Paired Reading is a way to help children with reading and is especially useful for parents to do at home with their children. One child works alongside one adult. The adult and the child both read the text out loud together. In this way the adult provides the child with a model of correct reading. Paired Reading helps the child to read more text independently and to progress in reading accuracy and comprehension. It also prevents parents reverting to teaching their children in the way they remember being taught, e.g., sounding out each word. The most important feature of Paired Reading is that it facilitates parents and children to move away from an emphasis on failure to emphasizing the strengths of a child.
Procedure for Paired Reading
- The child, perhaps with guidance, chooses a book to read.
- Adult and child sit together and begin reading out loud together. The child always sets the pace.
- The child must pronounce all the words correctly. If the child gives an incorrect word the adult gives the word and the child repeats it. Then both continue reading as before.
- If the child wishes to read a little on his own some non-verbal signal is given, e.g., a tap or a nudge.
- During independent reading the adult gives constant praise and encouragement, especially if errors are corrected by the child.
- When the child is reading independently and is stumped by a word the adult must give it and then join in again. Paired Reading then continues until the child signals to go on alone.
- The adult should be encouraged to stop and talk about the book. This could be by looking at the illustrations and discussing them/ or by trying to guess what is going to happen on the next page. It could also be through relating the story to the experiences of the child.
When to do Paired Reading?
Parents should try to find a time that suits them and their child and as far as possible the same time each day. This then becomes a habit and the children accept that this is something they do and enjoy in that time. If the time varies considerably from day to day the child begins to associate reading with time taken 'from her/his best television programme' or 'always when I want to play with my friends'.
Why does Paired Reading work?
- Perhaps the most important thing that Paired Reading offers to parents and children is the shift away from an emphasis on failure to emphasizing the strengths of a child.
- It offers parents a structured programme with clear do's and don'ts.
- It is simple, speedy and positive.
- It concentrates on extracting meaning from the print.
- Children are given regular personal attention from an adult and Paired Reading eliminates the possibility of failure.
- The parent demonstrates to the child how the words should be read and the child also receives help with speed and intonation. In this way a child is both looking at and hearing words at the same time.
- Above all it encourages fluent, meaningful reading.
Guidelines to Parents
What book should you use?
- The child should choose the book she/he wants to read but if she/he chooses one that is far too difficult, read some of it to her/him and try to persuade her/him to find a more realistic one the next day. This judgement comes with practice and again is not an easy decision. Children often surprise us by reading difficult text because they are really interested.
- To start with 5 minutes a day, for 4 days a week, is probably realistic and this could build up to 10 to 15 minutes. Any longer than that should only be at the strong request of the child.
- Work in West Derbyshire suggested that it was easier to maintain a commitment if the parents did it for short intensive periods, e.g., for 6 to 8 weeks. Other people have found that as the child becomes more independent the amount of Paired Reading decreases and independent reading takes over. If you think it is time to phase out Paired Reading do consult the school.
- Do try to find a place that is quiet and comfortable. Children are easily distracted and find that they cannot concentrate when there are lots of interruptions or the television is flickering in the corner.
- As the child becomes more confident she/he will want to read more and more on her/his own. Eventually you may find that you have only to provide help for words that give problems. Finally the child asks to read alone. Don't let them go for too long without showing some interest. Encouragement will establish a lifelong reading habit.
- If she/he doesn't enjoy this activity don't do it. All children vary not only from each other but from day to day. If she/he or you prefer reading independently then this is what you should do. You may prefer to take it in turns to read from the books or you could read the story first and then your child could have a go at reading it to you. Remember to help with the words that give difficulty, to talk about the story and give genuine praise whenever you can.