Your child has been struggling to pick up phonics but they have been making progress and can now read better than they could. However, this is a slow, laborious process and they are sounding out many words. Neither you nor your child is enjoying this process but you know that they will enjoy reading once they get better at it. So, the fifty million dollar question is: how do you move them from this painful, slow reading process to being able to read faster?
The short answer is that they have to learn to store pictures of the whole words in their heads, so that they can retrieve these as fast as possible, making reading much quicker and more fun. You can teach your child how to do this by following these simple steps:
Step 1: Post It Notes.
Put post it notes on the objects in your home. This will help your child to recognise the whole word for that object and the fact that the note is on the object will help your child associate those letters with it. Get your child to go around the objects and read the post it notes every day for a few minutes. Lots of words about the home come up in books, especially those read in primary school.
Step 2: Words for Things!
It is easier to make a mental picture for words which relate to things ( hence why step 1 is a good place to start). So, make a note of 2 – 3 words which your child sounded out when reading, making sure these words are ‘things’. Either, print out a picture of the object with the word printed across the middle of it or ask your child to draw a picture of the object and put the word across the middle of it. Then go to step 3.
Step 3: Moving the image and word into your head.
The next step in the process, is to take your picture from Step 2 and ask your child just to make a mental picture of this in their head. Then, whilst holding that mental image, they imagine the letters for the word being written across it. When your child is doing this, they must look up to the left as this will access the correct part of the brain to do this exercise. To check whether they have managed to do this, ask them to spell the word to you forwards and backwards ( Tip: when you are first starting to do this, use short words until the skill is established).
Practise this for a few minutes every day if possible, but repetition little and often is the key to success here. Make flashcards of the words written down without the pictures and see if your child can now read them without sounding out the words. Keep repeating the process in this step until your child can do this.
Step 4: Making a mental image of words which don’t relate to objects.
Once step 3 is really well established, your child will become better at holding mental images of words. This may take a while to establish as a lot of dyslexic children find this quite hard at first. Then, you can move on to just making a mental image of a word, missing out the drawing of the picture stage. Find 2 – 3 words in the book your child is reading which they had to sound out and ask them to make a mental picture of each letter in that word (taking one word at a time). You can now use any words, not just those that relate to objects and things. Check as you did before by asking them to spell the word forwards and backwards. You may be noticing that these exercises will also help their spelling skills – spelling is the flip side of reading.
Keep up with making a set of flashcards for these words and asking your child to read them on a little and often basis. Once your child can read these confidently then you can put those flashcards to one side – still bring them out occasionally just to double check that your child has retained the words.
Step 5: Don’t be afraid to revisit a step.
If your child isn’t ready for Step 4, then go back to Step 3. Some dyslexic children find it hard to make mental pictures and have to be taught how to, hence why they aren’t doing this ‘naturally’. Others will find it pretty easy and not take long to progress through these steps. Success is measured by how many more words they can read without resorting to sounding out – so make sure you celebrate each milestone, no matter how small.
Top tips for success:
-Only work on a small number of words at a time, after all it is better to establish these completely before moving on.
-Repeat on a daily basis if at all possible, this should only take a few minutes. -Schedule in a couple of minutes for doing this after doing something in particular e.g. getting home from school, once you have eaten dinner, just before your child goes to bed as you are more likely to do it. It is better to repeat little and often than to try and schedule in a long session doing this.
I would love to hear how you have gotten on with this.
PS: If you would like more tips and help to make learning less frustrating and more enjoyable for your dyslexic child then please click here to join my Free Facebook Group.
If you would benefit from discussing your child's learning with a specialist dyslexia tutor then please contact me to arrange a consultancy meeting.
I have online courses where you can learn more about dyslexia and how it affects reading. Click here to learn more.