Thursday, June 9, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading 1.Motivation

This blog is the first in a series of blogs focusing on 10 important principles for assisting children with reading.

This series is intended to help a range of people. My initial concern was to guide parents when they are helping their children. One of the most common concerns that parents all over the world face is how to assist their children and remain on friendly terms. Many research articles over the last 20 years or so have consistently reported that reading sessions often end in anger, frustration, and an unwillingness to continue the reading episodes. This is not surprising since most parents have not had any formal training in regard to using the best techniques to promote reading engagement, motivation, and effective skill development.

This series has been designed to follow on from a video interview that I did with the New South Wales Education Department for National Literacy and Numeracy Week (see the link:

The first principle is that all children have three basic needs that need to be met in any learning situation:

  1. relationship, 
  2. competency, and 
  3. autonomy
When assisting children with reading it is important to build a relationship of trust, openness and sharing. This means that the tutor and the tutee should be seen as a collaborative partnership. The reader should be given opportunities to take risks in a supportive atmosphere. One of the most common problems when assisting children is when the focus is placed on reading for accuracy rather than for meaning and enjoyment. This can stifle their risk-taking ability and slow their reading down so that they decode letter-by-letter and word-by-word. This narrow focus will overload their limited short-term memory capacity by focusing on smaller and less meaningful chunks of information. The main thing to keep in mind is that reading should focus on meaning. The reading sessions should be enjoyable and provide an opportunity for parents and their children to share their life experiences around interesting literacy activities. 

One of the most common factors leading to reading failure at school is the number of books that are available in the home. Children become competent, in part, because there are lots of books and lots of choices. When parents provide books, particularly books that are linked to children's interests, it fosters their love for literacy. Children gain knowledge and reading skills when parents interact with them around rich book reading sessions. This is enhanced when parents share their own experiences as they relate to story books and information texts. Many of skills that they develop are often picked up incidentally. 

The third motivational need is that of autonomy. Everyone desires to become independent and self-reliant. This is something that can be encouraged in the way that help is given. However, it must be noted that  help can be given in such a way that dependency is fostered rather than independence. I will be giving some advice on ways to promote independence in reading in the blogs that follow this one.

Your comments and ideas will be very much appreciated.


  1. Westwood (2008) suggests that a reluctance to read can be attributed to a prior experiences of failure. Another important aspect in choosing books for children to read at home is to choose books which they will successfully be able to understand while using a combination of words and pictures to decode meaning. Through fostering a love of reading, children are able to see the value in books and learn to appreciate them.

  2. SAR
    Westwood has a lot of very good advice. Prior experiences of failure is a very big issue. You have certainly hit the nail on the head. The trick is to somehow strike a balance between giving enough challenge without making the reading task so difficult that it becomes frustrating. Your other points are also vitally important. Thank you for your input - will attempt to address these issues further down the track.

  3. Thank you for sharing your insightful principles. I am a graduate student preparing for the dissertation about literacy and reading comprehension in Korea.

    I can't understand the sentence in the last paragraph: However, it must be noted that help can be given in such a way that dependency is fostered rather than independence. I consider it to reverse the key words (dependency and independence) Also, One typo I found in this page is this: reading for accuracy rather tha'n' for meaning and enjoyment.

    I am waiting for your kind reply.

  4. Thank you for alerting me to the typo. This really shows what happens when one proof reads their own work. The more familiar that you are with the text the less you sample its surface features. We tend to read for meaning, if meaning is realised then we probably will miss the error. This is because we often predict what is to come and we don't always sample every letter of the text

    In regard to the sentence - it is correct. I was just saying that you can stifle children's reading if you give praise that is non-specific or when the praise is perceived by the child as condescending or vague.