16. 10. 2014
Image Source: Huffington Post
Ahhh Fall.... The cooler temps, crisp winds and falling leaves always remind me of the start of the school year. I loved this time of year when I was teaching. I loved ordering new supplies, organizing and cleaning the classroom, and painstakingly creating laminated works of art posters for the walls (which often devolved as the year progressed into random pieces of paper that I wrote on with whatever writing utensil was handy. Hey, I was MUCH more focused on the kids and that's what counts, right?).
This time of year also signaled the start of parents questioning me about their child's reading abilities. If you are a parent wondering about your child's reading skills, or looking for help in nurturing your child's reading abilities, I have advice for you: Ask not whether your child is reading, ask first if he or she is pre-reading. Instead of pondering over the how, when and where the magical skill (it really does seem magical when it all comes together) of reading will blossom within your child, take a few steps back and take a look at your child's pre-reading skills. As a teacher, I loved pointing these skills out to parents when they would complain that their child was not reading yet. I would always stop them and say, "OH but he is beginning to read! Look and listen to how he is using this book. He is using some pre-reading skills that are going to eventually launch him into reading!"
What are those skills, you ask?
There are many! Pre-reading abilities deal largely with book-handling skills and a beginning understanding of concepts of print. To break down what I mean, take a look at the list below. These are a few questions to consider that deal with book handling and concepts of print to help you get a sense of some of your child's pre-reading skills.
Do you notice that your child:
- - Turns the pages of the book in the correct way?
- - Holds the book the right side up?
- - Notices print on the pages of a book?
- - Understands that print carries a message related to the pictures in the book?
- - Knows which direction to read text?
- - Understands the difference between a letter and word?
- - Know that words have beginning and ending letters, with more letters in the middle?
- - Notices that spaces separate words?
- - Knows that at the end of a sentence, you look down and to the left (aka the "return sweep")?
- - Understands that books, and the print and words within them, have a beginning, middle and end?
If your child is beginning to catch onto some of these concepts then FAN-TASTIC! They are exercising some great pre-reading skills and on a great path to be ready to read soon!!! Don't worry if they are not yet doing every single thing on this list. Some of the skills on here are more advanced and your child is on a great path if they're demonstrating a few of these skills.
Another GREAT pre-reading skill that is often dismissed by parents is when children recite stories from memory. My parents were frequently quick to say, "Ahhh, but he's not really reading, he's just saying that story from memory!" My response to this type of statement was "First of all HELLO! how wonderful is it that your son loves reading SO much that he has memorized a story?! Second of all, NICE memory and recall skills, son. These are KEY
skills for learning to read."
To explain, you need to rely on your memory and recall skills to help grow your help grow your bank of sight words (which are words that you know from memory). The more you read, the larger your bank of sight words will grow and the more fluently you'll be able to read text. Eventually, when you become a more advanced reader, you will read most of your words from memory (oh hey MEMORY
there's that word again!). Think about it, how often do you read something and actually decode the sounds in the individual words? If you're reading a text full of unknown vocabulary, perhaps you would have to spend time putting together letter sounds to read a word. Otherwise, you mostly read by recognizing words you remember. So don't be quick to dismiss a child using memory to accomplish any form of reading! This is a key ingredient to their reading success!
Hopefully this gives you a little more insight into how the whole reading process starts! I know it can be stressful waiting, watching and wondering when your child is going to start reading, but the best thing to do to help them on their way and to develop their pre-reading skills is to SURPRISE!
read to them. Model for them how you read, how you hold the book and turn the pages, point to the words and return sweep as you read, discuss the words and letters that you see, and of course
show them how much you ENJOY
being a reader yourself!