Created in collaboration with Dyslexia Action
Recent government reforms to the KS2 SATs and GCSE qualifications have led to tougher tests and the removal of coursework. It is now more critical than ever that children develop strong literacy skills, particularly pupils with dyslexia, who find reading difficult. This document outlines support strategies that can be used by teachers and parents to encourage children to develop their reading skills.
Creating enthusiastic readers
Many children find that regular reading sessions help them to develop their reading skills, so that reading becomes easier and more enjoyable; however, for children who have dyslexia, reading may not be a source of fun, and it is easy for them to become disheartened and unwilling to continue struggling.
How can you help?
To maintain a pupil’s enthusiasm for reading, try to implement the following strategies:
- Make personal reading time a part of your pupils’ daily routine rather than a chore, and encourage parents to use shared reading as a way of spending quality time with each other.
- Cultivate a calm, relaxing atmosphere for reading time by ensuring that reading spaces are cosy, appealing and well-stocked with books that cater to a variety of abilities and interests.
- Make reading aloud into a fun activity by adopting different voices for characters, or by using role play, with the teacher taking the part of one character, and pupils taking on the parts of other characters.
Helpful reading tips
Reading starts with listening. Encourage parents to read to their children as often as they can, as listening to stories will improve their child’s listening skills, familiarise them with the way stories are structured and will help them to build positive associations with reading. Listening to someone read can also help to build vocabulary, as new words and meanings are explored.
Shared and supported reading
Encourage pupils to join in by:
- Discussing the book’s content and asking them to describe what is happening, or what might happen.
- Retelling the story in their own words.
- Running their finger along the line of print as you read, to help the pupil to see what you are reading, and to aid the familiarity of the words.
- Suggesting they read some of the key words.
- Selecting two or three words or main characters to talk about.
- Allowing them to take their time to work out how to sound out words or to guess what they mean.
- Helping with accuracy – encourage pupils to improve guesswork by cross-checking letters in unfamiliar words.
Re-reading books, together or alone, builds confidence, fluency and comprehension. Avoid rushing pupils to ‘race’ to the next reading stage. Reviewing story information and who characters are, or re-reading important information, helps to reinforce understanding of the story, especially if a pupil has a poor short-term memory. Over learning can also build familiarity with vocabulary used within the book, or basic story structures.
It’s a great step when children move from reading aloud to silent reading, but it is vital that you ensure that pupils who struggle with reading are not just ‘guessing’ the meaning of words. It’s important that you check for understanding formatively by asking pupils about the story or by setting tasks such as book reports/reviews.
Silent reading is an important skill needed to foster independence, fluency and reading stamina, but wherever possible, pupils should be encouraged to talk about what they have read, so that opportunities to check for understanding and enjoyment are not missed.
When selecting books to appeal to pupils’ varied interests and abilities, it is critical to consider:
- Areas of interest – it is more likely that a child will persist with a book if the subject matter is appealing.
- Level of interest – avoid using ‘babyish’ books with older, struggling readers. Their imagination needs to be engaged and their efforts must be rewarded.
- Vocabulary – try to find books with familiar vocabulary, and if there are unfamiliar words, try to talk about them in advance.
- Sentence complexity – text which is broken up into short sentences and paragraphs is preferable for readers with dyslexia, as text presented in this way helps readers to maintain interest and promotes a sense of achievement.
- Presentational features – books with a good balance of pictures, captions, call-outs and boxed-text help to break up text into manageable chunks.
Audio books and text-to-speech software
Audio books can be also be utilised by parents as an alternative to text-based reading, to keep things varied. Local libraries often have audio books in different formats, e.g. MP3s or CDs, or subscription libraries, such as Young Calibre audio library or Audible, can be useful sources of exciting children’s literature.
Text-to-speech software can help pupils with dyslexia to read lots of digital information that is not available as an audiobook. Examples of free text-to-speech software include Announcify a Google Chrome extension that reads aloud web content, and WordTalk, a free text-to-speech plugin for Microsoft Word.
Fun, fun, fun!
Above all, reading should be a pleasurable activity. Advise parents that they should be positive and patient when helping their children on the path to becoming confident readers, and avoid letting the experience become a battle.
Christopher Pappas (2012) ‘14 Free Text To Speech Tools for Educators’, <https://elearningindustry.com/14-free-text-to-speech-tools-educators-tts-teachers> [Accessed: 27 February 2017]