It’s that time of year. Shopping for school supplies, new outfits and the night before school butterflies. And guess what? Its the same experience for teachers no matter how many years we’ve done it! It is such a fun-filled time of anticipation and maybe some trepidation, but all in all, I hope your school year is off to a great start for teachers and kids alike! I taught first grade for five years and second grade for one year, so today I am going to talk about ways to help your child learn how to read.
- In education we have a phrase that says students need to be read to, with, and by themselves. Each mode is important and helps build your child’s literacy. Observing how your child processes and read reveals so much about the way he/she thinks. Make sure you take the time to LISTEN to your child!
- Be a Reading Model. Say things like “Good Readers think while they read” or “I got stuck on this word and I figured it out because I see the word turn in it. So it has to be turnip.” Reading is very abstract, but if you as a parent help your child break it into the concrete steps that your adult brain does automatically, your child will start to figure out the code. The conversation you have between you, your child and the text is gold. If you’re ever at a loss for what types of questions to ask, these are a good starting point. Too often I see kids that can read words but have not experienced “Real Reading.” I try and teach my students that reading is thinking about what the author says and what is inside my head at the same time. It is a connected experience. And I am constantly noticing, thinking or feeling, wondering or seeing something in response to the text.
- Practice, Practice, Practice and SATURATE your child in books. Here are some fascinating facts about kids and reading. Simply stated, kids who read more have better vocabularies, kids with better vocabularies have higher socio-economic statuses. Research shows that increased literacy helps combat poverty. “For a time investment of approximately 87 hours a year (20 minutes a day for 5 days a week), you can increase your child’s ability to support him or herself in the future considerably.”
- Teach your child Reading Strategies. Kids need to know what to do if they get stuck on a word. This is teaching kids thinking skills such as look at the picture for clues to help you, stretch the sounds in the word out, chunk the word into smaller words for example I see the word it in sit, skip the tricky word and finish reading the sentence and then re-read the sentence (you want kids to start using context clues to help them figure out hard words). Obviously, you as a parent are there to help too and it is tempting to tell your child what the word is, but really the most helpful thing you can do is to guide them through the struggle.
- Decoding Skills need to be taught explicitly and reinforced regularly. Generally the English language goes from learning letters, to sounds, to words, to sentences and to paragraphs etc. Each one of these relationships is important for the child to understand. If a child can tell each of the different parts of a word, generally they can understand the whole word. Or if a child understand several words then they can understand the whole sentence and so on.
When I am talking decoding skills I am referring to the exact rules of letters and combination of letters. Here is a list of common decoding rules that I used.
- “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.” (Vowel Teams) For example, dream. The “ea” vowel team says /e/.
- Vowel consonant “E” (VCE) is when the “E” is magical and tickles the vowel to say its name (Magic E). For example, cap vs cape.
- Blends: Two Letters that slide together. There are s blends, l blends and r blends. And three letter blends, but if your child understands the concept they start to find them easily. For example slip, slide, trip, string.
- Digraphs: Two letters that together make one sound. /sh/, /wh/, /th/, /ch/, /ck/
- “Ed” at the end of word can makes three different sounds: /ed/, /d/, /t/. For example started, dared, skipped.
The best way I know for kids to understand this is to diagram a word just as sophomores in high school diagram sentences. For example:
Just know that you’ll have to teach kids that sometimes things break the rules too, Welcome to the English language:-).
In future posts I am going to give tips to help if your child struggles with fluency or comprehension, or is a struggling reader. I wish you all the best in helping your child discover the power of reading! As Scholastic says, reading can “Open a World of Possible.”