With schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents (and close family members) need to keep their children learning and entertained at home. Reading stories helps children practise English in an entertaining way. To begin with, show your child several storybooks. Ask them to choose the one they want to read.
Note: allowing your child to choose the story helps spark their interest and make them curious. Put simply, ‘Choice’ makes your child feel motivated and empowered.
1) Talk about the front cover (with a new story)
Have your child look at the front cover. Say things like this:
Can you read the title?
What can you see in the picture?
What do you think this story will be about?
Let’s start reading and see if you’re right.
Note: the important thing is for your child to imagine what will happen in the story, not for them to give the ‘correct’ answer!
2) Take it in turns to read (with a new story)
Say, ‘Can you read the start of the story?’ Let your child read. Let them decode the pronunciation as they go. If they have problems, say ‘Use phonics to work it out.’ Point to the beginning sound, the middle sound, the end sound, and prompt if necessary. If a word is non-decodable, point this out, and model the correct pronunciation of the whole word.
Then say, ‘Shall I read now?’ (Read in a dramatic voice while your child follows the words with a finger.)
Note: with reluctant readers, start reading yourself and ask your child to read one line on the first page, two lines on the next page, and so on. With a child is skilled at reading, this process will probably not be necessary.
3) What happens next? (with a new story)
While you are (or your child is) reading, stop at the end of a page and ask: ‘So what do you think happens next in the story?’ before you turn to the next page. Let your child give their ideas. Give positive feedback. ‘Really? That’s a good idea.’ Then say, ‘Shall we see what really happens next?’ and continue the story.
Note: revisit your child’s guesses later to see which ideas were close to the actual story. When your child guessed closely, point this out, and praise them.
4) Talking about the pictures in the book (with a new story)
Ask your child to look at a picture in the book. Ask, ‘What can you see in this picture?’ To encourage your child to speak at length, ask extra questions like: ‘What’s this on the left/right?’ ‘What can you see at the top/bottom of the picture?’ ‘What’s that in the background? / What’s this in the foreground?’ ‘What do you think happened just before this picture?/What’s going to happen just after it?’
Note: If you like, before you read a story, do a ‘picture walk’. This means asking your child to describe what they think is happening as you go through the book looking only at the pictures. Again, it’s not important for your child to get the ‘correct’ answer. Good readers naturally hypothesize well, poor readers need help (some prompt questions maybe?) and a lot of practice to get good at hypothesizing. While doing a picture walk, check/teach words which your child spots in the pictures that are important in the story.
5) Talking about the whole story (with a story your child has just read)
Once your child finishes reading a story, talk about it together. Ask these questions:
Who is your favourite character in the story? Why?
Which is your favourite part of the story? Why?
Would you like to be in the story? Why?/Why not?
If your child likes drawing, have them draw: their favourite character, their favourite part of the story, them in the story. Once they finish, stick the drawing on the wall with Blu-tack, on a bulletin board with drawing pins, or on the fridge with fridge magnets. Ask your child to point to things in their drawing and describe these to you.
Please visit our Learn at Home page for more resources and activities to help teachers, parents and students get the most out of learning at home.
Bill Bowler is a founder series editor, with his wife, Sue Parminter, of Dominoes Graded Readers (OUP). He has authored many readers himself. He has also visited many countries as a teacher trainer, sharing ideas about Extensive Reading. Bill has contributed to the book Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom (OUP). Two of his Dominoes adaptations (The Little Match Girl and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) were Language Learner Literature Award Finalists. Born in London, he now lives in Spain.