Reading at home
Echo Reading and Comprehension Discussions – Parent/Carer Crib Sheet
Reading is a valuable life skill, which will enable your child to grow up and lead a more independent life.
Echo reading is a technique that we would like you to use with your child, even if they can decode. It improves their fluency, accuracy and understanding of reading phrases rather than individual words. Doing this will improve their working memory, helping them to visualise the text. Visualising the text is important to help with comprehension (understanding), endurance of the text and enjoyment of what they are reading.
How long should a session last?
No more than 20 minutes is sufficient, because your child is processing a lot of information. If they wish to continue reading, they can do so by reading aloud, and they may still continue to read with expression!
Choosing texts separate from what is provided by school:
Reading for pleasure is a large part of the curriculum, which is fantastic. However, many people think that reading for pleasure should include a simple text. Reading for pleasure actually means reading the text that will create a reaction. For example, it will make your child (and you) laugh out loud or gasp.
These texts do not have to be simple, nor do they have to be lengthy texts. They can and we would recommend, that the text is approximately 500 words or less. This does not include poetry because we wish for children, at this time, to improve their ability to pick phrases and clauses from paragraphs, and read in a rhythmic pattern. (However, this does not mean that your child cannot read poetry. We highly value poetry, but for the purposes of echo reading we encourage short stories and/or extracts.)
This begins with you reading the text before you read the text with your child. This is so, you will know where to include emphasis and changes of tone, when reading the text. You do not need to read the text aloud. You just need to familiarise yourself with text that you are reading.
Next, when reading the text, you will break the text up into phrases, using the punctuation to guide you and ask your child to listen and repeat the phrase in exactly the same way as you did, with the same pace.
Research shows that children who have a better vocabulary by the age of 5, are significantly more successful in their adult lives.
We can sometimes take for granted that a child will know what a word means because we use it a lot. However, research has shown this not to be the case. For example, with the extract above a child might need you to explain nocturnal, but do they know all the definitions of normal? When they hear the phrase ‘normally nocturnal’ they might focus on this and might forget what animal was being discussed.
What might the conversation look like?
Parent/carer: What does normally nocturnal mean?
Child: Something they do normally?
Parent/carer: What does normally mean here?
Child: Is it like something that is normal?
Parent/carer: Normally means when you do something regularly, it’s part of a routine. Like we normally go to school. What else do we do normally?
Child: [responds with their own example.]
Parent/carer: Here it says that foxes are normally nocturnal animals. Nocturnal means night time. So what do you think ‘normally nocturnal means?
Child: Does it mean that they usually go out at night time?
Should I be worried that we are spending so long talking about it, that we are doing more talking about it than reading?
No. The discussion around vocabulary is so important, that we would welcome this. Usually this would be great as soon as you have read the phrase, rather than at the end of a paragraph or extract because then your child can create that picture in their mind.
How does this fit in with echo reading?
The echo reading has 20 minutes dedicated just to that, echo reading. No discussion of vocabulary whilst you are doing this unless it is too tricky to understand. It does not matter what order you are doing this in.
Does my child still need to practice phonics and decoding?
Yes, because phonics forms a large part in decoding, and decoding is a separate reading skill to comprehension. Comprehension is the understanding part. A child might be a fluent decoder, but struggles with understanding.
A child can be fluent in their reading and not understand what they have read. There are some children who can read 90+ per minute, but do not recall what they have read, and understand even less, which is why we recommend having discussions around vocabulary and phrases and echo reading.
Your child can also have an extended vocabulary, but their decoding skills are not as good, so it is important to still practice decoding.