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Reading books and 'reading' from memory

(14 Posts)
lecce Thu 29-Sep-11 11:44:23

DS1 has just started reception, hasn't been to pre-school and has never shown any interest in learning to read/learn letters etc. I tried a little with him but he was adamant: "I don't want to talk about letters, read me the story please!"etc. Loves books - no desire to read them himself.

Now he's begun school and is loving it. He is keen to read his book every night now (after a shaky start, he now insists on it even when I'd been planning to let him off!) but, from what I can see, has memorised the words and is making no effort to really look at them. I try to get him to sound them out but he's not really interested and never recognises words from his books in other contexts - I think because he barely glances at them. He will sort of take the book from me and read it - very expressively and enthusiastically but from memory.

The school seem to be changing his book weekly, or even more frequently, even though I've written in his record that I don't think he's really looking at the words. I guess this is good as he would get bored with the same simple book for weeks on end, but I'm a little concerned that there's still no sign of him really starting to read.

He has moved onto a second set of bear words and seems to be doing better at these but I still feel he's using his memory rather than any reading skill.

Should I be stricter about making him sit and look at the words - I have held off because I don't want to spoil his enthusiasm.


efeslight Thu 29-Sep-11 13:01:59

You could play games like going on a word hunt on the page, use a magnifying glass to try to find a particular word or a torch to shine onto a word - is it repeated on the next page, can you find it again? etc

DreamTeamGirl Thu 29-Sep-11 15:35:16

Are the bear words on cards or a piece of paper

if cards then give them to him randomly, and if a list then try covering some of them and ask what the others are?

I was surprised that DS had memorised the book, but it seemed to just be part of the learning cycle- another trick is to just go to random pages and get him to read that

Mostly tho he is just learning that books have words and that those squiggles mean something and that is ok (IMVHO)

maizieD Thu 29-Sep-11 18:46:00

I'm curious to know how he is memorising theses words in the first place. Is the teacher 'helping' him through the book initially?

And what on earth are 'bear words' confused

lecce Thu 29-Sep-11 19:49:30

Thanks for the replies.

He has always had a good memory and, yes, I tell him the words the first time and after that he remembers them - they have pictures and not a lot of words!

Bear Words are a set of simple, commonly used words stuck on a laminated bear. Sorry, should have explained but didn't want to waffle on too much.

Ferguson Thu 29-Sep-11 19:49:34


As a TA and currently voluntary helper supporting reading, I was horrified at one Reception class I spent a few weeks with, that ALL the children recited books without hardly looking at the words!

'Reading' as such is not even a requirement in Reception, rather the learning of letters and sounds, and some experience handling books.

Please at this stage don't be 'strict'. See if you can acquire - from school or elsewhere - similar books that he has NOT had a chance to memorise, and see what sounds he knows, can he blend sounds together to make little words. ALL words ideally should be able to be 'sounded', thus no THE, OF, SAID, etc, at this stage, but again, some schools do not observe this.

Haberdashery Thu 29-Sep-11 20:05:02

How about making it into a game? DD is fairly reluctant to look at her lists of words to learn (to be fair to her, it really is incredibly dull learning at and look and for) so we've made it into a game rather like musical bumps. She gets four random words from her list of nine or ten stuck down on the floor with blutak on big sheets of paper. I put loud music on, she dances and when the music stops I shout a word and she has to get to it as fast as she can. If your son is still not sure of his letter sounds, maybe you could start with those and a similar game? Sometimes I shout a word that isn't actually there so she can tell me how silly I am but that might be for when he has the hang of it a little more.

maizieD Thu 29-Sep-11 21:09:36

yes, I tell him the words the first time and after that he remembers them

I thought someone must be telling him the words!

Simple answer; don't tell him the words, he has to work them out for himself.

If he hasn't been learning phonics, then he should have been and the books should be 'decodable', i.e containing words which only have in them the letter/sound correspondences which he has learned.

girliefriend Thu 29-Sep-11 21:15:45

I would encourage him with his love of books and not worry too much about pushing reading before he is ready. My dd has just gone into yr 1 and only just started to properly recognise words and not just recite from memory.

Saracen Thu 29-Sep-11 22:47:22

I don't see anything wrong with what your son is doing. No, it isn't real reading, but he is enjoying engaging with books and that is the main thing now. He's very young. Reading will come together for him in time.

My daughter did exactly the same. I think that having memorised some books helped her tremendously when she did want to tackle the task of learning to read: she could compare the sentences she was saying aloud, or hearing in her head, to the squiggles she saw in front of her and slowly begin to make connections. It's one reason some people advocate teaching kids lots of nursery rhymes as one approach to reading.

She was home educated so there was no issue of how often her book got changed and she could read whichever one she wanted. I found it very interesting that she liked to revisit easier books and read them over and over and over, dozens of times. I don't know whether that was related to boosting her confidence ("here at least is a book I find easy to read") or looking for connections ("I remember seeing a similar word in this book; why aren't they spelled the same way?") or just because she loved the stories.

Something that amused me was that before my dd could read at all, she went through a phase where she stopped reciting the memorised book expressively and instead started stumbling along as if she were sounding the words out with difficulty. Which she was not. I am sure she still couldn't read at all: she was often on totally the wrong page! She had heard other children reading in this laborious way and thought that's what you do when you learn to read, so she imitated the sound of a learner!

sunnyday123 Thu 29-Sep-11 22:52:24

my dd teacher said this is exactly how kids learn to read - through memorising -it certainly worked for dd in reception! as does 'reading the pictures'.

blackeyedsusan Thu 29-Sep-11 23:19:27

try copying out the bear words onto pieces of paper, make several of each word and he has to go on a word hunt to find the matching words. try spotting the odd one out... by writing the words out 3 times, but writing one of them incorrectly, then he has to spot which one. try sounding out the wrong word and laughing at the nonsense word. changing the initial letter of his name and reading his "silly" name. works well with mum when you swap the first m for a b. you can tell when they have worked it out as they are either shocked or laugh.! make it fun and a game.

Mashabell Fri 30-Sep-11 07:38:45

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

dolfrog Fri 30-Sep-11 13:34:02


Not everyone can use phonics, and many have can only use the lexical process of reading, and are cognitively not able to use the sublexical process. Have a look at this research paper collection Reading: Acquiring and Developing the Skills and Abilities - library

Using word recognition from memory is what all skilled readers do, the problem is how they cope with new words. Most are able to phonetically decode new words using the sublexical process, but there are many who are cognitively not able to do this. One such group are those who have Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) (a listening disability), those who have APD are unable to process the gaps between sounds, which can be the gaps between the sounds that can make up a word and even the gaps between words in rapid speech. Which means that those who have APD learn new words by learning the whole sound of a word in speech, and will have problems using phonics as it depends on being able to process the gaps between the sounds that make up a word to match each of the graphic symbols used to represent those single sounds. So those who have APD match the whole sound of a word to the whole graphic representation of the same word, which is done by memory. And trying to force a child who has APD to use phonics is disability discrimination.

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