TIPS FROM A READING SPECIALIST
Parents know that a child’s reading ability is directly related to how well he or she will do in school and in life. Helping children learn how to read can be a daunting task, and here are five tips to assist parents in helping young ones to learn reading. These activities also create a unique partnership with the teacher who delights in every child’s reading development.
1. Build phonological awareness—This simply means practice the sounds of language, which is especially important for young ones beginning to learn to read. Play simple games like “let’s think of words that begin with the /m/ sound” or “words that rhyme with cat.” Say words in slow motion which helps hearing each sound in a word. Ask questions like “where do you hear the /m/ sound in mouse?”
2. Enjoy books together—Read to your child and point out pictures. You can help a young pupil predict what a story is about using picture clues. Good readers are metacognitive — meaning they think about their reading. They are constantly making connections between new information and prior knowledge. Read fluently and with expression, which helps develop prosody. Children who use expression when reading tend to better understand what they have read.
3. Instill a love of reading—Children tend to value what you value. We are all aware that the adage Do as I say, not as I do is worthless advice. Like many animal miniatures, kids will mimic what they see adults doing. So, it is very important that your children frequently see you enjoying books. My home was not filled with books, however, my father read the newspaper aloud after supper, and I looked forward to this nightly ritual. Everyone, young or old, tends to pursue passionately those activities which they feel successful doing. It’s okay if a youngster points to words or reads a book from memory. By pointing at words while reading, they begin to learn sight words and concepts of print. Let your child know you are proud of his or her reading.
4. Sound it out…a LAST resort—Current research shows that a balanced approach of phonics and whole language works best. There are some words that are easily decoded or sounded out. They follow a rule such as the word mile. The silent e makes the i say its name. Learning a rule without hooking it onto something the child already knows doesn’t help a struggling reader; however, having your child sort short vowel i words and long vowel i words can help him or her differentiate between the two rules and apply this knowledge to unknown words. Sometimes, it is better to tell your child an unknown word than to have them stop fluent reading to sound out a word. Make a note of the word and discuss it after reading. If you stop and focus on one word, ask the young reader to re-read the whole sentence to ensure comprehension.
5. Writing is important, too—Children’s writing skills tend to develop at the same rate as reading skills. As a kindergarten teacher, I do not wait for students to know the alphabet before having them write. I teach how writing came into existence —pictures, symbols (letters) and then letter combinations which make words. My rule is that they have to read what they’ve written. When a child demonstrates mastery of letter identification and letter sound knowledge, I support her or him by applying this knowledge, and until this point, I accept pictures, scribbles and random letters in a string. I am looking to see if the child scribbles from left to right, puts spaces between symbols to represent words, and if they are using beginning sounds. Youngsters need to see teachers and parents writing, too. Include your child when writing grocery lists, recipes, a to-do list and notes to family or friends. It’s never too early to teach a child to write a thank you note, which often represents a small treasure to a grandparent, friend or relative.
By Angela Clevinger
Angela V. Clevinger is a certified Reading Specialist who teaches kindergarten at Critzer Elementary School in Pulaski. She serves as President of the Pulaski County Education Association and is the mother of two daughters ~ Emma, 9, and Violet, 2 (pictured here) . She enjoys reading and singing in her spare time.