Sally Rippin's advice for parents of young readers

Sally Rippin, Australias highest selling female author.

Sally Rippin, Australias highest selling female author.

Australia's best-selling female author, Sally Rippin knows what she's talking about when it comes to reading and helping young children who might be slow to pick up the habit.

The creator of the massively popular Billie B Brown, Polly and Buster and Hey Jack! books, had her own struggle with a son who was eventually diagnosed as being dyslexic.

Here, she shares her tips for parents who want to encourage their children as readers and what to do if you suspect they need more assistance:

"Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in what we think kids SHOULD read. There's no better way to put your child off reading than to make it feel like a chore.

Remember almost every aspect of our lives involves reading, from instructions to the labels on jars, so all of this is good practice for your kids at home, too.

Wherever you can, seek out opportunities for your children to read to you without them realising it. Are you baking a cake together? Can they read out some of the words in the recipe? Or for very little ones, can they pick out the word "cake" wherever it appears? Are they sitting down to build a Lego kit? What does it say on the front of the box? What other words do they know of that start with "L"?

If you are reading a picture book, follow the lines from left to right with your finger. The more children are exposed to written words, the more they will start to look familiar when they come across them again.

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When drawing pictures, get them to tell you the 'story'. So much of what children draw incorporates storytelling, and this is a lovely link to the stories they will discover in books themselves.

Let them tell you the stories from their favourite picture books - even if they are not reading the actual words. The more they discover about the way stories are constructed, the more incentive it will give them to want to deconstruct stories themselves.

Lastly, if you can, read to them every day. Kids are never too old to be read to. As busy as many of us are trying to juggle home and work life, this will become a precious time in the day where your child has your undivided attention for a moment, so that they will learn to associate books with warmth and joy.

Here are a few more tips that have worked for me as a parent:

  • Make reading fun - once it starts feeling like a chore or you begin to resent your child's slow progress, it's no fun for anyone. Stop and try something else.
  • Let them choose their own reading material - nothing wrong with car magazines, toy catalogues or comics!
  • Let them self-correct - as painful as it can be to listen to them make the same mistake a hundred times, they do need to work it out for themselves and will gradually learn to do this from the context.
  • Talk to them about books - which ones did you read as a child? What are they reading? What are their friends reading? Make books a prominent part of your life.
  • Download audio books - so that your reluctant reader can hear the books their friends are reading and join in their conversations. It's also important they are given the opportunity to learn how stories work. This may be difficult for them to understand if their only access to books is school readers, which are good to teach reading skills but sometimes lacking in story, description and character development.
  • Set a good example - let them see you reading. Especially fathers of boys.

In some instances, you may notice your child is not hitting the reading milestones you might expect from them by a certain age. Children learn to read at different ages, but if your child is genuinely still struggling by eight years old, it might be time to seek professional help.

Some children will have genuine learning difficulties and between 10 and 20 percent of our children will be dyslexic. As dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels, most dyslexic children will be able to learn to read, they may just need more explicit teaching methods and take longer to get there.

If you are unable to get the professional support you need, there are many brilliant online programs that can help your child learn to read using explicit teaching methods, such as: Little Learners Love Literacy, Nessy Reading and Spelling, Teach Your Monster To Read, Sounds Write, Jolly Phonics and Snappy Sounds.

Many of these companies are offering free online access while children are home from school."

Stay safe.

Sally Rippin