A lot of parents or caregivers have worries about helping their young readers develop necessary skills in order to read. What works? What should children know in order to make reading a breeze?
My advice is to “puzzle it out”.
First let me assure you that there aren’t easy answers to helping beginner readers because reading isn’t as easy as it looks. Just because you know how to recognize words doesn’t mean that your child will. Note that I said you know how to recognize words. I didn’t say you are intentionally sounding out every single word you read did I? We think all we have to do is teach children the phonics behind words and they’ll excel, but that isnt’ the only skill they’ll need. And the word blending that is required to understand phonetics might be a little advanced for newly emerging readers.
You see, reading is about decoding language. And written language takes special decoding skills. You not only have to recognize the letters, but then you need to notice word patterns and then you have to figure out how letters and punctuation get arranged on a page! That is quite a lot of information and that is why there are plenty of opportunities for new readers to get confused and feel like they just can’t do it.
One of the first keys for a successful early reader is learning that symbols can be instructions in short form. An arrow indicates a direction that someone is to travel in, or a red light means stop. Once children connect symbols with meanings they are on the road to reading. Make sure they know it. Let them learn to be proud of recognizing familiar business signs, or street signs, or informational symbols.
A second key is the ability to hold an image in their head. Superior readers can see words in their “mind’s eye”. So simple tracking games can help with this skill. You can play a game where you show a child a set of objects and then you remove one and ask the child to identify it. In order to do that they have to visualize the object in their “mind’s eye” and then hunt for it.
Clapping games help children recognize syllables and roots and their endings. So clapping games would be a third key. Sing a favorite song or call out a rhyme and clap along. Children will pick up on the way words are built.
There are plenty of other helpful keys that will contribute to a young readers success but this is a good start! For example parents might feel it is important to correct their childrens language errors. While it may be vital for a child to learn to speak properly it isn’t necessarily true that language errors will hamper reading comprehension. A child that can read ” I will do it” still might say ” my do it”. Gentle prompts will probably straighten out language errors like that.
There, I told you reading was complicated and here you thought it was easy! Reading seems easy but that is only because we know how. After a lifetime of reading it’s easy to forget how we learned ourselves!
Reading is about figuring out symbols and decoding patterns in words and language. It’s like figuring out a puzzle each and every time you read. Those of us who are skilled at reading are just excellent puzzle solvers. So if you have any early readers in your house, or you are wondering how to help a struggling reader remember that reading is something you have to “puzzle out”. Help your young reader to learn to decode words and once you do there is a good chance you’ll have a super reader on your hands!