Learning to read is a process that takes much more time than many people think. You don’t learn to read in kindergarten and have it all figured out when you reach first grade. It takes time and practice to become a great reader. Because of this, your student may struggle with reading at some point. It’s important to note that this is normal and usually isn’t cause for serious concern.
There are five components of reading; phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. In the early years of school your child’s education will focus a lot of attention on phonics and phonemic awareness as they learn the sounds of individual letters and groups of letters within a word. These skills form the basis of reading and allow children to sound out and pronounce words correctly in the future. Without these skills, it will be difficult for your child to master fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Why do they struggle?
If you find that your child has trouble with reading, more often than not it is related to the triad of fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. These three components always go hand in hand, and if your child struggles with one it will affect the others.
When your child is reading fluently, it should sound as if they’re speaking. They shouldn’t be struggling to sound out individuals words, word calling (decoding words without understanding their meaning or substituting the wrong words), or speed reading. When they read too slowly, they spend all of their energy figuring out individual words and so miss the forest for the trees. The same is true when they speed read. Some kids think that fluency means reading as fast as they can, but this causes them to ignore punctuation and turn a well structured paragraph into an unintelligible hodgepodge of words.
Listening to books on tape and following along in their own text is an excellent way to help kids struggling with fluency. They can listen to the text being read fluently and connect the written word with its spoken counterpart. It can also be helpful for them to read out loud so that both you and your child can hear where they’re struggling, and to re-read the same text multiple times so that they can improve each time they read it.
If your child doesn’t understand the words they’re reading, it’ll affect their comprehension. Using the five finger rule can help your child choose books at their independent reading level so that they can avoid getting frustrated by a book they aren’t ready for. When your child comes upon a word they don’t understand within a text it’s important for them to either use context clues to figure out the most likely meaning or look the word up. This is especially important when understanding the word is key to comprehending the author’s meaning. If your child is choosing books at the right level, there will always be a few challenging words that they don’t know, and by reading these words and deciphering their meaning they will continually increase their vocabulary.
To check for understanding when your child reads, you can simply talk to them about what they’re reading. You don’t have to turn reading into a chore or assign a book report every time they finish a novel. Encourage them to read, talk to them about what they’re reading, and encourage them to keep reading. If you do this, you can spot emerging issues and work to improve weaknesses. Then, if you still see them struggling you can mention those issues to their teacher next school year. This way they can immediately start helping instead of having to figure out the issue for themselves weeks or even months into the school year.
What if they don’t like to read?
It’s been said that if someone doesn’t like reading, it’s simply because they haven’t found the right book. Keeping reading fun and exciting is the key to getting your kids engaged. Take them to the library, do a family read aloud (choose a book to read as a family, sit together, and take turns reading out loud), or visit the places your child reads about. For instance, if your child reads Turtle in Paradise, maybe your family vacation this summer could include a trip to Key West!
At St. Barnabas Episcopal School, we understand the value of providing students with the opportunity to be deeply engaged in the world around them. Helping to create strong readers is an excellent way to accomplish that. Contact us today as you begin thinking about where your child will attend school for the 2017-2018 school year.