How to improve a child’s reading in English?

The process of reading itself is decoding written characters (letters) and the perception of the meaning and significance embedded in the combination of these characters (text). Reading skills are acquired through practice at school and at home.

When we talk about reading in a foreign language, it is good to first look at the real situation – does our child read in his native language? How do you read – are there any difficulties? Does our child have established reading habits?

What is the method that our child prefers to use to acquire new information – read, listen or watch (respectively, what memory is better developed)?

Reading itself is a process that does not stop throughout our lives

Therefore, building reading habits is the primary activity (even if we are not fond of reading books) that a parent should focus on. Subsequently, the child will only seek new knowledge through this method – reading.

In early childhood (1-5 years) children learn that the book has interesting stories, events, pictures that can satisfy their curiosity about the world in general. In preschool children for the first time meet with the so-called code the letters that form words with specific content. This is a whole new adventure for them.

At an early school age, children learn the ability to reproduce the code. This in itself is a great challenge. It is not until the age of 10-11 that children begin to acquire new knowledge in various fields by decoding texts (in textbooks or books). Usually then foreign language training starts according to our education system.

If we follow this logic, however, we miss the opportunity to develop reading in a foreign language in parallel with the acquisition of the process of “reading” in general. Reading develops in parallel with writing – these two processes help each other. We should not exclude one at the expense of the other from our children’s activities.

We at LuckyKids recommend that reading in a foreign language be linked to reading in one’s mother tongue and that the process start at the same time (no later than preschool / school age). How does this affect?

The child will not make a difference whether he reads in Bulgarian or in English – it will not matter to him in which language the book is written, because he will be able to read both codes. By adding each new language to the child’s set of knowledge, we give him another, and another, and another code for him to handle – in addition to expanding his worldview, we also give him access to more knowledge.

But it is of paramount importance to accustom the child to a love of reading and to build reading habits, regardless of the language used. Without these two components, reading in a foreign language would be quite difficult for anyone.

Other important elements of reading, regardless of the language in which it is performed, are:

  • Reading comprehensionhow well does the child understand the text he / she has read? If he fails to grasp the basic meaning of the text, but simply repeats combinations of sounds mentally or aloud, then the reading activity loses meaning.
  • Focus on the activity, in order to absorb as much information as possible: if the child is often distracted and misses whole sentences / paragraphs (and sometimes just one word), the information he will learn can often be inaccurate, incorrect and / or incomplete.
  • The ability to deal with new terms – some research claims that when we read and encounter a new concept / term, our mind stops perceiving the information after that new term. For this reason, it is necessary to first learn the meaning of the specific unknown word / expression, to read again the sentence in which it appeared, already with a clear understanding of its meaning, and only then to move forward.

When we read in a foreign language, it is very likely that it will happen to us that we do not understand a specific word in the sentence.

This is possible with age. To the younger children, we are the ones who explain and give an image of the word. Or to the younger children – we are the “living” dictionary.

At LuckyKids International Camp, we encourage children to read both during and after the camp. In the smaller camps, teachers take the time to explain the meaning and significance of each unknown word.

Reading is often a collective process and in the form of a game. Consolidation of reading occurs through writing. For even younger children, one of the most successful methods of learning to read is audio books – they have a picture of the text, the text that is written in code (letters) and you hear the reproduction of this code, while in the picture you orient yourself for its meaning.

How does the reading process in our class work?

The children from the more advanced groups have to read a lot during the preparation of the materials on the current projects. The projects are thematic and it is necessary for all campers to gain knowledge on the topic and to present a competent opinion during the presentation.

The stages of preparation that include reading are:

  • Search for information on the topic – for each project it is necessary to make a study from various sources.
  • Checking the sources of information and confirming that the information is accurate – all sources are checked together with the teacher and it is certified that they are reliable.
  • Introduction to unfamiliar terms – in each new material for the project there are unfamiliar words / phrases / expressions. The new words are learned by writing, their meaning is clarified together with the teacher and introduced in the dictionaries.
  • Use of unfamiliar terms in discussion – all unfamiliar terms are used in role activities in the form of a discussion club.

The process is completed only after the children have completed their presentations. And even during a presentation we have reading again.

In addition to reading during the preparation of the presentations, in the camp we also do group reading practices during an English class. In these practices, the children often have fun lyrics or lyrics that they repeat together. The aim is, in addition to usefulness, to reinforce the pleasant side of reading.

A similar practice could be done at home with a parent or relative (brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather and another family member).

Another useful practice is “Evening Reading.” Its usefulness is also related to focus. If the child sets a goal to read 1-2 pages of a book in the evening and spend 5-10 minutes then write in a diary what he learned from the book, it will improve the focus in reading, as well as reading with understanding.

For the biggest graduates we also recommend the practice “Reading with audio recording”. Older children can easily start recording on a phone, tablet or other device, read a separate paragraph from a book, and then check themselves for accent, pronunciation, smoothness, intonation, plot.

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