Learning to read is a complex process. The brain is not naturally hard-wired to read in the way that it is wired to speak or listen. To learn to read English, children must learn the connections between the approximately 44 sounds of spoken English (the phonemes), and the 26 letters of the alphabet. For the student with dyslexia or language related LD, the neural systems that perceive the phonemes are less efficient in these children than in other children.
To support the beginning reader on the path to success in this complex process, the following tips are provided for parents.
- Give a beginning reader time to read. Reading is a skill, and like many other skills, it takes time to develop.
- Read the title and ask your child to make a prediction before reading a story. This will encourage learning to preview a text before reading.
- Take “picture walks.” Help your child use the picture clues in most early readers and picture books to tell the story before reading.
- Point to each word on the page as you read. This strategy will help the child build tracking skills from one line of text to the next one.
- Let the young reader reread the same books as this builds fluency.
- Encourage attention to print. When stuck on a word, allow the child 5 seconds to problem solve on his own. If it’s a difficult word, or one that can’t be sounded out, simply supply the word and continue reading. In the early stages of reading, word identification requires a reader’s concentration. Practice patience. Give your child time to decode the words and avoid jumping in too quickly. Some prompts are:
- Get your mouth ready for the first sound and see if the word pops out
- Do you see a little word inside the big word that you know?
- Do you recognize a chunk of the word you can sound out?
- Think about what word would make sense here.
- Take turns reading. By listening to your fluent reading, your child will hear what good readers sound like.
- Talk about the story. This helps the child understand the purpose of reading is to build meaning.
- Find “just right” books. If a child requires constant correction, the book is too difficult.
- Have realistic expectations. By the end of first grade, most students should be reading approximately 60 words per minute correctly, and 90-100 words per minute by the end of second grade. Children with dyslexia or other reading disorders will likely lag behind this benchmark.
- Let your child know how proud you are of their effort. Parents who believe that reading is pleasurable convey this perspective to their child.
Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development at a critical time in child development which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.
Contributed by Dr. Jan Kirkland, PhD, Literacy Specialist, Fairhill School