Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

Your kid can read? Why you shouldn’t stop reading WITH them.

plate of chivespirate flag“Hey Mum, what’s an arr-chive?”

“A what?” I ask, visions of pirate-branded herbs flashing across my mind.

“An arr-chive. Look. ‘He must remember to arr-chive the document for later use’,” my 8 year old explains, stabbing her finger at the offending word in the book she is reading. I crane my neck to see and she waves it at me, which doesn’t really help, but eventually I manage to see the word she means.

“Ohh, archive,” I say, pronouncing it slowly before going on to tell her what it means. When I’m finished she buries her head back into her book and I suddenly realise something important. I need to read aloud with her more often and she needs to read aloud more to me.


You see, I’m a bit slack about reading to my kids, especially when they get to the stage where they can read for themselves. And with my two oldest, this happened early – when they were both 5. So with the happy idea that I needn’t worry about their reading anymore, I’ve sort of them to their own devices.

Generally, it’s been my husband who has consistently gathered them into our big bed and read ‘The cow that laid an egg” and “10 apples up on top” a million times over. I might have made the occasional guest appearance, by my husband is definitely the regular story time host in our family. As the kids have grown, he now reads mainly to our 3 year old while I tuck Master 6 and Miss 8 into their own beds and let them read by themselves.

But after the arr-chive incident, I realise that we are not done with reading out loud yet. Not by a long way.

I’m a big fan of the podcast “So you want to be a writer” hosted by Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait and in one episode Valerie mentioned a friend of hers who had trouble as an adult pronouncing some words because she had never heard them spoken before. Apparently she was a very young reader and left to her own so you want to be a writer podcastdevices at such a young age she merely made the pronunciations up. Which if you think about it is understandable. Like my daughter, if you didn’t know archive was pronounced ‘ahr-kahyv’, arr-chive makes sense. After all, it’s hard to pronounce things you haven’t heard and so Ms becomes just a weird way to write Mrs and mat-urr another word for grown up.

Another thing that happens is that they start to give similar looking words the same meaning. Last night my daughter read the word ‘salvaged’ as ‘savaged’ and wouldn’t have even noticed if I didn’t pick her up and talk about it.

The thing is, often the words they don’t know how to pronounce come up so infrequently in their reading that sometimes you can go whole books without a problem. Take archive. I doubt Miss 8 will read that word again for a while and she certainly isn’t bounding around the school yard advising her friends to archive past work. So how do you make the most of the time you spend reading out loud with your child? Pick the right books.

Choose books that abound with unusual words. One that comes to mind is ‘The Boundary Riders” by Joan Phipson. It was published in 1963 and as such has a different array of words than found in most modern day children’s books. Classic and historical novels are in general good at dredging up words your kids might not have seen yet. Non-fiction is another good place, especially the newspaper. Journalists can write quite differently to fiction writers so get Dad to pick out a short piece they might be interested in on the weekend and read it together. Poetry is another good source.

Another way to get the spoken word out there is to listen to audio books. We have just finished listening to “The Wizard of Rondo” by Emily Rodda in our car and towards the end my daughter was looking forward to every car trip and begging me to turn it on and . (We sat and listened to the last chapter parked in front of our house!)

And the best thing is that reading out loud won’t only improve their pronunciation and vocabulary there are other benefits too, such as spending quality time with your kids and opening up conversations about social issues, emotions and beliefs.

(If you need more evidence, here is a list of 7 reasons to read aloud to older kids and here are the 10 read-abound commandments by Mem Fox.)

father and sonSo now I have made a commitment to try and read and listen to my kids read, at least four times a week. I’m going to pick books with interesting words and stories I will find interesting too. (The biggest reason I’ve stopped reading in the past to my kids is I get bored with the same books over and over) Who knows what other wonderful ways to pronounce words my kids will come up with that we can have a giggle over!

Let me know some of your kids hilarious mispronunciations! Do you read with your older kids much? I’d love to know your thoughts, leave a comment!

BTW if you want to hear some crackers to do with mispronunciation watch the movie Megamind with your kids. In it, MegaMind, an evil genius who grows up in a prison, pronounces school – ‘shool” and Metrocity – Met-troh-city. It’s enough to make you me-lan-kolee. (actually, it’s hilarious)


Come on comment, you know you wanna.

Book Reviews and Writer