Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Can I Do to Help My Child Learn to Read? Part 1

We hear from many parents about their children’s struggles with learning to read. Difficulties with reading can have a negative long-term effect on a children’s self-esteem, their desire to learn and succeed in school, and ultimately their success in life.

Although there are no quick ways to teach children to read, it doesn’t have to be a difficult task. In the next blog posts I will outline the basic skills children must master in order to learn to read. These posts will go hand in hand with the recommendations made by the National Reading Panel’s (NRP) 2000 report. The goals of the report were simple: to identify what works when teaching children to read. The NRP report identified five areas of reading instruction that must be addressed in order to teach children to read:

1. Phonemic Awareness: Being able to notice, understand, and work with the sounds in words.
2. Phonics: A method of teaching reading, based on sounding out letters to read words.
3. Fluency: Being able to read accurately and quickly.
4. Vocabulary: Knowing what words mean when we hear and read them.
5. Text Comprehension: Truly understanding what is read.

How can I help my child gain phonemic awareness?
There are many activities that can help parents accomplish this task. Here are two simple ones that you can do with your child without having to buy, make, or read anything (outside of this post!). When you see a letter between slashes, /a/, it represents the sound of the letter. When you see a letter in bold, a, it represents the name of the letter.

Activity 1:
Parent: Listen to this word: cat. One more time: cat. /k/ /a/ /t/. Can you say the word?
Child:cat.
Parent: Good job! Now can you say the sounds? /k/ /a/ /t/.
(If your child makes an error, be positive--“Good try!” “That was pretty close!” “You almost got it!”--and ask him to try again.)
Child: /k/ /a/ /t/.
Parent: That was great! Now write each letter for the word cat. Write the letter that makes this sound /k/ (allow your child to write the letter c); /a/ (allow your child to write the letter a); /t/ (allow your child to write the letter t).
Child: /k/ (child writes letter c); /a/ (child writes letter a); /t/ (child writes letter t); cat.
Parent: You said AND wrote the word cat. You are so smart! (Now try more words like fan, sad, bat, pig, pen, and box.)

Activity 2:
Watch this video with your child. Listen to the narrator and follow the prompts:

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