It may be a bit unsettling for some parents to read about the statistics and the demands of children’s reading abilities by the age of 9, but there are several things parents can do that will be helpful to their young readers.
Phonemic awareness, which is being cognitively aware of the sounds of vowels and consonants, comes early in life for everyone. It is important for us to articulate these sounds in order to blend letters and make words.
Early recognition of letters in the alphabet will help children be aware of words, as they hear sounds being blended and read as words. Putting magnets on a fridge is a great start for recognizing letters. Parents can also point out environmental letters and words wherever they go with their children.
Once children start seeing the letters blended into words, then sentences will follow.
A social constructivist named Lev Vygotsky developed a theory called the Zone of Proximal Development. This just means that each person has their own “zone” in which they learn. When teachers know a student’s zone, instruction can be differentiated to build within that knowledge.
Reading tests, such as Measures of Academic Progress, Accelerated Reading and the Scholastic Reading Test are given in school that help measure an individual’s comprehension and fluency. Once we know the Accelerated Reading level or the Lexile level, we are able to find books that are just right for a child to read: challenging enough to stimulate a child’s reading interests and skills, but not too hard that they don’t enjoy it.
On Lexile.com, there is a form to fill out for the reader’s interests, and the Lexile level can be plugged in to find a plethora of books that are “just right” for readers.
Another way to help kids is to read to them every day. When adults read and discuss stories with children, it enhances comprehension.
If a child finds a book they love to read, encourage them to read it as much as they want, and read it to other kids. The more they read it, the more fluent they get.
Once they get that feeling of being a fluent reader, they will want to read even more!
An easy test to see if a book is good for someone is the “five-finger rule.” As a child reads the first page of a book (say, a chapter book), count all the words that are missed. If they miss more four to five words on the first page, then they are not ready for that book. Children can then be encouraged to practice reading until they can build their skills up enough to read that book.
These are just a few tips on helping children read in a positive way. Reading can be a lot of fun!
Karen Krejci, M.Ed., Reading Specialist (UAF), is also a retired Alaskan teacher, a mother, grandmother and always an advocate of reading.
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