Learning to read can be a daunting task for most children. They are expected to master this skill by age 6 or 7 although some become reading champions by ages 4 or 5. Reading fluently does not happen automatically but develops through intentional learning instructions and techniques. At Booksie we have successfully used some of these techniques to teach children how to read and would like to share them with you.
Teaching Alphabet Sounds (Phonemic awareness)
Phonemic awareness which basically describes the ability to identify individual sounds is the first stage in the reading journey. This is where readers become aware of the different sounds each alphabet makes and begin identifying individual sounds in spoken words. The English language has 26 letters however combinations of some of these letters gives 44 sounds. Beginners are expected to know at least the sounds of the 26 alphabets.
At Booksie, every new member of our reading community is assessed for their phonemic awareness before they start learning to read with us. This gives us a fair idea of where they are in their learning to read journey.
Tip: Use flash cards, songs, games, games and direct instruction to teach new readers the name of a letter and its corresponding sound.
Blending sounds to make words (Phonics)
Phonics is basically the method of teaching new readers how to read by connecting sounds to make words. This method begins with children being able to identify what sound a word starts with, saying the sound out loud and recognising how the sound is represented by a letter. Children are guided to blend individual sounds to make words and break down simple words into their individual sounds. At the beginners level, children are taught to blend CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) and CVCC (consonant-vowel-consonant-consonant) sounds to make words.
Reading to increase fluency
When children start reading the focus is on pronouncing words correctly and little attention is given to fluidity and flow of words. Once they learn to blend words and are able to do so rapidly it becomes imperative to concentrate on pace and expression.
During reading sessions at Booksie we reinforce certain guidelines that help readers become more fluent. These guidelines include: reading the words correctly, reading groups of words smoothly, reading at a good pace and reading like you talk. As teachers, parents or caregivers one way to improve fluency is to model fluent reading. Through reading aloud and storytime sessions children are able to observe how fluent reading is done. Another tip is to make children read sentences with words they already know. Children may find it difficult to be fluent if they keep coming across “big” and new words in their sentences.
Another aspect of teaching children how to read is making sure they understand what they are reading. Comprehension can be practiced as early as three-years-old when the child starts reading picture books. Asking children their thoughts about pictures will help them think about what is going on in a story.
Rereading a story several times also improves both comprehension and fluency. During Booksie’s Holiday Reading Camp, most learning activities were centered on understanding the stories that we read. We read storybooks everyday and readers answered either written or oral comprehension questions. Both ways proved to be useful in helping them understand what they read. An additional way to promote comprehension skills is to ask children to summarise stories they read.
It is vital that as children become better readers, they have an increased bank of words that they can use in essays, summaries, letters and in verbal communication. One way to do this is to encourage them to write and look up new words when they read. Activities such as crossword puzzles, word searches and Scrabble are also a fun way to learn new words.
Learning to read is a gradual process and takes a lot of time and effort from children, parents and teachers. At Booksie we incorporate all these methods in our Learning to Read programme and have seen consistent improvement in the reading and writing abilities of our Book Club members.