Learning with pleasure allows children to begin to read for pleasure

In every one of my reading workshops, I am always joyfully staggered at the brilliance of muscle memory and multi-sensory learning. Significant and rapid progress is made with both the reading and writing of new words when we use multi-sensory learning.

This is not surprising really, as Dr, Gavin Reid, dyslexia experts says, “it is widely accepted that multi-sensory strategies are the most successful for students with dyslexia.”

No wonder the amazing multi-sensory platypus from my Alpha beast strategy cards, is a firm favourite in my workshops…

Developing readers need as many ways of processing words as possible.

If your child is a struggling reader, their confidence and belief in their own capacity to learn to read is the first thing to address. I do love a metaphor; but, this is really the soil from which their roots can take hold.



How can I use sensory reading strategies?

This post will take you through a multi-sensory reading session so you can use the process at home or in intervention time in school. Working with this process will speed up word recognition and develop your child’s belief in themselves as a reader.

You will need:

  • a whiteboard and a whiteboard pen;
  • a plate/board;
  • shaving foam;
  • your child’s book.

This is the process I follow for a 45 minute reading session:

  1. Scan the chapter or page for words you know your child will struggle with: pick three and write them on the whiteboard.
  2. Ask your child to write the words, one by one in the shaving foam – they need to look at the word on the board (this is not a test) while they write in the foam.
  3. Do this until the word is written fluently and is getting quicker (still looking at the board). Say the sounds at the same time.
  4. When your child feels ready, they can write the word with their eyes shut. This is the magic moment – the magic of using muscle memory is quite astounding. Your child will find this very inspiring and feel a real sense of achievement.



Celebrate the cognitive magic!

At this point, asking your child to visualise the word in their mind creates an image of the word – the stronger the image in their mind, the quicker and easier the word will be recognised when reading. For example, asking your child what colour the word was written in their mind accelerates this process.

You can’t praise enough!

4. Next, open the book and begin reading – give lots of praise when your child reads the words you have just worked on. I have seen such elation and surprise when they instantly read it, instead of decoding slowly.

It’s very important to now to acknowledge your child’s processing powers. If they said it worked because they could feel it or see it, you need to keep recreating this strategy for the next tricky words.

Talking about meta-cognitive strategies (how we think and how we learn) is so powerful. This is especially true for children who sometimes might not have experienced success in the past with reading.

Most importantly, talking about strategies turns meta-cognitive strategies into meta-cognitive skills and boosts overall cognitive abilities. Not to mention self confidence 🙂

5. Read together for 4 minutes and ‘collect’ 4 more tricky words and write them on the whiteboard.

I have found it is more empowering to ask your child, ‘how many words shall we collect to write to learn in the foam?’

Agree the number together, but build up slowly. In my experience, one new word per minute of reading feels comfortable.

Success is felt deeply by developing readers

The sense of success is felt on a deep level and carries over into the next stage of reading. You will find your young reader is happier to read again with their self belief glowing.

Keep going with the reading pattern while everyone is enjoying themselves.

Short chunks of reading integrated into fun and sensory word learning creates a varied and stimulating reading experience.

It is really important to finish by talking about which words your child was most proud of. Try using play-dough or word art to recreate the trickiest words.

Happy reading!