The tricky words trick

5 - 11 years
Mother reading to child

Not sure what to do when your child comes across tricky words? The Pause, Prompt, Praise. method lets you assist your child while teaching them how to self-monitor and correct themselves while reading.

Here’s how…

Firstly, set aside ten minutes of distraction-free time to listen to your child read. Sit next to your child so you can read the book as well. Make sure the book they want to read is appropriate for their reading level. It is better to start with easier books to build up your child’s confidence.


Wait quietly while your child attempts to read the words on the page. If your child is struggling to work out what a word is, pause for 5 seconds to let them figure it out for themselves.


If they still haven’t worked out the word after 5 seconds, ‘prompt’ them with a couple of suggestions on how they could figure out the word, such as:

  • do they recognise any of the letters in the word and can they say the sounds that go with them?
  • can they break the word up into chunks, for example ‘candle’?
  • can they try reading again from the start of the sentence, or continue reading the rest of the sentence? (This way they will see the context the word is in and it might help them to understand what it is.)
  • are there any clues from the pictures? For example, if your child reads “The mean put a hat on his head”, you could say “I don’t think the word is ‘mean’, look at the picture, who has a hat on his head?”

If your child still has troubles with the word after two ‘prompts’, say it for them and encourage them to move on with their reading, “The word is ‘man’, let’s keep going.”


Support your child’s reading with positive reinforcement. Saying things like “Your reading is getting so much better, I’m really proud of you!” boosts your child’s self-confidence and will help them improve.

Try to make this special reading time with your child enjoyable. Talk about the book with your child. Discuss the characters, plot and pictures as this will help boost their reading comprehension and help them develop a love of reading.


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Last modified
17 April 2020