Reading with Children

The Art of Reading with Your Child

Written by Adele Keyser

We know that reading is important and that one must develop the ability to read. In a previous blog article I discussed the importance of reading. In this article I’d like to continue working through this topic, this time focusing on how you can instill a love of reading in your child by having fun, using different material and covering a variety of needs.

As language is examined in context, it is of the utmost importance that what is read is understood. We tend to think quantity is important when reading (how many pages have you read?) rather than: “Have you understood what you have read?”

Reading comprehension lies at the heart of literacy. If your child understands what he or she is reading, it’s far more likely that they will enjoy reading.

I’ve listed some examples of how you can take various materials and open up an enquiring mind, develop awareness of language and spend quality time with your child. These examples are not only for children who struggle, but also for those who want to improve their language and reading skills in general.

School content subjects

Discuss with your child the various topics taught in class. Do this on a weekly basis in a relaxed atmosphere with no disturbances. Doing this regularly should become part of your routine eliminating negativity.

Through discussion you’ll get to know what your child understands (while you are showing an interest in what they are learning at school) and what areas/words need to be investigated further. Encourage further exploring by using the Internet or books on a specific theme.

Take the subject matter taught and:

  1. “pull-out“ important information/words;
  2. use this information to make a mindmap – do this together initially and then you’ll be able to make a game out of it by each doing your own mindmaps and making a comparison – this will also ensure that at exam time notes have been made to study from;
  3. use the words from the mindmap to write a paragraph – thus teaching summarizing (a skill needed to write long essays later on).

By working through the various topics taught in the content subjects at school you’ll be able to enhance sentence writing, understand the content taught and be ready for exam studying. At the same time, reading has taken place as well as vocabulary enrichment.

You can also do this with any interesting piece of writing.


Poems are short and fun, teaching the use of rhyming schemes, rhythm in reading and how words can make a difference.

So poems can be read for:

  • Enjoyment and humour
  • Teaching the use of rhyming words and eventually encouraging the writing of own poems
  • Discussing Parts of Speech and identifying them in the poem
  • Omitting certain Parts of Speech and replacing with different ones – thus making awareness of what the Part of Speech is and how it can be changed to alter the meaning or humour of the poem.
  • Change the poem by writing it in a different tense


Using just a picture can also generate discussion in many areas by following these steps:

  1. Write a story or paragraph about the picture – e.g. if the picture has fish in it, a creative story could be written and then you could look up actual facts about the fish to distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality.
  2. Let your child read what they have written to you – teach the art of editing.
  3. You could then ask your child to identify parts of speech within their own writing.
  4. Give the piece a title

Quality trumps quantity, every time

Quality surpasses quantity.

Do a little at a time. Encourage dictionary usage – this develops a skill and is an avenue to use when you are not around to assist. Keep a book with cool phrases, interesting words and synonyms of frequently used words (word bank). Your child can then call on these to assist them when writing a story or paragraph.

When doing exercises such as these proposed, keep the actual reading pieces short. So when choosing a piece make sure the piece chosen can generate lots of discussion. An example of a wonderful resource is National Geographic Kids.

Enjoy this precious time with your child. Make it as stress free as possible and as meaningful as possible, and you’ll see the positive results in your child’s life within a short space of time.

The Author - Adele Keyser

Adele has 27 years experience in teaching pre-primary, foundation phase, intermediate-senior phase and adult education. That's 27 years experience in dealing with children (and parents!). Currently teaching in Cape Town, her major focus is building classroom environments that foster healthy self-esteem and help children realise what they're capable of.

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