Do you have an eager reader or one that needs a little more encouragement?
Let’s be real, some of the books brought home from school can be really dull! They’re often not real story books, they’re instructional books that are designed to help your child consolidate the phonics learning and early reading skills they are gaining in school.
You will often hear them being called banded books; where a stage or a colour are assigned. Children work within a book band to progress on to different levels as their mastery of early reading continues. If you’d like to find out more about banded books head to my blog post here.
Not Just Phonics
It’s important for children to progress in phonological awareness and being able to segment and blend the words to read (you can find out more about phonics here). However, it is equally important for them to develop fluency, expression and comprehension as they read.
If you feel your child is not progressing through the book bands/ staging it might be worth discussing what aspect it would be worth helping your child with as it is important for all skills to be developing.
Book Banded Books Have Their Purpose
Anyway, let’s get back to the books sent home in book bags. They’re not intentionally awful (OK, some are), but when beginning your phonics and early reading journey there are only so many letters you know and therefore a very limited range of words that can be made. To be quite honest, it’s amazing that some authors can make a book out of the letters S A T P I N alone!
There are newer titles available that are more appealing both in text and images. Some I’ve been really impressed with. It’s worth checking with your school when the last update of books was. It could be something to speak to the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) in your school about as something to spend generated funds on.
School book banded books can be dreary. If you’re lucky they might at least look good without pages missing and sticky tape holding them together! We have a bit of a ‘book hospital’ set up in our house and do repairs to the books that come in needing a little tender loving care. Again, I’d advise speaking to school/ PTA to improve book banded books that go home.
The main function of these texts is to help your child practise their phonics and other reading skills in the context of reading a book. Developing comprehension skills based around simple concepts is important too.
How Many Books Should My Child Get?
It varies considerably, depending upon the school, how books are issued. Some schools will give you a new book every night, others will change the book once a week. Some you just have one book at a time and others more. There are varying expectations on how frequently and the duration children should read for. Personally, for young children, I would always recommend little and often.
7 Ways To Read A School Book
Changing how you use these books can make them much more valuable to consolidate their learning. Here are 7 ways to use a school reading book with your child.
- Read the book to your child modelling how to read words that might be new or tricky. For help on how to support your child with phonics check out the phonics blog series here. Sometimes it can be a firm no to reading a book. Our daughter will on occasion completely refuse to read a book bought home from school. This is when I’ll read the book and model what I’m doing. I often find she joins in before the end!
- Write down the letter sound (phoneme) your child is learning or a tricky word that’s in the book. As you get to a new page ask your child to spot the phoneme or tricky word before they begin reading. You can make this extra fun by using finger eyes (I don’t know if that’s what they’re actually called – link below) or a magnifying glass to be a word/ phoneme detective.
- Tell a story. Get them to imagine they are the author of the story. Looking at the pictures they can tell a story and it doesn’t have to follow the actual story at all! You could always read the book afterwards and see whether your story was similar or different.
- Write a sentence from the story down. Chop it up so you have individual words. Don’t forget to have a capital letter and a full stop (or exclamation mark/ question mark). Get your child to put the sentence back in the correct order and read the sentence. This supports writing by helping children to understand punctuation mark positioning and that sentences start with a capital letter. Use the book to help check the order.
More Ways to Read a School Book
- You read the book and make mistakes. Can your child help you to read the words and explain what you need to do? This is absolutely one of my daughters favourites ways to encourage reading school books, especially when Daddy gets it wrong!
- Once they have already read the book can they repeat the main parts of the story back to you. You could draw some simple images for them to sequence from the book.
- As I’ve already mentioned. Lots of early reader books are very unadventurous with word choices. Have a go at changing a word in a sentence for different words. Hide the word you are changing so that you are practising reading the sentence and increasing fluency. How does the new word feel? Does it change the story. For example – The big pot got hot. You could change the word big, each taking turns. The tiny pot got hot. The gigantic pot got hot. The shiny pot got hot. You could have fun making up silly sentences. The jelly pot got hot.
These ideas are particularly useful if you are issued books for several days at a time. It can help to access the book in different ways. They’re also great for if your child is a little reluctant to read or you just want to have a change.
If you think your school needs to invest in some better home learning – book banded books then do get in touch with your school. Maybe your parent teacher association could raise funds.
Publishers are working hard to get more exciting book available for those learning to read. These couple from Oxford University Press have grasped my daughter recently.
School instructional books are not snuggling, bedtime reading! If your child enjoys reading these at bedtime it’ll probably be the attention from you they are enjoying and not the book.
More often than not reading these books at bedtime will feel like a chore – for everyone concerned. Bedtime is for fabulous story books and oral story telling. Both are incredibly important for helping your child learn to read and write.
Listening to your fluency, discovering new vocabulary and opening up a world of imagination are important reading and writing skills too. Developing a love of reading and giving children the time to read for pleasure is one of the most important skills in learning to read.