First things first, let’s take a look at the numbers and see how 33% of the American fourth graders read below the “basic” level, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test.
The “basic” level refers to the skills that are essential for proficient work at each grade and the numbers mentioned above are bit scary.
As many kids are entering the kindergarten, it is not rare that some are going to perform lower than their peers and end up falling behind as they go farther in school. The differences in language, the background, personal experiences, the exposure to print are different and the students are going to have to deal with more challenges as they grow.
There is an obvious connection between the prior knowledge and reading comprehension and some students have it, while others don’t. some say that these differences are observed as early as age 3.
High-need students present chronic difficulties in the classroom and their teachers should be prepared to solve their difficulties.
Learning to read isn’t easy at all
Reading is a complex process that involves many skills that have to be developed at the same time. The process of reading looks a lot like operating a car, but there are more things that a reader should do:
- He has to build the car- that is develop the mechanical systems for recognizing words
- He has to take care of the car- he needs to use prints, fix all the problems that may occur and read clearly
- He also has to drive the car- motivation; strategy is awareness are also essential
Unlike the parts of the car that you put together, even though they come separately, when it comes to reading the parts need to develop all at the same time. All parts of the reading system have to grow all at once, growing to one another from one another.
What you want in the end when it comes to reading is to make meaning from print, so a car that actually is able to run is what you want, sort to speak.
What about the teachers?
Good teachers know that learning a kid to read is the main goal in the early grades. An efficient teacher is going to work with young kids and teach them to balance the various parts of reading, about phonics, fluency, phonemic awareness, vocabulary and comprehension of every single class. Many teachers do that by growing in their students the love for books, stories and words.
Does reading begin before going to school?
What a preschooler knows before entering school is important and related to how easy and fast a kid is going to learn to read in first grade. You may have an idea about the reading achievement before a kid goes to school by observing three predictors:
- The ability to identify name letters of the alphabet
- Some general knowledge about print (he/she should know which is the cover of the book, how to turn the pages, which is the back of the book)
- Awareness of phonemes (the sounds in words)
It’s essential for a kid to read aloud and it’s a fundamental activity to do with your kid, in order to prepare her for learning how to read.
Reading is related to talking and listening
If you want to help your kid read easier and faster, start talking and listening to them as early as you can. You build sentence structure, knowledge of vocabulary, syntax and even the whole process of communication when your kid is saying “cook”, but you’re answering “Would you like a cookie?”.
Singing rhymes and playing word games with your kid is a great way to help her identify the sounds in words (and phonemic awareness happens). It’s essential that any language, hearing, speech problems should be identified at the very beginning so that they may be solved at once, minimizing risk for later reading difficulties.
A reading struggle is a real struggle if help isn’t there
No matter the type of instruction they get, many children manage to learn how to read by first grade. But once a kid loses that, he’s not going to outcome the struggle on his own.
88% of the children that encounter some difficulties in reading at the end of first grade are going to have the same problems at the end of fourth grade. Shockingly for many, but 75% of students that are poor readers in third grade remain just as poor when it comes to reading even in high school.
These numbers tell us about how fundamental it is to provide a powerful foundation for reading even from day one.
Sounding out words relates to reading
Having problem decoding and identifying words are the most common reading problems. A poor reader doesn’t really understand that sound in words are connected to certain letters and letter patterns. This is known amongst the specialists as the “alphabetic principle”.
Many poor readers didn’t acquire the alphabetic principle for various reasons. It may be because they didn’t develop phonemic awareness (being aware that all words are made with phoneme- the speech sounds). It’s essential that the word recognition should be automatic so that the reading becomes fluent and comprehension is complete.
If there is help, there’s hope
As long as intervention starts early, more than 85% of the poor readers are able to improve their reading skills, reaching average reading levels. The programs have to be complex and to include phonics, spelling, reading fluency, phoneme awareness, reading comprehension strategies. However, this is something to be done with well-trained teachers.
More than 60% of the children with reading difficulties may become average and even above-average readers if their struggle is identified early and solved.
It takes a village to raise a child …
… and a whole team to teach a kid to read as well. Parents, teachers and caregivers need to understand their importance into teaching the children to read. Every effort counts and everyone is important, from the family to the teachers and the whole community as well.
Why some have problems when learning to read
Good readers understand well the alphabetic principle, are phonemically aware and able to use these skills in a fast and cursive manner. They have a strong vocabulary, but also syntactical and grammatical skills, always relating to their own background experiences. Any difficulty in these areas may cause difficulties in later reading.
Learning to read begins way before a kid is actually entering the formal schooling. Any kid that has stimulating literacy experiences from day one has an edge in vocabulary developments. It’s way easier for him to understand the goals of reading, or developing print awareness or get the literacy concepts.
The major risk for difficulties in reading comes from the children without any experiences in the area that we just mentioned. Many poor readers didn’t involve constantly in the language play that helps with the awareness of sound structure or the language patterns. Typically, they also didn’t have much bedtime/lap time reading. We mainly talk about the kids raised in poverty, but also with parents with low reading levels and practices. This is what causes the difficulties and increase the risk for reading failure.
There are also kids that even though present good oral language experience, average to above average intelligence and early interactions with literacy activities on regular basics, still encounter some problems when learning to read. A programmatic longitudinal research shows that shortcoming in the development of phoneme awareness skills tell about the future difficulties in learning to read, but also have a bad influence on reading acquisition.
It’s not enough to just have phoneme awareness in order to develop reading. Kids also need to develop phonics concepts and to actually apply the skills in text. Even though all studies teach us about the role of phoneme awareness, phonics and enhancement of speed or automatically reading, there’s little information about how children actually grow reading comprehension methods, semantic and syntactic knowledge.
How kids with well-developed decoding and word-recognition skills still have problems into understanding what they read, is still quite a mystery and we need more research on the matter.
A fair conclusion
Educators may help reading enhancement by offering to kindergarten children instructions that develop print concepts. They may also make familiar to kids the purposes of reading and writing, improving their vocabulary with appropriate words, teaching them language comprehension skills, but also about the language structure.
Many kids in the 1st and 2nd grades and beyond ask for explicit instruction to enhanced the necessary phoneme awareness, spelling, phonics and reading comprehension abilities. This is not enough for most of them though and if some difficulties in learning to read to appear, each of the fundamental skills need to be taught and included into textual reading formats to provide effective levels on automaticity, fluency and understanding.