Tips for Improving Accuracy:
1. Make sure your child is looking all the way through words, from the very first letter to the very last one. A lot of kids who misread words tend to look at the words as a whole rather than at their individual parts, from left to right. Oftentimes, this will lead to their calling out a similar-looking word rather than the right one. You might hear your child say, "very" instead of "every," "handed" instead of "handled," or "commented" instead of "complimented." If your child is making mistakes like these, slow him or her down and have have him or her carefully sound out any miscalled words. If needed, cover up all but one part at a time until your child gets through the whole word. If the problem doesn't resolve itself with your help, you might consider getting your child's eyes checked for convergence issues as well.
2. Make sure your child knows how to sound out words effectively. Just because your child can read a bunch of words doesn't mean your child understands how to read. Unfortunately, many kids who have been asked to learn one "sight word" list after another have simply acquired a bunch of "sight words" over the years. These kids can read what they can read, but often struggle with anything beyond what they have managed to memorize. If your child falls into this category, you will have to teach him or her how to look at a word, break it up into smaller parts, and figure out what it says. Otherwise, asking him or her to sound out a word will be fruitless.
3. Make sure your child knows the "tricks." Even if your child understands how to break up a word, sound it out one part at a time, and blend it back together efficiently, he or she can STILL struggle to do so if he or she isn't aware of the many "tricks" in the English language. What are "tricks?" Tricks are letters and/or letter combinations that create new sounds when they appear together or in certain positions in words -- sh, ch, th, ar, er, oo, ook, ou, ow, a endings, ed endings, and tion are just a few examples. For a much more comprehensive list of "tricks" (as well as practice words that contain them), click HERE! It's crucial that your child become aware of each "trick" on the list if he or she isn't already.
4. Make sure your child is reading for understanding. If your child is reading for understanding, he or she should be able to catch many of his or her own errors. After all, when you miscall a word, it usually doesn't make much sense! Urge your child to pay close attention to what he or she is reading. Tell him or her to reread any sentences that don't seem right.
5. Make sure your child gets enough PRACTICE reading books of ALL SORTS out loud TO YOU! For your child to become good at reading all sorts of new words accurately and confidently, he or she will need to get a lot of practice doing so! Make sure you sit with your child and have him or her read aloud to you as often as possible. Look at the words as your child reads to make sure he or she is reading the words correctly. Gently redirect your child when a mistake is made. This will help keep him or her from incorrectly memorizing that word as something else! Also, while there is nothing wrong with rereading favorite books on occasion, it's important that you make sure your child is reading lots of new, unfamiliar books during this time as well. Otherwise, your child will only become familiar with certain words and certain topics. For best results, vary what your child reads and expose him or her to as many types of literature as possible. Increase the difficulty as you do so!
Tips for Improving Understanding:
1. Ask your child to make a "mental movie" of what he or she is reading! Children who can read the words accurately but who aren't understanding what they are reading often struggle because they are "reading but not thinking." By asking them to make a "mental movie" out of what they are reading, you can often get their attention on the words and help them to plug into the meaning more effectively.
2. Make sure your child is starting with the title! Many of the kids who have come to me for reading help initially skip right over the title when asked to read a story or passage. If your child is doing this, remind him or her to start with the title and think about it for a second. It can give your child a "heads up" about what to expect.
3. Make sure your child is STOPPING at periods, PAUSING at commas, and PAYING ATTENTION to all of the other little symbols that come up! Flying through punctuation marks can have extremely detrimental affects on one's ability to comprehend what is being read. Make sure your child understands what each mark means and uses it to correctly read the sentence at hand.
4. If your child is flying through the text, tell him or her to S-L-O-W down! Although some kids can fly through text and still understand every word of it, others need to read it much more slowly and methodically to fully digest what it says. If this seems to be the case with your child, slow him or her down and remind him or her that it's more important to understand what he or she is reading than to read it at super-fast speeds!
5. Make sure your child has the background knowledge and/or vocabulary necessary to understand the story and/or passage at hand. If your child is reading a story and/or passage about the Civil War, but has no idea what the Civil War was, what "north" and "south" are referring to, and/or what life was like during that time period, he or she is likely to struggle to understand what he or she is really reading about. To help with this, talk to your child as much as possible about EVERYTHING you can. Make sure you discuss topics you see coming home from school as well. The more your child knows about history and the world around him or her, the better he or she is likely to do when it comes to comprehending texts of all sorts. I really can't emphasize this enough -- TALK, TALK, TALK to your kids about EVERYTHING you know about and/or run into!!! Make sure your kids are acquiring lots of new vocabulary and background knowledge each and every day!
When your child is able to read through a passage and understand it, your child is a "good reader." Don't be fooled by numbers, grades, or anything else! Speed will come with practice. At least for most kids. If it doesn't with your child, don't worry. Just make sure he or she can read the text, understand the text, and, hopefully, ENJOY the text. That's what's really important!
All the best and much success,
Author of Kinders Can! READ and WRITE!, Get Your Kids READING and WRITING! 2 and 3 Letter Words!, Tricks Practice Cards, and Alphabasics!