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How To

  • How to Get Your Children Involved in Reading

    children involved in readingreading

    With the advancement in technology, many feel that reading has taken the backseat to Video games and television.  Reading during holidays and summer breaks, helps kids maintain their brain muscle activity consistent so that once the classrooms commence again, they ease into educational and study routines easier.  Though it may seem challenging to spark interest in children to enjoy reading, there are many things you can do to make the activity fun and an event worth looking forward to.

    Teamwork
    Similarly to sending a child to their room when they've been bad, instructing them to just go and read there, can give the activity of reading a negative connotation.  Rather than implementing a forced schedule where they must read, make it a joint experience.  Studies show that parents who read to their children at a very young age, imprint a memorable experience that sticks with them  till they grow older.  If your kids already know how to read, try reading books to them that are advanced for their level.  This helps to introduce more sophisticated vocabulary and grammar to them.

    Location Location Location
    Take advantage of weather and beautiful scenery in your area.  By taking the activity of reading elsewhere, surroundings can help play a big part in the experience being taken in by your child.  During summer months, you can make it a family event for everyone to grab their favorite books and head out to the beach for some R&R, or have a picnic in the park that includes reading and talking about interesting stories.

    Make it a Routine
    The key in keeping your child reading is to build a consistent routine around the activity,  something for your child to look forward to.

    Ask Questions
    Like a great movie, a wonderful story is always exciting to share.  Ask in depth questions that help challenge your child to retain information and focus on what they're reading.  Show genuine interest by asking about the characters, the scenery or even what your child would do if they were in the place of the character.  By opening a dialogue with your child in the story you're bringing more of the book to life!

    Reading is more than assimilating words from pages, but rather an experience that you and your child can enjoy together.

    Thanks for reading our How to Get Your Children Involved in Reading article.

  • Reading With Children At Home

    Learn How to do it Right.

    reading with children at home

    In the first few years of school, most children bring books home to read with their parents as part of the school reading program. Parents are often given a briefing on how to listen to these readers through a parent/teacher information session or through advice given via a note sent home.

    Despite this, many parents remain unsure how to best listen and assist their children, particularly when they make mistakes or they can’t figure out a word/text.

    This is unfortunate as reading at home can be such an enjoyable and extremely valuable addition to a child’s learning, not to mention a wonderful positive time for nurturing both the relationship and a love of reading.

    Giving and seeking advice on listening to home readers can be difficult because there are differing opinions on how to best teach literacy. I don’t know of anyone who has all the answers, though there are some who claim to have the only ‘right’ way and everything else is the ‘wrong’.

    Every child is unique and there is no one generic model/technique that will suit every child in every instance. There is no “one size fits all” prescription.

    To help give parents more specific and practical advice on how to listen to their children at home, the following is to provide general guidelines and specific techniques that have been found effective over the years, and to outline some of the basic principles that underlie reading. However please keep in mind that we are constantly learning and improving our knowledge and skills. This is just some of what can be done. Try all of it or part of it, modify it, use it as a framework, and add to it from other sources… I hope that it will give you a foundation with which to begin listening with confidence to your children and help make the process more enjoyable and worthwhile for you and your children.

    A. Reading at home should be enjoyable for you and your child

    If the experience is fun, satisfying and positive then your child will be far more likely to want to read next time. And, the more children practice then the faster their skills & confidence improve. Keep in mind that it usually takes two to three years for children to learn to read at an independent level. Of course, some children will take a little longer and some a little less. Either way, children only learn to read once. Be patient, realistic, and enjoy the process, as well as the time you have together.

    B. Choose a desirable time and place

    reading with children

    Set your child up for success. Find a spot that is comfy and free from distractions (turn the TV off, send the other kids outside). If you or your child is busy, tired, cranky (or all of the above!) tolerance and concentration levels will be decreased. Remember reading should be enjoyable! Sit at a table with the book on a sloped work surface is the best environment to read. However you can sit on a couch, or even lay on the carpeted with cushions. Do what will make your child enjoy reading time. You can even read when going to bed, but be warned! If your child is tired, they are more likely to make mistakes and become frustrated, leading to more mistakes etc. It is best to have your child sit on your left so their right ear is closest. The right ear has the fastest route to the left hemisphere of the brain, which almost always processes language. Plus, sitting this way introduces a routine and a sense of predictability. Speaking of routines, many children thrive with consistency, and it may be worthwhile reserving a consistent time each day to read.

    C. Keep the reading time short

    When reading to you child at home keep it short and sweet. Children are far more likely to make mistakes and become frustrated if they become tired or lose concentration. Adults take reading for granted and often forget that learning and practicing to read can be exhausting. So, keep your reading time brief - 5 to 10 minutes in one sitting is plenty for most young children.

    D. Be positive and encouraging

    This is especially true when they are learning and practicing new skills. Notice things that they have mastered, or improved upon since prior reading times. Notice things they are doing well. Say things like: “I like the way you figured that out”; “wow, that was great reading”; “gee, I really enjoyed listening to you”; “gosh, you are reading so well, you could read that to Grandma when she comes over” (or, they could read to grandparents over the phone); “I noticed that you remembered that new word…” “very good, you had trouble with that word last time, and this time you got it first go..”; “you are making it look so easy”. Sometimes show a previous book to demonstrate how far their reading has come.

    E. Encourage independence

    choosing books for children

    This can be a little difficult for many parents when there is so much at stake. We love our children so much and we want them to become good readers – there is a lot riding on it. In our eagerness for our children to learn to read, it can be very tempting frankly to ‘butt in’ all the time instead of allowing our children to figure as much of the reading out for themselves. Sometimes we can become so overzealous or overprotective (if they are struggling) that we even take over the reading! In so doing we actually disempower our children and deprive them of opportunities to learn. What we really need to be doing is encouraging our children to do as much of the thinking for themselves as possible. You can do this by:
    • Allow your child enough time to figure things out before jumping in. Children process their thoughts more slowly than adults.
    • Allowing time to realize they have made a mistake, and time to fix it as well.
    This takes patience, self-control and practice!

    F. Help your child when they need it

    I realize this may sound like it contradicts the last point. The thing is, if your child can do the reading or figuring out – then let them! However, if there is no way on this earth that your child is going to be able to figure a particular part of text out for whatever reason (perhaps they simply do not have the required skills yet or perhaps they have never heard of that particular word) - then don’t let them struggle and flounder unnecessarily. The bad news is that it can be tricky to know when to help. The good news is that the more in tune you are with where your child is at with their reading development, and the more you know about the learning to read process, then the easier it becomes.
    • If your child is struggling with a word or section of text and you know that your child CAN or may well be able to figure it out – then let them do so, or at least let them give it a try and praise their attempts.
    • If you know that your child has come across a similar problem before but is having trouble recalling the solution, you might supply ‘reminders’ rather than directly providing the answer.
    • If you know that your child does not have the skills or knowledge to figure a piece of text out with or without hints/reminders, provide the solution quickly without drama and move on. In this case, I might say something like “that’s a tricky word, it says”. Another occasion when you might quickly “jump in” is when the child is starting to lose track of the meaning/story-line.

    Lastly, but most importantly, ensure the child is reading at the right level for their current ability. Your child should be able to read the book they have brought home with a high rate of success. They should be able to read much of the book on their own (say, approximately 90% or more) with perhaps a little help from you. Continual struggle leads to negative thoughts/beliefs, low self esteem, a disliking of reading, reading avoidance and lost learning opportunities. Alternatively, continual success leads to high self-esteem, reading enjoyment, willingness to practice and more learning. Therefore, don’t be in a hurry to rush your child through reader levels. Your child will make the most efficient progress if they have books that match their current reading ability. Another thing to keep in mind is that children often hit learning plateaus, where they don’t seem to be making much progress. However these times are valuable days, weeks, months where children consolidate and master skills before taking off on another learning curve.

    As far as ‘easy’ books go, while they don’t tend to offer many ‘new’ learning opportunities, they can be useful practice tools where children work on fluency (reading pace), expression and master/consolidate skills such as sight words.

    If your child struggles continually with the books they bring home, then I strongly recommend that you speak to their teacher and discuss what is going on at home.

    In summary, many parents find listening to their children problematic because they are unsure of what to do when they listen. Do they help? If so, how do they help? When do they help? This article has outlined some general pointers for parents to consider when reading with children at home.

    Contributions by Kirstie Wilson

    Kirstie Wilson M. Ed has written a series of three articles in answer to one of the most common dilemmas that parents face when it comes to their children learning to read

  • Choosing The Right Books For Beginnning Readers

    By Angela Weeks

    beginning readers

    Much has been said in government and in the media about the need to improve literacy skills but a workable solution remains elusive. In order to improve global reading results, we need to focus on teaching reading skills explicitly. This includes the teaching of pre-literacy skills, such as rhyme, vocabulary, visual matching, and language comprehension. As these skills are developing and we begin to introduce reading skills, we need to maintain an emphasis on vocabulary, and explicitly teach word decoding skills and reading comprehension skills through example and practice.

    Research tells us that for most people with reading difficulties the underlying problem is a phonological deficit, a difficulty working with the sounds in words. The brain is malleable and particularly so in young children. We need to engage junior primary students in a powerful program, such as Jolly Phonics, that teaches them about the sounds in words and their relationship to letters. These are the foundation skills for reading. An introductory literacy program will be most effective if complemented by a phonics-based reading program.

    It also important to remember research has also shown that one in four children in every classroom have a vision processing problem. They cannot control their eye movement at close distances, making reading and attention almost impossible. As the print moves and blurs, they stumble over words, lose their place and cannot comprehend. Out of desperation, they give up and quit. Is it any wonder they struggle in school. For these children a comprehensive vision screening would be required. It is highly recommended that all children receive a comprehensive vision screening to eliminate any possibility of vision difficulties associated with reading. Please see COVD or OEP for a referral in your area.

    One of the major barriers to the teaching of phonics is the adoption of reading levels by schools. Leveled books are classified in different ways depending on the system. Criteria include degree of difficulty based on semantic difficulty and the complexity of the sentences. What this means is that a book with a leveled vocabulary can have mixed text in it with all kinds of spellings as long as they are within the level. As a result, students may find some books easy at a particular level and others too hard. These systems include a testing regime to determine when children are ready to proceed to the next level.

    My concern is that schools have adopted reading levels because they offer a convenient structure for a whole school reading program. Books classified according to a particular system can be grouped into ‘the red box, the blue box etc’ and the testing regime used to guide students through the levels. In many schools, there are expectations in terms of level for each grade. For example, students should be at Level 23 by the end of Grade 2. Because reading skills are not taught explicitly and systematically through these systems, students can find themselves at the same level for a whole year. This can have detrimental effects on their motivation and self esteem. The systems that level books now have a strong commercial base and schools prefer to buy books that fit into the leveling system they are using

    A few years ago, I visited an elementary school and asked if they would show me how the reading levels work. The reading levels coordinator showed me the manual with the tests the students are given. As I looked at level 1 with words like “painting’ and “climbing”, I commented that the words seemed hard for a beginning reader. “They don’t have to read the words,” I was told, “they look at the pictures. It’s a form of reading.” This approach to ‘reading’, I believe, is responsible for the strategy used by many elementary students who are not automatic readers, what I call, the ‘look and guess’ approach. They look at the picture and guess the word based on key letters. Using this strategy in one of the tests I use, “book” has been read variously as “ball” and “bird”. You see all the pictures start with the same letter! And then there’s the little boy who said to me as we progressed from test items with pictures to items without, “I can’t read that, there aren’t any pictures.”

    Choosing the right books

    To ensure that beginning readers enjoy success, it is important to explicitly teach them phonic skills. These are the foundation skills of independent reading as they provide students with the ability to decode words they have not seen before. Teaching starts with the sounds of the letters of the alphabet.

    Phonically controlled books

    Phonically controlled books have titles like The Pet Hen and The Owl and the Clown and follow two guidelines:

    1) They are written with a phonic rule in mind, i.e., short e and use mostly words that follow that rule i.e., The pet hen got the vet wet.

    You won’t find words like ‘cough’ and ‘Guy’ thrown in with ‘cat’ and ‘fat’. When reading phonically controlled books, you show the child the new words, teach them the new phonic rule and the student can read the book independently.

    2) Other words used are either words the student learnt in earlier books or new words that the author lists in the front or back pages of the book. Only a few are introduced in each book.

    Phonically controlled books are classified by difficulty, too, but the classification is based on the difficulty of the phonic rule introduced in the book. One of the best known series of phonically controlled books is the Fitzroy Readers, now available in hard copy and on CD.

    Regrettably, phonically controlled books are being relegated to the scrap heap because they don’t fit the system. As a result, children who need to be taught using the building blocks of reading (phonics) are failing. How many children might this be? Let’s look at the statistics.

    Assuming a normal bell curve, the IQs of 25% of students are below average. The majority of these children need explicit skills teaching to learn to read. When you add to this the 3-10% of children with an average IQ and dyslexia, we are now talking about 30% of children and this still doesn’t include children in neither of the above categories who might have a Language Disorder, Vision Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or Auditory Processing Disorder.

    If we are serious about improving reading skills, we need to spend time providing explicit skills teaching. The value of running records is ignored if they are used to decide on promotion to the next reading level rather than for their primary purpose which is to find out where the student is having difficulty and what they need to be taught to progress.

    That a minimum of 40 minutes/day be spent in junior primary classes on the explicit teaching of phonics, spelling rules and handwriting skills. At the beginning, this should be supported by the use of phonically controlled books. Once students’ reading skills take off, then they can move to leveled books with confidence and achieve success.

    Reference: Overcoming Dyslexia for Dummies by Tracey Wood, Med

    College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD)
    215 West Garfield Road, Suite 200
    Aurora, OH 44202
    (330) 995-0718, (888) 995-0719, FAX (330) 995-0719

    Optometric Extension Program Foundation, Inc. (OEP)
    1921 E. Carnegie Ave., Ste. 3-L
    Santa Ana, CA 92705-5510
    (949) 250-8070

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