In today’s schools, too many young children struggle with learning to read. As many teachers and parents will attest, reading failure can bring tremendous long-term consequences for children’s self-confidence and motivation to learn as well as for their later school performance. Twenty percent of children in an average classroom struggle tremendously with reading. Reading failure does not start when kids start schools. Reading failure and success can be determined from infancy and early childhood. Parents are a child’s first teacher and it is critical that they know how to teach them and what rich experiences to give them.
The National Reading Panel issued a report in 2000 that responded to a Congressional mandate to help parents, teachers and policymakers identify key skills and methods central to reading achievement. This research is not only for schools and the educational field. Parents should be aware of this research and the important results in order to help their children learn to read.
The Findings of the National Reading Panel Report describe five areas of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension. Let me stop right now and say that I am a teacher and a parent. If I was not a teacher, I would not know about the five areas of reading, or the National Reading Panel or really anything about teaching children to read. However, I learned these things as a teacher and have used it endlessly as a parent. All parents should know about the five areas of reading instruction. Honestly, reading instruction starts from the first day a child is born. It starts in the songs you sing to your child, the games you play, the stories you read. So, please don’t think that the information in this article is just for teachers. Parents, keep reading to learn how you can help your child develop reading skills from infancy on.
1. Phonemic Awareness:
Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds or phonemes. Little games that you can play to help develop phonemic awareness include:
o Making rhymes:
The pig has a (wig)
The sun is (fun)
o Identifying and working with syllables in spoken words:
“I can clap the parents in my name: An-drew.”
o Identifying and working with individual phonemes in spoken words:
“The first sound is sun is /S/.”
My daughter and I like to sing songs about letter sounds. One song we sing is: “/b/ is for Bella, /b/ is for Bella. Every letter makes a sound. /b/ is for Bella.” (we say the sound of b when it is written like this: /b/) We sing this song for Mommy and Daddy and all her other friends. She loves to make requests. Her favorite is “let’s do /g/ for grandma!” I got the idea of this song from similar tunes from Leapfrog toys. They have great toys that give phonemic awareness and phonics skills. Which leads us to the next area of reading- phonics!
Phonics instruction teaches children the relationships between written letters and the sounds those letters make.
Toys with letters on it are a great way to introduce this skill at an early age. Again, leap frog has some great toys to help this skill. My daughter knows her letter is B for Bella. She would often get her toys that has letters on it and ask “where’s mommy’s letter?” So, I would point out the M for Mommy. At this time, Bella is 27 months, and can already pick out 12 of the 26 letters. Those letters are all the letters that her closest family members and friends names begin with. It’s not something we sit down and I force her to do, it’s just something she enjoys. Exposing kids to letters at an early age and talking about them and the sounds they make will give them such a great head start. Many kids enter kindergarten without any knowledge of letters or sounds. It helps so much when they come with some background.
Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. Fluent readers sound natural as if they are speaking. They read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Readers who have not developed fluency read slowly, word by word and sound choppy. Songs and dance at an early age help children develop early skills for fluency. Repetitive books such as “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” by Bill Martin Jr., help develop fluency skills. Nursery rhymes can also help with fluency, because they learn to read them in a fluent and rhythmic way.
Vocabulary refers to the words we must know to communicate effectively. Vocabulary is knowing the meaning of words. Vocabulary is also very important to reading comprehension. It is difficult for children to comprehend text when they do not understand the vocabulary in it.
Children learn word meanings indirectly in three ways:
A. They engage daily in oral language:
Talk to your kids about everything. Talk to them about the shapes of objects you see, the color of their beamng life, the sound the airplane makes as it flies overhead. Use a variety of words and details as you talk. Take them to the zoo, and point out all the different animals, what the animals are doing, what they are eating, even what country they may be from. Just talk about the world, and your children will have a great vocabulary from listening to you and talking to you.
B. They listen to adults read to them:
Read to your child a lot! I recommend at least a half hour a day. Put books everywhere; their bedroom, the family room, the bathroom, etc. They will pick them up and ask you to read to them. I can’t tell you how much my daughter has learned from the books that we read to her.
C. They read extensively on their own:
Children can read by themselves, before they can actually read words. Just looking through books, looking at the pictures, making up their own stories, or trying to repeat the words that they heard you read, all help in this area.
5. Text Comprehension:
Comprehension is the reason for reading. If a reader can read the words but does not understand what they are reading, they are not really reading. At an early age, text comprehension can be developed by asking them questions about books you read. Ask questions such as “What is he/she doing? Why is he doing that? How does he feel? What’s going to happen next?” Also, talk about a book after you read it, and summarize it in words they understand. Comprehension is a skill that will be developed more when they are older and in school, but vocabulary that you give them as a young child will also help incredibly to improve their comprehension.
Well, that’s it folks. -The five areas of reading, and what you can do from infancy to age five to help them be great readers. Remember, you are their first and most important teacher and you give them the building blocks for the rest of their lives. The experiences you provide them with, the songs you sing, the words you speak, and the books you read all shape how well they will learn and develop in school and throughout their life. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy exploring the world with them!
write by Odette