Monthly Archives

December 2018

The 5 things a child needs to become a reader

By | Advice and Resources | No Comments

There are 5 key skills required for a child to become a reader

Unlike speaking, reading does not come easily or naturally to children. For a child to learn to read, they must be taught clearly and in a defined sequence. Correctly sounding out words (decoding) and understanding what words mean (comprehension) are the two broad skills every child needs to become a reader.

Broadly, the 5 skills a child needs are:

1. Phonemic awareness 

2. Phonics

3. Fluency

4. Vocabulary

5. Comprehension

 

Phonological awareness – a broad umbrella term that involves many skills

  • Phonological awareness is the understanding that words can be broken down into sounds that have different meanings.
  • It is made up of a group of skills and involves the ability to recognise and manipulate sounds in spoken language.
  • It is a broad skill set that allows children to break up spoken words into sounds.
  • Children who have phonological awareness skills can clap out the syllables in a word (hos-pi-tal)
  • They can do things like rhyme “cat, sat, mat”
  • They also recognise that words can have the same initial sounds such as the ‘f’ in ‘frog’ and ‘fish.’

Early phonological awareness

A child’s phonological awareness prior to starting school is one of the most important predictors of their later reading success. Phonological awareness should be a key feature of early literacy programs.

Awareness of rhythm and rhyme

Phonological skills develop in steps. Children first realise rhymes in songs and can clap along to the syllables. It also involves noticing how sounds repeat themselves and sound the same at the end (alliteration). This rhyming aspect of English is why so many young children enjoy Dr. Seuss and nursery rhymes.

Rhyming is a critical skill as it indicates that the young child has identified specific features of spoken English. Research from the past 20 years shows that rhyming games and nursery rhymes helps pre-schoolers learn sound similarities in language.

This is an important step prior to reading and understanding that squiggly drawings correspond to sounds. Rhyme has a significant role to play in emerging literacy skills.

Required phonological skills in learning to read are:

  • Being able to clap beats in a word
  • Recognising and making rhymes
  • Identifying separate sounds in words
  • Separating and manipulate separate sounds in words

1. Phonemic Awareness – the most important of the phonological skills

Your child’s phonemic awareness on entering school is the single most powerful determinant of success he/she will experience in learning to read. 

What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear individual sounds (phonemes) in words. Children need to be aware that spoken words are made up of sounds.

The word ‘sat’ has three phonemes – ‘/s/ /a/ /t.’ To successfully learn to read, children must learn to make a link between sounds and letters.

There are 44 phonemes in English – including sound combinations like ‘th.’

Phonemic awareness is absolutely essential in learning to read. A strong relationship has been established between phonemic skills and later reading. Even when intelligence and memory are considered, phonemic awareness is the strongest predictor of learning to read.

 

Important Phonemic Awareness sub-skills:

Segmenting

Segmenting and blending work together in emerging literacy. Blending sounds together to make words and segmenting words into sounds needs to be taught and practised. These skills are difficult to master, but can be achieved with explicit teaching and practice.

Blending

Blending words involves saying sounds in a sequence and also blending them together to say a word (reading). For example, using the same sounds /b/ /i/ /g/ to hear and say the word big.

These skills go together as we sound out the phonemes /bbbb/ /iiiii/ /gggg/ and then join them together to make big.

Blending and segmenting are the most important of all the phonemic skills. (National Reading Panel, 2000).

Isolation

The ability to hear each separate sound in a syllable.

For example, the first sound in the word soon is /s/ and the last sound is /n/.

Alliteration

The ability to hear the first phoneme in a syllable or word. That is, the /d/ in dad. Identifying the first phoneme is a critical step in breaking words down into their separate parts.

Letter-sound knowledge – the alphabetic principle

The understanding that spoken words are made up of sounds that are represented by letters.

Required skills

  • Clapping beats in words
  • Recognising rhyming patterns
  • Detecting the separate sounds in words
  • Separating and manipulating the separate sounds in words

 

2. Phonics – sounds

Phonics is the relationship between sounds and their letter symbols.

It is the process of using letters and their sounds to sound out (decode) words. 

Phonics instruction taught early is much more effective than phonics instruction introduced after the first year of school.

For example, it is knowing that ‘ea’ can make a short ‘e’ sound as in the word ‘bread,’ and using that knowledge to sound out similar words, like ‘head.’

The awareness of sounds and how they are represented in letters is an important part of learning to read. By learning the relationship between speech sounds and letter-symbols, children can use this code to read almost any word.

Letter sound knowledge = the alphabetic principle = phonics.

We start off teaching the spoken sounds of the alphabet, then introduce vowel teams or digraphs. This is when two vowels go together to form one sound – such as the /ai/ in the word ‘rain.’

Once clearly taught, phonic skills need immediate practice in reading.

We teach systematic synthetic phonics at Tutoring Works,which has the most research to back up its use

What on earth is systematic synthetic phonics?

When children learn synthetic phonics, they learn the associations between letters and their sounds in a clear sequence. Children also learn how to blend (putting sounds together to make words) and segmenting (sounding out words).

 

The role of sight words

Sight words refer to high frequency words that do not ‘play by the rules,’ and cannot be sounded out, so they must be recognised visually. Helping children learn high frequency words is a useful way to help children who struggle with their reading. Rapid word recognition is necessary for independent reading.

3. Fluency

Fluent reading shows a reader is confident, accurate and expressive. Fluent readers read rapidly and smoothly. Fluency is affected by familiarity with words and background knowledge of the text.

Fluency is important because it frees students to understand what they read and to read for meaning.

How to improve fluency:

1. Repeated reading with guidance:

Reading the same book again may be repetitive, but repeated reading improves word recognition, speed and fluency for your child.

2. Extensive independent reading

Good readers spend much more time reading than poor readers. Children benefit from regular reading, so great encouragement should be given to your child to read books at their reading level at home.

4. Vocabulary

Vocabulary knowledge is strongly related to reading skills and school achievement in general. The greater the vocabulary, the more chance there is that readers will recognise words as they attempt to decode them.

Young readers find it incredibly difficult to make sense of words that they have not heard before and that are not part of their vocabulary.

Building a wide and varied vocabulary is an important part of a reading program.

Children learn early words and develop their vocabulary from their parents, other adults they have contact with and family members. Readers find it very difficult to read words that are not already part of their oral vocabulary.

Beyond the importance of vocabulary development for reading, word knowledge has wider implications. It influences thinking, speaking and writing throughout a child’s life.

5. Comprehension

The final fundamental skill in your child’s reading process is comprehension – the reason for it all! Comprehension is the process where your child gains meaning from what they have read, and opens the door to a world of knowledge and creativity.

For beginner readers, the most common obstacle for comprehension is poor decoding of words first, followed by vocabulary.

Typically, reading comprehension improves as decoding skills advance. In children older than 10 years who struggle with comprehension – it becomes the most concerning focus. 

Other factors that can cause difficulties in comprehension are:

  • working memory
  • making inferences
  • a child’s ability to stay focused.

Good readers have purpose

Good readers know why they are reading, whether it is to work out how to make slime, read a recipe, work out how a video game works or research a topic for an assignment.

Good readers actively engage in the text

Good readers think about what they are reading, ask question, search for answers, and mentally picture events relating to the text. Good readers know when they have difficulties what they are reading and know what to do when that happens. Good readers become involved in their own reading processes.

Poor readers do not typically do these things. They do not use comprehension strategies efficiently.

Comprehension is a skill that can be taught

Thankfully the evidence shows that comprehension can be improved when specific comprehension strategies are used.

Teachers can show children strategies that will help them develop the skill of identifying the purpose of reading by:

  • accessing prior knowledge
  • asking and answering questions as they read
  • distinguishing major content from small details
  • creating mental images as they read.

Tips for helping with teaching comprehension

Choose a variety of books, including short books

As adults, most of the reading we do is short newspaper articles, letters; emails; recipes, newsletters and so on. Yet much of the material that we ask our children to read is long. Including shorter paragraphs, sports stories, even materials like cartoons and jokes – are helpful.

Teach comprehension from the first stages of reading

Even before your child can sound out all words properly, you can start helping them with their comprehension. Teaching comprehension is really teaching thinking. Picture books can even be used to teach comprehension. Non-fiction picture books can convey an enormous amount of information through photographs, maps and diagrams.

Teach comprehension by reading to your children

Children beyond middle primary school still enjoy listening to stories. You can read at a level that is beyond their own reading level and expose them to more sophisticated vocabulary and language. You can model your own thinking as you determine the meaning of the text.

Important comprehension skills are: 

  • Clarifying the purpose of reading
  • accessing prior knowledge
  • organising new information into current knowledge
  • distinguishing major content from details
  • using a range of strategies to help understanding, such as rereading, confusing sections, creating mental images, taking notes, summarising, using concept maps and using a dictionary or thesaurus.

 

How to help your child become a reader from kinder to prep

By | Advice and Resources | No Comments

Early literacy fundamentals

Learning to read is perhaps the most important educational achievement. It is a complex process that unlike language, does not come naturally to children.

 

Children must have mastered many developmental skills before they become fluent readers. Tutoring Works Geelong created this guide for you so you can understand the processes involved as your child learns to read, write and spell in the early years.

Reading is so critical to success in our society that failing to read well in early childhood creates both problems at school and in later life. There is a strong relationship between early reading success and school failure.

For this reason, Tutoring Works believes early reading education and intervention is essential so your child will have the best chance at success throughout their education and into later life.

Early literacy (2-5 years old)

Learning to read starts in infancy

Many early experiences help your child prepare for reading. By the time they start school, thousands of hours of ‘reading experience’ has been clocked up.

In fact, the language experiences that your child develops since almost the moment of birth shape language development and their future reading success.

There is considerable evidence that a home and early education environment that values and encourages literacy provides the foundation for advanced reading and writing.

The more familiar your child is with language structures such as how to ask questions and use tenses, the more likely it is that your child will be able to read fluently in the future.

Encouraging Early Literacy

Sound awareness – Rhyming and songs

Many young children enjoy rhyming games and songs. This means they are beginning to have an awareness of the features of the English language and are developing important early phonological skills.

There is an extensive body of research showing that children who enjoy rhyming do much better at reading.

Playing games like ‘I spy’ will help your child realise that words start with particular sounds, a critically important skill when they start reading and writing.  When you say to a small child “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with M,” your child’s brain is registering that sounds match with certain squiggles on a page and things in their environment.

Teaching and practising nursery rhymes, jingles and speech rhymes will set your child up for acquiring language.

Teach your child to love books

Young children are like sponges and absorb a lot from their early experiences. When parents, grandparents and preschool teachers read to them, children begin to understand that the print means something to the people reading. They have a magic skill of ‘reading!’ – modelling the value of books encourages their desire to explore language in more depth.

At this stage, your child will see whole words as pictures. They recognise letters almost like adults recognise logos – but they are memorising shapes at this stage, rather than understanding that letter shapes go with particular sounds.

How to help with your child’s language development

  • Involve your child in lots of talking and listening
  • Ask your child lots of questions to encourage your child to talk and express ideas
  • Use new words in conversations and explain what they mean
  • Play word and listening games to build vocabulary
  • Show your child how to hold a book, where to start
  • Model the value of reading and writing in everyday life – write notes, read books and magazines, make shopping lists

Language Development

The early language experiences that children develop since almost the moment of birth shape language development. A home environment that encourages literacy provides the foundation for reading and writing. The more familiar your child is with language structures such as how to ask questions and use tenses, the more likely it is that that your child will be able to read fluently in the future

There is a strong relationship between language difficulties and school failure. The greater the spoken language, the better chance of rapid reading development and comprehension.

School language

In order to read, children need to have a broad vocabulary and knowledge of language or they will not have the background to become a reader. When they make the transition from home to school they need to use spoken language for a new range of purposes – such as telling stories, asking questions, following instructions and learning to communicate more clearly with others.

Most of the words young children hear and use are words they already know. There is a big jump between the sort of language children are exposed to at school compared to their home environment.

Your child must learn to move from informal face-to-face communication on familiar topics to more abstract language. At school, there is a demand for sophisticated and literate language.

Literate language consists of complex sentences with a number of linked ideas. Literate language involves discussing specific topics. E.g. What does the word fragile mean? What is the first word you hear in the word hippopotamus?

Language milestones at 5 Years

By the time they reach school, your child should be able to:

  • Recall part of a story
  • Speak sentences of more than five words
  • Use future tense
  • Tell longer stories
  • Say their name and address
  • Name familiar items within their environment
  • Talk to peers and adults about familiar objects
  • Ask and answer simple questions
  • Respond to simple instruction
  • Listen to, and participate in, stories, rhymes and songs
  • Know that words, not pictures, tell the story
  • Know what letters and words are
  • Know how to handle a book – knows that we read from left to right.
  • Begin to link letters with sounds. E.g. M says “mmm”

Becoming a Reader – Kinder to Prep

What can I do to get my child off to a good start for reading success before they go to school?

Read to your child daily. Children become readers on the laps of their parents.

Spend 5-10 minutes each day reading to your child. Short and colourful picture books are ideal for children so they can look at the visuals while you tell them the story.

Make story time an enjoyable time that you spend together and that your child looks forward to, so they learn to value reading and associate it with relaxing time with you.

Young children are like sponges and absorb a lot from their early experiences. When parents, grandparents and preschool teachers read to them, children begin to understand that the print means something to the people reading. They have a magic skill of ‘reading!’ – modelling the value of books encourages their desire to explore language in more depth.

Sing nursery rhymes together

Many young children enjoy rhyming games and songs. This means they are beginning to have an awareness of the features of the English language and are developing important early phonological skills. There is an extensive body of research showing that children who enjoy rhyming do much better at reading. (Adam, 1990; Burns, Griffin & Snow, 1999).

Playing games like ‘I spy’ helps children realise that words start with particular sounds, a critically important skill when they start reading and writing. When a parent says to a small child “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with M,” the child’s brain is registering that sounds match with certain squiggles on a page and things in their environment. Teaching and practising nursery rhymes, jingles and speech rhymes will set your child up for language acquisition success.

Teach your child about print and books

  • Show your child how to hold a book, where to start and that we read from left to right
  • Point out logos and text in the environment, such as street names, the police station or McDonalds.
  • Create a book with your child. Engage in a craft activity using their own drawings. You can add in text according to the story your child makes up.
  • Ensure your child has access to writing materials and paper so they can practise their motor skills and can experiment with drawing, which will pave the way for writing.

 

Involve your child in lots of talking and listening.

  • Involve your child in lots of talking and listening
  • Ask your child lots of questions to encourage your child to talk and express ideas
  • Use new words in conversations and explain what they mean
  • Play word and listening games to build vocabulary
  • Show your child how to hold a book, where to start and that we read from left to right
  • Model the value of reading and writing in everyday life – write notes, read books and magazines, make shopping lists
  • Ask open ended questions to encourage your child to talk and express ideas

Happy Reading!

Need some extra help?

Tutoring Works Geelong offers literacy (phonics) programs to help preschool children enter school with confidence, while they transition from pre-school to their first day in prep.

Read more about our school readiness program

Our program is play-based and teaches children to love learning, reduce anxiety around starting school, become confident and happy in the classroom and reach their full potential.

Plus, we promise serious fun for little people!

We believe every child to have access to education and the support they need in the early years.  

Dyslexia sign up