and talk
Whatever age your child is, it’s important to be alert to the signs that will tell you if they’re ready to move on with reading. You know them best, so you’re in a good position to listen to them, watch them play, and talk to them. All these things will help you understand where they’re at with reading.
Your pre-schooler might be ready to start learning to read if they’re showing an interest in books, playing at reading or writing or trying to ‘read’ a favourite book from memory. Learning to read can be tricky, and it’s important to start with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude! Lots of pre-schoolers aren’t ready for anything like formal reading yet, and if your child isn’t showing signs of reading-readiness, that is completely normal. Keep on reading to them and sharing books and stories; sing songs together, clap out a rhythm and listen out for rhyming words. You’ll be doing the very best possible things to help them make a great start with reading once they are ready.
If your child has already started learning phonics at school, it’s just as important to be guided by them. Try to have regular, short reading sessions, and always stop if they seem tired or upset. For many children, it’s better to spend time at home reading books that are fairly easy to read, rather than always rushing ahead to the next level.
Learning to read is a complex process, and all children need time to fully internalise and learn the necessary skills and phonic knowledge before moving on. It’s also really good for children’s confidence to read an ‘easy’ book sometimes – anyone can get demoralised if learning is just one difficult challenge after another!
So it’s really not a problem if your child sometimes seems a bit ‘stuck’ on a particular level. You could encourage them to branch out by doing some different types of reading activity – maybe they could help you read a recipe or follow the instructions for making something, or maybe there’s a magazine or comic connected to a special interest of theirs? But if your child doesn’t seem keen to move on, don’t force it – let them revisit books they’ve already read, and carry on reading to them as much as possible. Have a conversation with them about reading, too. Ask them what they like and dislike about it, what they feel they’re good at and what they’d like to get better at. This can be surprisingly illuminating!
As well as talking to your child about their reading, if you’re at all concerned about their progress, it’s very important to talk to their teacher. Parents and teachers working together can be a brilliant team, and your child’s teacher almost certainly has some useful insights about your child’s reading and how you can best support them.
Relax and have fun
Especially if your child is finding reading difficult, it’s really important to try and create a relaxed atmosphere, so that they’re not worried about failing (or even worse, disappointing you). If reading times have become a bit tense in your house, remember that whatever issues your child might have with reading at the moment, with your support and understanding, they will get better at reading. It may not happen overnight, but that’s fine! Focus on the things they can already do, let them choose to read an easier book if they want to, keep reading to them, and keep on talking both to them and to their teacher. Before too long, your child will be moving ahead again – and they’ll know they can rely on you to support and encourage them.