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- author Jackie French

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Speechie's Couch: Tiny Steps to Reading Independence

So. Reading accuracy is strengthening and little reading minds are starting to enjoy the earliest school readers, some of which have as many as five words per page. When is it time for your child to go truly solo?

Picture books with highly predictable text offer opportunities for your reading assistant to shout out their lines at just the right time. In this way, stories that otherwise seem far too difficult to be read alone become fun. As your child’s reading accuracy continues to develop, so will their confidence in tackling the entire story alone, especially if they have heard it many times just before the lights go out.

When I was growing up, we seemed to take an almighty leap from John and Betty Can Run to The Famous Five. What happened in between is a blur, but I do remember being snuggled in bed each night listening to just one chapter of a chosen tale before the lights went out.

These days, the very earliest of early chapter books do exist. These often contain just one sentence per page together with black and white illustrations that not only complement the tale but often add extra layers of meaning. Sally Rippons’ Billy B Brown series and Susannah McFarlane’s EJ Spy School series are both perfect examples of these very early ‘read by myself’ stories.

A very tight rein is kept on the vocabulary in these books so that the emerging reader is not exhausted from the effort of decoding unfamiliar words. Each volume contains the essentials for a good story: a complete narrative arc with dramatic highs and lows, well-rounded protagonists with goals and dilemmas and a satisfying end.

There is also an abundance of chapter books that are a bit trickier to read. These ramp up the reading skills required for enjoyment, but if you are in the habit of sharing bedtime stories, you have the perfect seeding ground for these next-step stories: read them to your child first, enjoy the drama together then leave these delights lying around within reach to tempt your little readers to pick them up all by themselves when they feel ready.

Jo Burnell is KBR's Development Editor and resident paediatric speech pathologist. A reviewer of children’s and YA books and shortlisting judge for Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year, Jo is familiar with effective writing for Upper Primary and Secondary students.