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Reading in Reception - feeling frustrated

(93 Posts)
ladyintheradiator Mon 25-Mar-13 16:49:12

I don't want to push my DS and I think on the whole so far I've been quite relaxed about how much learning is going on, I can see the massive progress he's made in so many ways since leaving preschool and he really has blossomed, socially, his speech is better, he is very happy and enjoying school, is enthusiastic about the various projects he's learning about, etc etc. A few wobbles here and there but generally, all is good.

But... some days he appears to read whatever book he is given perfectly and others its as though he has never read a book or even a word before in his life. I think he relies on the pictures too much and then guesses, wrongly, without looking at the words at all - e.g thinking a lid was a plate, so 'reading' the word plate when it isn't even there. He is bringing home awful books, repeating the same few it seems, he says they get to choose from a certain box. I borrow lots from the library, and encourage him to read from our own books too of course but just feeling a bit lost in helping to guide his learning here.

He is an autumn birthday so do I have high expectations? He is bringing home pink books but I have no idea what that really means. He got so fixated on a picture of a beetle he just couldn't see that the word was bug. I am gentle and say, yes, it's a picture of a beetle but let's read the word too, b-u-g, can you blend the sounds? Beetle he says. I say there's no 'ee' or 'T' can he try again? No he says. Loves it when he can actually read things particularly if it follows an interest but outside of these moments he will say he never needs to learn to read, will just grow up and stay at home etc so finding it hard to get him to see why learning is a good thing.

Sorry for length. Any advice?

maizieD Mon 25-Mar-13 16:55:40

I may be completely wrong but my guess is that he has been taught more than one strategy for 'reading' unfamiliar words and that 'look at the picture and guess what the word might be' is the one he has learned most thoroughly.

Text without any pictures or with pictures which don't give any 'clues' would test my theory!

How good is his phonic knowledge?

Elibean Mon 25-Mar-13 17:03:56

Also, children that age (possibly particularly boys?) can be very literal. I remember dd's best friend (who is a boy) doing something similar, and if he'd decided a bug was a beetle he just did not want to accept that the book said 'bug' smile

The same boy also got furious when sounds 'broke rules', iyswim - words that didn't follow phonic rules he'd learned totally confused him.

A year later, he is a perfectly good reader (on Orange Level half way through Y1) in spite of being a summer born, and all that is forgotten.

Honestly, I would keep encouraging and choosing good phonics-linked books from the library, but not worry too much. HTH.

ladyintheradiator Mon 25-Mar-13 17:28:58

Thank you for the reassurance smile

I think his phonics knowledge is good, he is mostly quick at sounding out words and correctly sounds 'ee' instead of 'e,e' for example, and ch sh etc, and whenever a word breaks a rule, so to speak, e.g. Lead not having a 'ee' I tend to just say, in this word 'ea' makes the sound 'ee' which he seems to be okay with on the whole.

I do think it throws him when the picture doesn't quite match - he bought home s-a-t-p the other day (and I can't help think, fgs this isn't a bloody book it's some really basic words and that's all! But try to catch myself and just smile and chat about it with him as really am not pushy) and one word was sand. The pointer was close to 'dad' and he was searching for what this could be - dad, man, t shirt. So I say, no DS never mind the picture, what sounds are in this word? And he says... 'Dad'!

But I will keep the faith.

learnandsay Mon 25-Mar-13 19:58:21

Write simple words with large letters on plain paper with a black marker pen and ask him to read those.

firawla Tue 26-Mar-13 14:49:46

mine does this guessing thing too. as mentioned reading words without pictures on the page means that they can't do it! if that seems "boring" the to child you can write your own quick stories or sentences on paper, for him tailored to his interests or make them funny etc to motivate him? then get him to read those as well as the school books, also things like reading eggs or starfall on the computer might motivate him to try harder and not guess, that seems to work for mine too

Ferguson Tue 26-Mar-13 17:53:34

Hi - exTA (male) here :

This is part of a reply I posted recently to another parent, and it may possibly be of some use in your case :


There used to be a kit of cards and letter blocks called "Soundworks", but I tried to look it up and it seems to have ceased.

The theory was that, for some kids, it is easier to SPELL words than READ them, which is a later stage.

It started with three-letter words, with a vowel in the middle - "a" glued onto a board.

The child then looked at the individual letter blocks, and was asked to make the word "c a t". Then ask, how do we change "c a t" into "h a t". which letter do we need to change? Then change "hat" into "ham" (with an emphasis on the "mmmm" sound).

The order sounds were learnt in was similar to today's phonics teaching : s m p t (can't remember them all off hand, but you can look that up on-line.)

This approach was used with our SEN Yr2 children who had been unable to make progress with more conventional methods of learning to read. It is rather time-consuming, and ideally needs resources to be made, but it does work very well.


So, if you can find or make suitable letters, and a card with "a" glued in the middle, he may enjoy building the words himself. Use letters that are occurring in words in the books he is bringing home, and go on to make cards for the other vowels if it seems to work with "a".

RedHelenB Wed 27-Mar-13 09:24:41

If he can sound out & blend his words try not to worry. It will come & you might experience a sudden jump!

Sommink Wed 27-Mar-13 22:03:14

My dd is in reception. We were told not to worry if the children are using the visual clues in the books as that is what they are there for. The idea being the children can make a "guess" at the word and get positive feedback and also if some of the linking letters and words are starting to make sense having the visual clues will give them the opportunity to link more easily.

RiversideMum Wed 27-Mar-13 22:34:53

OMG !!!!! Worry indeed if your child is being taught to use visual clues.

Pozzled Thu 28-Mar-13 07:44:13

Yes, I disagree with sommink. I would never encourage my DD to use the pictures to 'guess' the words, because it really is just guessing, and can cause problems later on.

OP, I think you should try doing more reading without pictures. I started writing a 'secret message' every day for my reception DD- I just wrote it on a whiteboard after she went to bed. Simple things like 'Today we will see Gran'. She enjoyed 'cracking the code' to read it, and of course there were no pictures to guess from. To start with it's hard to use only words that they know or can decode,but you get used to it!

If you find your DS can't manage a whole sentence, or doesn't want to try, start with single words when you're with him e.g say 'What's in the...' and show him the word 'box'. Make it a game - if you have an actual box with a small treat inside, he'll be motivated. Or 'Can you find the...' 'black cat' and he has to find it in a picture.

bubblesinthebath Thu 28-Mar-13 11:04:47

My daughter had the picture books which she had to discuss the story from and now when I am trying to show her the letter sounds for the words in her new book she will not even acknowledge them she would rather guess what is on the picture, not good really if she decides a giant is a monster or a wand is a stick. I just keep pointing out letters and their sounds on random things like notices, street signs, front of buses etc and that seems to be working.

Waspie Thu 28-Mar-13 11:20:57

I could have written your posts OP. My winter born son is in reception and we've been suffering the pink band books all year.

I got so fed up with him guessing words based on the pictures that I took to covering the pictures with a sheet of paper, thus forcing him to read the actual words. Once he'd read the words on the page I would remove the paper and we'd talk about the picture too. I expressed my frustration at his guessing words to his teacher but she said that this is what they are encouraged to do in class. So I then felt that by covering the pictures I was undermining his learning, so I stopped.

Fortunately, he doesn't do the guessing very much anymore (thank goodness!) so perhaps it is just used as a starter to help reading?

The thing that has helped DS' reading most, IMO, is reading more taxing books at home. I joined reading chest and requested band 3 books. DS can read these but they are more testing than the books he is bringing back from school. He can read up to band 4 in the Read at Home, Floppy Phonics and Songbirds books. As a result he has moved to the green band recently.

I'm also loathe to push him too far because I really want him to love reading for the sake of it, and also because he has glue-ear and his hearing (at times) is very impaired.

Bribery has also helped smile DS will be getting a lego set he wants during the holiday as he has read 2 books with me or DP every evening since January. I realise that a lot of people don't agree with this approach, but I want to acknowledge that I'm proud of the effort he's making.

Waspie Thu 28-Mar-13 11:24:18

sorry, that's rather jumbled. To clarify - DS is now on band 2 (green) at school, having recently been moved up from pink band.

learnandsay Thu 28-Mar-13 11:29:46

Are the teachers who want the children to guess the words based on the pictures following any kind of system (and are they prepared to tell you what the system is called?) Or is it a make it up as you go along system of teaching children to read?

Waspie Thu 28-Mar-13 11:47:18

learnandsay - my son's school hasn't said what system they are following, if they are following one at all! I'm a novice at this and didn't think to ask. DS brings home ORT books; mainly Biff & Chip et al but some non-fiction too. These are changed by the school three times a week.

Apparently they learn 4 new letters and sounds each week in reception (according to their website).

learnandsay Thu 28-Mar-13 13:02:40

If someone said to me that they were using the pictures to teach my daughter to read I'd ask them to explain to me what they meant. I can understand using all sorts of ideas like learning the words as wholes, learning the shapes of the words, learning to spell the words, learning to sound out syllables or phonemes, but learning to read by looking at the pictures is an idea I just don't get. Someone upthread says her daughter wants to call a wand a stick and a bear a monster (or somesuch) using that method of "reading" it's going to take a lifetime to read a single page! I know people (adults and children) are supposed to get some idea of what the message reads from its context and the picture in a story is part of the context but it's not the whole context. I think it's possibly a good idea to look at the picture and say how lovely it is. But that's probably about it.

Periwinkle007 Thu 28-Mar-13 13:15:48

I used to cover up the pictures for my daughter.
I am cruel but it helped immensely

bubblesinthebath Thu 28-Mar-13 13:25:50

That was me learnandsay The giant was a monster, I kid you not she wasn't having it that the giant was indeed a giant! My Ds was taught the same way and I do remember having to redirect his attention (using my finger) to the words on the page otherwise he would spend all off his time looking at the picture then the reading itself just went wrong all jumbled, missed out sentences etc when I mentioned this to the teacher at the time I just got a roll of the eyes as if to say that's how he is supposed to learn SILLY! This obviously didn't work for my Ds and I believe it isn't going to work for my Dd either.

ladyintheradiator Thu 28-Mar-13 13:37:01

Thanks for all the responses, I'm finding this really useful to read. I'm going to spend some time with him over the hols looking at words without pictures, and actually I think bribery is a great idea, and he has his heart set on a particular Lego set, it's hard as I keep having to remind him his birthday is a way off. But how do you implement it, Waspie? What if he read two books but moaned about it, or read them in a grumpy voice, etc etc..did you say two books a night for the entire term? I think a big reward could help but I don't want it to become something else to battle over (lots of grumpiness at the moment).

I will make some cards up too as Ferguson suggested. He likes spelling out some of the words he knows so might appeal to him, get him thinking more in a way he enjoys.

This morning he read four books word perfect, without being asked, unheard of! So also thinking of trying to find time in the mornings to read instead of after school. Tough one, that!

learnandsay Thu 28-Mar-13 14:03:28

bubbles, if a teacher was rolling her eyes, (or actually saying that this picture admiring was actually learning to read) I'd think she was pulling my chain. And whether I knew anything about teaching children to read or not I'd have a go at teaching my own child. Let's face it, I couldn't do a worse job than that!

learnandsay Thu 28-Mar-13 14:10:25

The more I think about it the more I think that not even the stupidest person in the world could think that a child could learn to read by looking at the pictures. But what might make some sense is if the teacher is thinking that since the child isn't learning to read very well it's better if he plays with his book and looks at the pictures than it is if he starts to hate books. (That's not learning to read. It's a cop out. But it does make sense.)

Pozzled Thu 28-Mar-13 15:32:37

As far as the rewards go, how about a star or sticker on a chart every time he reads a book without fussing or complaining? You could then give a small reward after every 5 or 10 stars, with the larger one after 50, or however many you think. If he does have a bad day, he won't get his star but he won't have to start all over again either.

givemeaclue Thu 28-Mar-13 16:37:54

Pink is the first level. He if really isn't keen just do one book a day, do it first thing after breakfast when he is most awake

maizieD Thu 28-Mar-13 16:39:36

The more I think about it the more I think that not even the stupidest person in the world could think that a child could learn to read by looking at the pictures.

LOL learnandsay!

Sadly, a great many Early Years teachers believe that looking at the pictures is integral to learning to read because that is what they were trained to believe and it was an integral part of the National Literacy Strategy guidance on the teaching of reading from 1998 until 2007. There are even Education academics who believe it and who would defend the strategy to the death.

Fortunately, many parents are bright enough to realise that guessing from pictures is not reading and are able to take subversive measures!

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