STOCKTON DESK - Mothers can easily teach their baby to read. It's easier than you think. Remember your teaching must take place all day, every
day and must include:
(1) attention to spoken and written words
(2) practicing sounds based on phonics regularities in spelling, and
meaning based on the use of simple sentence structures
(3) individual tutoring and group language play activities for children.
Probably the most important element of your reading program for your baby
is your own understanding that spoken words and syllables are themselves
made up of sequences of elementary speech sounds. This understanding is
essential for teaching those sounds to your baby. Learning to read our
alphabetic language depends on these elementary sounds that letters represent.
In the early stages of your baby's reading program use sounds in association
with the shape of the letters of the alphabet.
There is nothing that is more important to good readers. General intelligence,
reading readiness, and listening are all testing your baby's ability
to identify the sound-meaning relationship(Stanovich, 1986, 1993).
The lack of this awareness is the most powerful determinant of reading
failure in the primary grades.
Failure to learn the English alphabetic system and in learning how
print represents spoken words can be avoided by early home teaching.
When young children can hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words
to express themselves, they have an extremely good chance of becoming
superior readers in school (Adams, 1990).
As your baby becomes confident in the use of spoken language, they
quite naturally begin to attend to meaning associated with sound. From
that point on, you can teach your baby to read well through language
activities that encourage active exploration and experimentation with
sounds to familiarize your child with writing down spoken words on paper
with a pencil (Hobbs, 1973).
Teaching your baby to read is important whether your child is in nursery,
prekindergarten, kindergarten, or first grade (Yopp, 1992).
Try to encourage your child to attend to the separate words of sentences
(e.g., rhyming songs, print tracking); then break up words into syllables
(e.g., clapping syllables); next, detect and generate rhymes; move along
to engage in alliterative language play (e.g., listening for or generating
words that begin with a specific initial phoneme); then blend phonemes
to make words (e.g., /b/-/a/-/t/= bat); and make new words by substituting
one phoneme for another (e.g., change the /h/ in "hot" to
/p/); finally, identify the middle and final phonemes of words; then
segment words into phonemes (e.g., dog = /d/-/o/-/g/).
Remember When You Teach Reading To Your Baby - You Are Training The
Way Your Baby's Mind Works!
Letter Names and Shapes
When the young child can quickly recognize letter shapes, it is time
to begin teaching simple word spelling. The child can then begin to
appreciate that all words are made of sequences and patterns of letters,
sounds, and meanings. Children can then comfortably discriminate the
shape of one letter from another. That is the time to begriming teaching
Encouraging young children to produce their own spellings of simple
words is a powerful way to communicate acceptance of their efforts.
Children will begin to write on their own as soon as they can form the
letters with adequate ease and to their own satisfaction.
Generally, knowing the names of the letters in the alphabet is more
a test of memory than of ability to read from the knowledge of the sound
those letters make in while words. Yet, public school teachers have
historically relied upon a child's ability to name all the letters,
as a criterion for reading readiness.
Because the names and shapes of the letters in English are very similar
to one another, their learning is best fostered through numerous guided
and playful exposures to the alphabet. Across the prekindergarten and
kindergarten years, mothers should create many opportunities to engage
their children with the names, shapes, and formation of the letters
of the alphabet.
Phonic teaching refers to a teaching method where letter-sound correspondences
for letters and letter clusters are taught by drill; blended; practiced
in words, word lists, and word families; and practiced initially in
text with a high percentage of decodable words linked to the phonics
In reading for meaning, skillful readers move their eyes through text
left to right, line by line, and word by word. With the exception of
short function words, such as a, on, of, and any,
they almost never skip or guess. Instead, they fixate on very nearly
each and every word of text.
Further, during the fraction of a second that they do so, they take
in -and must take in - all of its letters, translating them to speech
sounds on their way to evoking the word's meaning.
These word recognition processes are far too rapid and automatic for
skillful readers to be aware of them. Nevertheless, their reality has
been broadly confirmed through a variety of technologically sophisticated
research methods with mature readers, including eye-movement recordings
and brain-imaging techniques.
To become a skillful reader, your child must learn how to decode words
instantly and effortlessly. In doing this, your child must be taught
initially to examine the letters and letter patterns of every new word
It is perfectly acceptable to tach the young reader to rely on context
for word identification, but good readers soon abandon that time consuming
technique as reading speed increases (Stanovich, 1980).
Your young reader must develop fast, accurate decoding skills in order
to be able to take full advantage of a public school instruction.
The reason that phonics instruction is frequently used by experienced
reading specialists is that it really helps young children understand,
apply, and learn the alphabetic principle that is the foundation of
the spelling conventions of written expression.
Phonics is systematic and gradually builds from basic elements to more
subtle and complex patterns.
The goal of teaching your baby to read is for you to convey the logic
of the reading and writing system and to invite its extension to new
words that your child will encounter on his own.
Your phonics instruction is best conducted with a relatively small
set of consonants and short vowels. These spelling-sound relationships
should be developed progressively. By using this limited set of letters
to build as many familiar words as possible, students can be convinced
of the utility of phonics and shown that every letter matters. Most
commonly, initial lessons should focus on short words that adhere to
the basic left-to-right principle of sounding and blending, such as
fat and fit.
Once your child has learned to sound out such basic short-vowel patterns,
lessons should be extended to include the most common other vowel spellings.
Children who understand how the alphabetic principle works can find
it easy to add new letter-sound pairs to the working set.
Whether irregular or not, those short words of extremely high frequency,
such as the, of,are, and you, should become
easily recognized from the beginning. Text cannot be written without
these very high frequency words.
As other irregular words are added along the way, it is worth noting
them and their phonetic regularities.
Context has a powerful effect on your child's comprehension of words
and sentences. The use of syntactic (grammar) and semantic (meaning)
levels is helpful in a number of ways. Sometimes the young reader will
use context cues when learning decoding skills. Context is also useful
to resolve ambiguity (e.g., in the two pronunciations of the word read).
A third use is to suggest a possible meaning when a word is unknown
to the reader (e.g., the meaning of facade when the reader does
not know that facade means the front or face of a building).
Fluency with text is the ultimate key to the door of comprehension
and higher-order thinking.
The best reading instruction you can provide is to provide a strong
relationship between what your child learns in phonics and what he reads.
A high proportion of the words in the earliest selections your child
is given to read should conform to the phonics already learned. After
your child has demonstrated initial mastery of the phonics level taught,
it is also essential that context be integrated, through sharing reading
and writing activities.
Good spelling is important to your child's reading fluency and future
vocabulary development (Adams, Treiman, and Pressley, 1996; Read, 1986).
By engaging your child in thinking actively and reflectively about
the sounds of words and their spellings, a strong cognitive foundation
for both independent learning has been established.
Gradually, the focus of you instructional activities for your child
should be extended to more complex spelling patterns and words. Moving
pattern by pattern from basics through consonant blends, long vowel
spellings, inflections, and so on, the primary goal is to instill the
larger logic and regularities of the system and its conventions. The
early exploratory lessons will evolve seamlessly into formal spelling
instruction.challenges is that of persuading children to go beyond this
In public school beyond Third Grade, you should visit your child's
teachers and inquire if they are using instruction to extend spellings
and meanings of prefixes, suffixes, and word roots. This cannot be emphasized
Leading children to notice such patterns across many the many different
contexts covered in the school curricula makes it easier for your child
to learn the particular words in the teacher's lesson. At the same time,
it supports their ability to look for and use such spelling patterns
and word analysis strategies beyond the lesson in their own reading
and writing.challenges is that of persuading children to go beyond this
The primary goal of spelling instruction, is to alert your child to
patterns, to how words are put together, and to conventions and correctness.
Spelling lists and quizzes should be purposeful and support and reinforce
reading and writing instruction. Extensive reading and writing, including
opportunities to edit for final publication, for real purposes and audiences,
play an indispensable role in mastering spelling.challenges is that
of persuading children to go beyond this tendency.
Vocabulary Development challenges is that of persuading children
to go beyond this tendency.
Written language places far greater demands on your child's vocabulary
knowledge than does casual spoken language. Indeed, more advanced texts
depend so heavily on precise wording to build meaning and message that,
from the middle grades on, students' reading comprehension can be closely
estimated by measures of their vocabulary. Your child will be able to
learn from these texts only if he approaches them with most of the vocabulary
he is required to already know.
Learning to read brings with it special opportunities as well as special
needs for expanding one's vocabulary. Current communication research
indicates that of the roughly 3,000 new words that the average student
learns per year, the majority are learned by encountering them in text.
However, the number of new words that children can learn from text depends
on how much they read, and the amount that children read ranges enormously.
As documented by research, the ninetieth percentile fifth grader reads
about 200 times more text per year than the tenth percentile reader
does (Nagy, Herman, and Anderson, 1985).
In the interest of vocabulary development, your child should be read
to as much as possible. Yet this cannot be the whole solution. First,
your child needs to be encouraged to attend to the meanings of new words
he encounters in text. Second, your child's ability to understand and
remember the meanings of new words depends quite strongly on how well
developed his vocabulary is already.
When your child is able to read effortlessly and accurately, he will
then be able to construct meaning. He will be able to work with the
words of the text that gives him a literal understanding of what the
author has written. And he will be able to answer the question, What
is the author's point of view? What are the underlying assumptions?
Do I understand what the author is saying and why? Do I know where the
author is headed? Is the text internally consistent? Is it consistent
with what I already know and believe or have learned elsewhere? If not,
where does it depart and what do I think about the discrepancy?
It is the deeper level of meaning construction that yields this sort
of reflective, purposeful understanding that leads to a real education,
The productivity of your student's higher-order comprehension processes
is limited by his vocabulary and reading fluency in two ways. First,
these higher-order processes are necessarily thought-intensive. They
require analytic, evaluative, and reflective access to local and long-term
memory. challenges is that of persuading children to go beyond this
Yet active attention is limited. To the extent that your child is forced
to struggle with the words, he will necessarily lose track of meaning.
Second, it is the wording or explicitly given information in the text
that constitutes the basic data with which the higher-order comprehension
processes must work. When your child skips-over or fails to understand
the words of the text, comprehension suffers.
In the interest of developing your student's reading comprehension,
he should be given many opportunities for open discussion of both the
highlights and difficulties of text. Because the grammatical structures
of written text are more varied and complex than those of casual, oral
language, regular exploration and explicit instruction on formal syntax
are also justified.
Your child's reflective control of text can be improved through direct
instruction in comprehension strategies. Beginning in kindergarten,
they should be a regular part of your child's reading an language arts
curriculum throughout his school years. You can always discuss these
matters with your child's public school teachers to find reassurance
that the school is providing this important educative function for your
The single most valuable activity for developing children's comprehension
is, of course, deep and wide reading itself. The amount of reading that
your child does is shown to predict the growth in reading comprehension
across the elementary school years even after controlling for entry-level
differences. It predicts the quantity as well as the language, vocabulary,
and structure of your child's writing ability in later years.
It also predicts the richness of your child's oral storytelling. Among
older students and adults, it predicts receptive vocabulary, verbal
fluency, content-area achievement, and all manner of general knowledge
even when other measures of school ability, general intelligence, age,
education, and reading comprehension itself are taken out of the equation
(Anderson et al., 1984; Adams, Treiman, and Pressley, 1996; Stanovich,
Through reading, your student encounter new words, new language, and
new facts. Beyond that, however, he will encounter thoughts and modes
of thinking that might never arise in his face-to-face worlds. In the
interest of your child's own greatest potential and fulfillment, he
should be encouraged to read as frequently, broadly, and thoughtfully
Appropriate Instructional Materials
A balanced, comprehensive early literacy program for your child must
embrace a variety of reading materials available free of charge in the
local public library. To illustrate the range, these may include environmental
print, student compositions, classroom anthologies, trade books (e.g.,
literature books that are not part of a traditional textbook series),
chapter books,core works of fiction and nonfiction, magazines, newspapers,
reference materials, and technology.
Whatever the nature of the material, however, the mode in which it
is read can be roughly divided into three categories: read-alouds, instructional
reading, and independent reading.
Illustrated story books are most suitable for kindergartners and longer
stories and even well-chosen novels are within reach by the end of first
grade level child.
Choose stories, chapter books, and poems; but also choose reference
books and news clippings; math, science, and history; biographies; jokes
and brainteasers. Use read-aloud sessions as a means of helping your
child to explore language, and information. The goal is to whet his
appetite, open his curiosity, kindle his knowledge, and show him the
To encourage optimal progress with the use of any of these early reading
materials, you will need to be aware of the difficulty level of the
text relative to your child's reading level. Sign-up your child for
his own Library Card, and just ask a librarian to help your child select
an appropriate reading level story book. Visit the Library often. The
rest will take care of itself.
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