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Friday, April 4, 2014

What it Takes to be a Good Reader


What Does it Take to be a Great Reader?

What a great question for any parent or educator to ask!  We know the answer.  The National Reading Panel (NPR), after looking at all the research, concluded that effective reading instruction addresses five areas of necessary skills.  Every child needs to develop this core foundation to experience reading success. When parents understand what these are they can better assess the quality of their child’s reading curriculum and work collaboratively with the school and teachers to ensure that each element is being addressed.  Here they are:

           1)  Phonemic Awareness

Words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes.  Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words.  These skills are a precursor to print awareness; before a child can identify the sounds of letters (which are presented through print), (s)he must become aware of how the sounds in words work.  An example is the ability to recognize words that begin with the same sound (e.g., bat, bike, and ball all start with /b/).  Another is blending, recognizing that /c/ + /a/ + /t/ = “cat”.  You can make up games pertaining to these skills at home with your child. 

Parents will often hear the term phonological awareness as well.  Broader in nature, phonological awareness includes phonemic awareness, but expands to incorporate the child’s understanding that there are patterns within words that can aid in both reading and writing.  Children use phonological awareness skills to rhyme and manipulate syllables as they learn to play with the sounds of words. 

            2) Phonics

It is very common for parents to confuse Phonics with Phonemic Awareness, but they refer to two different sets of skills.  As you just learned, Phonemic Awareness refers to the child’s understanding of the auditory elements of language, distinct phonemes.  Phonics is the relationship between a specific letter and its sound; it pertains only to written language.  

When a child “sounds out” a word, she is engaging phonics.  For example, for the word desk, the child decodes each individual sound /d/ /e/ /s/ /k/, this is employing phonics.  She then blends those sounds to create the word desk, thereby using Phonemic Awareness as well. 

Phonics is used in reading and writing.  In the first instance the child decodes words: goes from letter to sound.  In the second, he encodes, going from sound to letter representation. 

            3) Fluency

Fluent readers can read text with speed, accuracy, and proper expression.  Fluency depends upon well-developed word recognition skills, but such skills do not inevitably lead to Fluency.  Fluency develops from reading practice.  Classroom practices that encourage repeated oral reading with feedback and guidance leads to meaningful improvements in reading expertise for students—for good readers as well as those who are experiencing difficulties. 

           4)  Vocabulary

Reading comprehension is largely comprised of two skills: vocabulary and reasoning.

Vocabulary is essential to a reader’s understanding of text.  The broader one’s word knowledge, the more readily they comprehend what they read (and what they hear).  

Vocabulary needs be taught both directly and indirectly, while being incorporated into reading instruction.  The more connections that can be made to a specific word, the better it is learned.  Making connections with other reading material or oral language in other contexts has a better effect than learning a word in isolation.  It is also best for a student to encounter vocabulary words often and in various ways, rather than in regards to only one reading passage or lesson.  Students should be given items that will be likely to appear in many contexts, not just reading.  The context in which a word is learned is critical.  It is essential that vocabulary words are useful to the learner in many contexts.  

How can you help to broaden your child’s vocabulary?  Easy, talk to him/her, lots (!), and read to him/her, daily! 

          5) Comprehension

This is the goal!  We teach reading so that the student has access to material, vast and deep, through printed text.  The NRP concluded that these seven comprehension strategies are most effective and promising for classroom instruction:

·         comprehension monitoring
·         cooperative learning
·         summarization
·         graphic and semantic organizers including story maps
·         question answering
·         question generation
·         “multiple strategy,” where readers and teachers interact over texts

For more information on reading development or to see the full report of the National Reading Panel, go to www.nationalreadingpanel.org.

And be sure to take some time to read with your children today!

Be Well,

Jennifer


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