1. Overview

Your child will make lots of mistakes as he learns to read a new book. At first you will help him by correcting his mistakes. But as your child gets more comfortable with the words on repeated readings, you should provide less and less correction. Your goal is that he will ultimately be able to catch and correct (most of) his own mistakes without your needing to point them out to him.

Below are the three phases of parental correction of reading errors.

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2. Correcting Mistakes

When your child misses a word (skips over it, mispronounces it, or says the wrong word), do a quick but clear correction with her on the spot. We recommend following the script below, which is very similar to our sight words correction procedure. The child will hear and say the correct word several times, all while she looks directly at the printed word on the page.

Adult: That word is shoe. What word?
Child: Shoe.
Adult: Again. What word?
Child: Shoe.
Adult: Yes, shoe. One more time: What word?
Child: Shoe.
Adult: Good. Now start reading again, at the beginning of the sentence.

We do not recommend sounding out the missed word letter-by-letter, for a few reasons:

  • A younger child hasn’t learned enough of the rules of phonics to know how to decode a lot of words.
  • If the word is phonetically irregular, saying the individual letter sounds won’t help the child decode the word.

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3. Pointing Out Mistakes

After one or two readings of the books, when your child has been exposed to every word in the text, shift from correcting mistakes to simply pointing out that there was a mistake. See if your child can find the mistake and correct it himself.

At first you may need to point to the specific word she missed in a sentence. Then try asking if he noticed a mistake, like this:

Child: “Granny, what big airs you have…”
Adult: Hmm…”what big airs you have”…does that make sense to you?
Child: Um…no.
Adult: Try reading that sentence again.

After going through the book in this way once or twice, start waiting until the end of a page to point out that the child made a mistake. Don’t be afraid of silence — let him spend several seconds looking over the page, trying to find the mistake.

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4. Self-Correcting Mistakes

Self-correcting is a child’s ability to notice and correct her own mistakes without someone else having to point them out. Fluent adult readers make little reading mistakes all the time. So a child, even one who is reading well, will still make some mistakes. A child who can self-correct most of her mistakes is doing really well.

After a few read-throughs with the Pointing Out Mistakes technique, try not pointing out mistakes at all. See if your child is able to catch them herself. You may need to go back to pointing out when she has made a mistake, but keep aiming toward this goal of self-correction.

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5. Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My child isn’t mis-reading many words, but he keeps skipping over words. What should I do?
Make sure he is underlining the text with his index finger as he reads. That should minimize the skipping of words.

Q: My child is making a lot of mistakes. Am I really supposed to interrupt her three times in a sentence to correct every mistake as it happens?
If you are having to interrupt your child in every sentence to correct a mis-read word, then the book may be too difficult for your child’s current reading level. You should read the book to her once or twice, then have her read it to you. If that doesn’t improve her word accuracy, ask her teacher about trying an easier book.

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