In today’s schools, too many children have a hard time learning to read. As many teachers and parents attest, misreading can have huge long-term consequences for children’s self-confidence and motivation to learn, as well as their subsequent academic performance. 20% of children in a middle class struggle tremendously with reading. The misreading does not start when children start school. Reading failure and success can be determined by infancy and early childhood. Parents are a child’s first teacher and it is vital that they know how to teach him and what rich experiences to give him.
The National Reading Panel released a report in 2000 responding to a Congressional mandate to help parents, teachers and policymakers identify key skills and methods that are critical to successful reading. This research is not just for schools and the educational field. Parents should be aware of this research and the findings that are important to help their children learn to read.
The results of the National Reading Panel Report describe five areas of reading: phonemic awareness, phonetics, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension. Let me stop now and say that I am a teacher and a parent. If I weren’t a teacher, I wouldn’t know about the five reading areas, or the National Reading Panel, or really anything about teaching children to read. However, I have learned these things as a teacher and have used it endlessly as a parent. All parents should know the five areas of reading education. Honestly, reading instruction starts from the first day a baby is born. Start with the songs you sing to your child, the games you play, the stories you read. So please don’t think the information in this article is for teachers only. Parents, read on to learn how you can help your child develop reading skills from infancy.
1. Phonemic awareness:
Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think and work with individual sounds in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of vowel sounds or phonemes. Small games you can play to help develop phonemic awareness include:
The pig has a (wig)
The sun is (funny)
o Identify and work with the syllables in the spoken words:
“I can applaud the parents in my name: Andrew.”
o Identify and work with individual phonemes in words:
“The first sound is the sun is / S /.”
My daughter and I love to sing songs about the sounds of letters. One song we sing is: “/ b / is for Bella, / b / is for Bella. Each letter makes a sound. / B / is for Bella”. (let’s say the sound of b when it’s spelled like this: / b /) Let’s sing this song for mom and dad and all her other friends. She loves making requests. Her favorite is “let’s do / g / for grandma!” I got the idea for this song from similar songs from Leapfrog Toys. They have great toys that give phonemic awareness and phonetic skills. Which brings us to the next area of reading, phonetics!
Phonetic education teaches children the relationships between written letters and the sounds these letters make.
Letter toys are a great way to introduce this skill at an early age. Again, the jumping frog has some great toys to aid this ability. My daughter knows her letter is B for Bella. She often took her toys with letters and asked “where is Mom’s letter?” So, I would like to emphasize the M for mom. Right now, Bella is 27 months old and can already choose 12 of the 26 letters. Those letters are all the letters with which the names of her closest family and friends begin. It’s not something we sit down and force her to do, it’s just something she likes. Exposing children to letters at an early age and talking about them and the sounds they make will give them a great advantage. Many children enter kindergarten without any knowledge of letters or sounds. It helps so much when they come with a little background.
Fluency is the ability to read text accurately and quickly. Fluent readers sound natural as if they are talking. They read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Readers who have not developed fluency read slowly, word for word, and the sound is choppy. Singing and dancing at an early age help children develop early fluency skills. Repetitive books like Bill Martin Jr.’s “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” help develop fluency skills. Nursery rhymes can also help with fluency, as they learn to read them fluently and rhythmically.
Vocabulary refers to the words we need to know to communicate effectively. Vocabulary is knowing the meaning of words. Vocabulary is also very important for reading comprehension. It is difficult for children to understand the text when they do not understand the vocabulary.
Children learn the meanings of words indirectly in three ways:
A. They engage in oral language on a daily basis:
Talk to your kids about everything. Talk to them about the shapes of the objects you see, the color of their shirts, the sound the airplane makes as it flies overhead. Use a variety of words and details as you speak. Take them to the zoo and point out all the different animals, what the animals are doing, what they are eating and even what country they might be from. Just talk about the world and your children will have a great vocabulary by listening to you and talking to you.
B. They listen to adults who read to them:
Read a lot to your child! I recommend at least half an hour a day. Put books everywhere; their bedroom, family room, bathroom, etc. They will come and get them and ask you to read them. I can’t tell you how much my daughter has learned from the books we read to her.
C. They read extensively for themselves:
Children can read for themselves, before they can even read the words. Just looking at books, looking at pictures, making up your own stories or trying to repeat the words you have heard you read, it all helps in this area.
5. Understanding the text:
Comprehension is the reason for reading. If a reader can read the words but doesn’t understand what they are reading, they are not actually reading. At an early age, understanding of the text can be developed by asking them questions about the books you read. Ask questions like “What is he doing? Why is he doing this? How are you feeling? What will happen next?” Also, talk about a book after reading it and summarize it in words they understand. Comprehension is a skill that will be developed more when they are older and at school, but the vocabulary you provide as a child will also help tremendously improve their understanding.
Well that’s all folks. -The five areas of reading and what you can do from childhood to five to help them be great readers. Remember, you are their first and foremost teacher and you give them the building blocks for the rest of their life. The experiences you provide them, the songs you sing, the words you say and the books you read determine how well they will learn and develop in school and throughout their life. Most of all, have fun and enjoy exploring the world with them!
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