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[ Contents Vol 6, 1990 ] [ QJER Home ]


by S. O'Neill

Gillet, S. & Bernard, M.E. (1989) Reading Rescue - A Parent's Guide. 2nd Edition, ACER Ltd, Hawthorn, Victoria. ISBN: 0 86431 054 4, $14.95.

Reading Rescue or Parents Perish?

If one were to judge this book by its cover, 'Reading Rescue - A Parents' Guide' appears to contain the magic potion that any parents of children experiencing problems with learning to read must acquire. The six chapters, three appendices and list of references inform parents in two ways about the problem of teaching one's own child to read. First, the need for and use of a positive model of interpersonal communication is recognised and explained. This is seen as essential to the development of the parent-child relationship and the laying of a foundation to allow learning to occur. Second, an extensive selection of resources and information on the teaching of reading is presented. Unfortunately, this aspect of the book may not achieve the intended effect of allowing parents to carry out the proposed tuition successfully.

The psychological premises underlying 'Reading Rescue' is commendable. A sound approach is presented to convince parents that they can successfully teach their own child and that their child can learn to read given a supportive environment and appropriate learning materials. It focuses on a practical plan for developing both parents' and children's confidence. Parents will be comforted through the confirmation that there are many others facing the same problems and that they are not failures because they do not fit the 'super parent image'. It provides essential information to help parents communicate with their child in a constructive and positive way. Some of this information is conveyed through the use of cartoons. The increased use of such illustrative techniques in a future edition would further enhance the authors' message while providing informative light relief for an otherwise complex subject.

The approach to interpersonal communication is applicable to both parents and teachers. The fact that making mistakes is a natural part of learning is highlighted. Emphasis is placed on the importance of both parents/teachers and children enjoying the reading session and the need for parents/teachers to acquire strategies to encourage children to self-correct. Explicit examples illustrating how the parent/teacher ought not to communicate with children and parallel examples showing how to communicate effectively present important strategies for successful teaching. Parents and teachers will benefit from the book's identification of the kinds of verbal interaction that may easily spark conflict between parent/teacher and child as well as the ways to handle such situations constructively. Items such as a parent self-evaluation form for assessing the success of teaching performance provide a powerful self-development activity. A variety of constructive activities for motivating children are also included.

Whereas the practical information provides excellent material for parents to learn how to communicate more positively with their child, the information related to the teaching of reading is geared more to the experienced teacher. Word lists, activities to improve reading skills and reading comprehension tests provided for parents to administer to their child have the potential to be misinterpreted and misused. Similarly, encouraging parents to use artificial reinforcers such as sweets and money, and then phasing them out in favour of verbal praise, could be a serious pitfall. The misuse of such artificial reinforcers may help promote the negative behaviours which the book endeavours to avoid. Also, the list of resources from which parents may choose their teaching materials is likely to encourage some parents to expend a considerable amount of money on teaching their child to read.

The authors emphasise the quality of teaching in the early years as one of the most important determinants of whether a child will learn to read, yet there is little explicit advice for the parents of children in their first year of school or younger. Parents are provided with reading comprehension tests (extracts from Holdaway, 1980) to find out if the child is significantly 'behind' in reading. This is presented as an alternative to finding out from the child's teacher. Although parents are advised to administer a test which is suitable for children one or two age levels less than their child's age, the fact that the lowest level reading comprehension test is rated as representative of what a six to seven year old should be capable of reading creates problems. Since a six year old may be either in the first or second year of school depending on date of birth, parents may have difficulty estimating whether their child's progress in reading is satisfactory. This may lead to the unnecessary launching of a campaign to teach their child to read. Under such circumstances children would be likely to get the message that they were failing at reading and behave accordingly. The book neglects to address fully how parents determine that their child has a reading problem and how the reading problem may be defined.

The book suggests that some teachers of Years 1 and 2 children may not adequately communicate young children's reading progress to parents. While liaison with their child's teacher is encouraged, the importance of ongoing communication between parents and teachers does not appear to be as important as getting the parents started in teaching their children to read. Real danger lies in the fact that parents may lack both important knowledge about their child's reading development and the criteria for selection of appropriate activities. They may also lack teaching skills.

'Reading Rescue' appears somewhat paradoxical because its treatment of interpersonal communications between parent and child is commendable, but the remaining information is more suitable for the experienced educational practitioner. Depending on the parents' interpretation of 'Reading Rescue' their efforts at teaching reading may do more harm than good. The overwhelming choice of activities and the likely inadequacy of parents in choosing and implementing them sensitively could be disastrous for both the parent and the child. If 'Reading Rescue' represents to some parents their last hope for their child to learn to read, they (parents, their hopes and children) may 'perish' in the attempt.

Undoubtedly, children's success at reading has high priority for parents and as the authors of 'Reading Rescue' point out 'perceptions of school success in the early years are very much equated to success in learning to read'. On this basis children need both skilled teachers and parental support. Parents and teachers need to be encouraged to work together and should be seen to be working together for the benefit of the children. I would recommend 'Reading Rescue' as a resource mainly for teachers of reading. I would also recommend that parents plan in co-operation with their child's teacher any reading improvement program for their child.


Holdaway, D. (1980) Independence in Reading (2nd Edition), Gosford, NSW: Ashton Scholastic.

Please cite as: QIER (1990). Book review 6(1). Queensland Researcher, 6(1), 39-42. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr6/book-rev6-1.html

[ Contents Vol 6, 1990 ] [ QJER Home ]
Created 30 Sep 2006. Last revision: 30 Sep 2006.
URL: http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr6/book-rev6-1.html