Warming up the book

Meaning is vital and is the purpose for reading.Understanding the book, before and during reading, allows the reader to make informed guesses of unfamiliar words.

Before reading:

  • Discuss the title and cover of the book with your child.
  • Discuss the pictures of the whole book, or most of the book.
  • Ask your child to look for anything interesting in the pictures and talk about what might be happening at that point in the story. Ask-what do you think is going to happen in the story?
  • Relate the experience in the book to your child. Has this ever happened to you? Remember when ……What do you already know about…..?
  • Introduce new or difficult words and phrases to the discussion, e.g. ….. is another word for ….. , Do you know ………….? , It means ……………, ‘Day after day’ is the same as ‘every day’.
  • NOW your child is ready to read.

What is a book introduction?

Every Reading Recovery lesson ends with the teacher introducing a new book to the student. There is a purpose to leaving the new book until the end of the lesson. The student has been practising and learning ways of solving text (using the meaning, rereading, matching letters and sounds, and taking words apart) throughout the lesson. The student now has the opportunity to apply all of this learning to a new book.

The teacher carefully chooses a book that will provide just a few challenges for the child, and he / she should be able to manage these challenges after a book introduction, with a few prompts along the way.

I talk about the book first because I want the student to be able to predict what is likely to come next in the story as he /she is reading. The student will need to understand what is happening, so we look at the cover of the book and talk about what we can see. I check that the student can relate to the theme / experiences by asking questions, e.g. where do you think they are? Have you ever been to the beach? What did you see / do?

I might give a statement about the book- In this story Sally and her mum go to the beach but they are not watching the waves come closer and closer to their things.

Then l ask the student to open the book and turn the pages. I will ask more questions to check if the student understands the words that will be read later, e.g. Do you have a towel like that? What is that next to the bucket? Can you find the word spade?  Have you ever made a sandcastle? Why doesn’t Mum see the waves getting closer?

In a natural way, l use the words that may be unfamiliar to the student so that they are already in his / her head before reading them, especially names, e.g. Here comes her friend Chris. I wonder what he is going to ask her.

There may also be some phrases or sentences that have not been heard before. The way we talk to each other, and the language used in books can be very different, e.g. ‘off they went’, ‘swept away’. I read unusual phrases / groups of words to the student, explain what it means, and have the student repeat it after me, rehearsing it for later.

We might look at every page this way or l might leave the ending to be discovered during the first reading of the book, e.g.  Do you think they’ll get the bucket back? Read the book now to find out.

The student now has a good chance of being able to read the book independently. Because the meaning is already understood, and many of the words have just been heard, the student is able to pay attention to the look of the words. Spoken and written words can be matched, and words can be solved through predicting what is likely to come next. When a word needs some reading work to solve it, the student can look at the picture and then partially search through the word, e.g. s-and and solve it by using the prior knowledge of the meaningsandcastle.

This book will be the running record for the next day and it is likely to be easily read.

When your child is going to read an unfamiliar book to you, e.g. a library book, you might like to introduce the book first by looking at the cover and the pictures and talking about what the book is likely to be about.

Click on this picture if you wish to view a YouTube video of a parent introducing a book.

Praise your child

Praising your child during and after reading is the most important way you can help your child to become a better reader. Remember, you don’t have to be the teacher, just the caring parent. You might say things like- You sounded great when you read that page. I love the way you went back to fix that word. You noticed that bit didn’t sound right- good job!

Other positive things you could look out for and praise are:

  • You put your words together. You made it sound like talking.
  • You tried to work it out all by yourself.
  • You tried another way.
  • You used your finger to break the word apart.
  • You thought about the first sound and it helped you.
  • You read that again and started the tricky word.
  • You tried it again and you made it match.
  • You found out what was wrong all by yourself.

Making and breaking

During Reading Recovery there is a small, but important part of the lesson, when the student uses magnetic letters on the whiteboard to learn about letters, and making and breaking words.

This word work teaches the student how we can take words apart, and put them together as we are reading and writing. The bigger the chunk (piece) of a word that the student can use, the more efficient reading and writing will be, e.g. th-at is quicker to read than t-h-a-t and go-ing is easier to solve than g-o-i-n-g.

The student begins with learning to identify the magnetic letters. (See Letter Identification)

The student also learns:

  • words are made up of letters,
  • we look from left to right, e.g. like is not the same as ekil,
  • letter order is important, e.g. like is not the same as ikle or leik,
  • and letters cannot be upside down or back to front etc.

The student is asked to break one letter at a time from a word. He /she physically moves the letters across the whiteboard, e.g. c-a-t, to emphasize looking at each letter in order. (Letters can be broken out of words and put back together.)

The student also does a ‘slow check, from left to right, which emphasizes the direction that the
eyes need to look through words whilst reading. (The finger is swept from left to right under the word.)

The student always begins by making and breaking the words that he / she already knows.

Eventually he / she learns to break the word into chunks, e.g. b-ed (This is called onset and rime.)


The onset can change to make a different word, e.g. c-at, f-at, b-at, th-at.

The rime can change to make a different word, e.g. me, my / c-at, c-an,c-ap.


Gradually the words become a little trickier.

Common letters that go together are introduced, e.g. sh, ch, th, ow, er.


Word endings are introduced, e.g. going, played.

The middle letter is changed to make a new word, e.g. get, got.



The student also learns to use known words to solve new words, e.g. see will help to solve tree, and play will help to make stayed.




Over time the students learn to break up words in flexible ways (a skill that is needed when reading),call-ed, c-all-ed

Good readers do not look at one letter at a time as they are reading. Instead they group chunks of letters together to make words and read them quickly. As we become better readers, our eyes are always looking ahead and grouping words together. We only stop to look at each word carefully when we notice that something is not right (does not make sense / sound right) or if we see a word that we do not know. Making and breaking teaches the student to quickly look for parts of the word that go together. 

Share the reading

To vary home reading, you can sometimes share reading the book. Take turns reading a whole page, or a part of a page, to each other. This is useful if you are in a hurry (it will take less time to read if you are reading half of it), or if your child is not so keen to read that day (make it more fun).
Children are great at copying what the adult is doing. If you add lots of enthusiasm and drama, so will your child. Encourage him or her  to add  expression by using different voices for the different characters,  and varying the volume (e.g. loud and soft voices) and pace (e.g. faster for excitement, slower to emphasize something).

The character might sound angry or be scared or be laughing etc. A tiny mouse will have a different voice to a roaring lion. Children enjoy hearing adults change their voices as they read- the sillier the better!