Today I have a guest blogger! I asked first grade teacher, literacy specialist, and all around fab lady Kirsten Wilcox to give some advice to parents with beginning or struggling readers.
Wow this is a loaded question. :D
First of all, if you have a child that is young or in the pre-reading stage, phonemic awareness is a great way to give them a boost for when they start reading. Phonemic Awareness is playing with words and sounds without print or letters. It is all auditory. For example, reading them books, singing songs, playing with rhymes, clapping syllables, changing the first letter of a word, alliteration, breaking words apart, blending sounds together to make a word are all good exercises. Nursery rhymes and singing songs with your child at a young age is a great way to build their foundation for reading. Reading to your children daily is also extremely beneficial.
When a child has learned the names and sounds of the alphabet and are able to start blending sounds together they are in the first stages of reading. When reading with a child, it is critical that children are reading books on an independent (98% accuracy) or instructional (95% accuracy) level. Anything beyond that is frustrating and will not be beneficial. A good note of thumb is if it's frustrating or difficult for you to listen to, it's probably frustrating for the child trying to do the reading. Confidence is key!
Make sure you are consistently telling them what a good reader they are. Try to keep things positive. If they're getting upset go to an easier book for a while.
When I first started reading with my 10 year old foster boy, he would get extremely angry and upset whenever he had to stop and fix a word, or got to a word he didn’t know. I knew I needed to keep things positive even though it was difficult. I would never continue until he calmed down. When kids are angry and upset their “brains turn off” (just an expression I use). I told him we needed to get our reading done before he could play, etc but I couldn’t read with him till he was calm. I also got some m&m’s and every time he came to a word he didn’t know and was able to stay calm and figure it out with my help he would get an m&m. Sometimes we have to get creative in helping our kids to feel ok about making mistakes. They many times have ingrained in their mind that they are stupid or CAN’T do it. If their mind believes they can’t do it, they really can’t. Confidence is everything, so if they’re struggling, the first step is to build their confidence through praise and finding them books they can be successful with, even if it means going back a level or two for a while. Sometimes one step back will gain two steps forward in the end.
When a child gets stuck on a word help them use reading strategies to figure it out. If you see them getting overly frustrated, it's ok to just tell them the word once in a while especially if it's a word you know they aren't going to be able to figure out.
Some of my favorite strategies are: Look at The Picture, Look for a word Inside the word (ie: hand), look for parts you know (ie: playing), Skip the word and read to the end of the sentence (I always tell my students when using this strategy to remember to go back and see if they can get it), Think about what makes sense, Think of the first word that “pops” in your head. As a child uses these strategies, I praise them for it by saying "That's what good readers do". For instance, if a child reads a word wrong but then fixes it on their own I say, "Great job self correcting! That's what good readers do!" Or if I see a child look at the picture to try and figure out a word I say, "Great job looking at the picture. That's what good readers do."
Preparing a child before they read a book is also very effective. When starting a new book with a child I always tell them the title. We look at the cover and I have them predict what they think the book is going to be about. We then go on a “picture walk”. Go through each page looking at the pictures. Have the child talk about what they see and what they thing is going to happen. As they are looking and talking about the pictures, scan the words and look for words you know they will have trouble with. Use those words over and over again as you talk about the picture with your child. Sometimes I even point out the word on the page. I say, “look at this word. It’s a hard one. This says….). Sometimes I say, “laugh is a hard word. Do you think you can find it on this page?" Then we talk about it. I keep it light and joke with them. I say, “what a crazy word!” and read it the way it would sound if I said the sound of each letter. They usually laugh and I say, “No one knows why that word is spelled that way, it’s a red word. It doesn’t follow the rules”. Basically you are preparing them to read the book, so when it comes time for them to read it they are more successful.
Thanks, Kirsten! We'll hear more from her later. What do you think? Anything she said surprise you? Any strategies that have worked for you?