Early literacy development is something that has always interested me, both as a mother and a teacher. There are so many views and opinions floating around about how to encourage children to become strong, eager readers that it can seem overwhelming to know how to best support them. It’s something I think about often with my own boys and in the classroom. A fellow parent at my son’s school happens to run a local tutoring center that specializes in supporting literacy skills in school-aged children. I asked her a few questions about this topic, and with her permission, now share her responses with our community of readers here on CTWorkingMoms. I hope you all find this information as useful as I have!
Veronica is a certified member of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators which focuses on teaching reading to students with Dyslexia by using a phonetic and alphabetic approach. She also owns and operates Community Learning Academy, which provides tutoring services to school-aged children.
1. We all, as parents, want our children to become strong readers. What can we do at home to support our children’s literacy skills?
“Children learn to read on the laps of their parents.” -unknown
Parents need to read to their children from the day they are born (or earlier). From the beginning, children learn oral language skills and auditory skills. Listening is the first skill of learning to read. Next, the parent is modeling reading behaviors like text orientation, intonation of text, and they are the first introduction to the concept that letters make up words, words on the page create a sentence, and sentences create the story. By reading to your child everyday you are setting up the behaviors every child needs to start school, where they will then learn how to read, and providing them with an amazing vocabulary. The parent can support the child and share in the experience of a story.
2. What’s the normal age range for learning to read fluently? What are some red flags that I may notice with my child that could indicate a reading difficulty?
The best thing a parent can do is to not put high expectations on young and emergent readers. The average student will learn to read at any time between kindergarten and grade 4. All students learn at different rates, and those rates should be respected. The state and each school has a list of skills that should be accomplished during certain grades for parents to use as a guideline. Every parent should be aware of these and support their child’s teacher in accomplishing these goals. BUT remember, each child learns at their own rate. When a parent should be concerned is if they notice their child not having met any goals of the grade they have just finished. If parents have concerns, they should contact the teacher and school to bring their concerns up. The role of the parent should be support of the child and the teacher.
3. What are your favorite read aloud books for 3-5 year olds?
I cannot narrow the list to tell you my favorite books, but what is more important is the favorite books of the audience. Having a boy and a girl has made our nightly reading list varied. If a child finds a book they love, explore as many titles as they like, but mix in some other titles as well. It is very important to expose children to different genres, fictional and nonfictional, and maybe even areas that don’t always interest them. Again, you are helping to build their vocabulary. ABC books are great books for students who are working on mastering the alphabet. These are great because they can read them independently or together, and the pictures help to build their vocabulary. Cat in the Hat “easy reader” books are great for kindergarteners because they will enforce CVC (consonant-vowel-consonent) pattern words they are learning in school. Children should not be pushed to read books on their own until THEY are ready. The greatest thing a parent can do is interact with the story and the child. This will help them have an experience with text, rather than words on a page, and this skill is important as they learn comprehension skills in school.
Thank you to Veronica for taking the time to share her thoughts with us on this subject!