Have you ever wondered how you can support the students in your life and help them build their skills outside the classroom? Maren Kioga, director of Reading Corps, shares five easy and effective tactics to support reading proficiency.
1) Help your student recognize letters and sounds.
“Before kids are reading with their eyeballs on words, they’re listening to and understanding how language works, fits together and is taken apart,” Kioga shares. Since children’s names are often the first things they learn to spell, Kioga says this is the ideal place to begin understanding phonics. For example, if your child’s name is Braxton, they may already recognize the letters of their name as well as the sound the letters B and R make together. From there, you can teach your child that other letter combinations make the same sounds, such as “brother” or “bread.” Once your child masters the sounds that come from their own name, it’s likely that they can better understand common patterns between other letter combinations.
Another way to aid recognition is making children aware of when words rhyme. For example, if your child knows how to spell “can,” teach them how “man” or “fan” are similar. Not only is this an approachable means of learning, but it’s a fun way for children to learn about sounds. Beyond explaining that rhyming happens when words sound alike, you can teach them how rhyming words are spelled similarly. Oftentimes, it only takes changing the beginning letter of a word to make an entirely new meaning. If your child understands rhyming, including how rhyming impacts spelling, it can multiply the number of words they can spell in just a short period of time.
2) Attach significance to words that a child often sees
If you’re a parent or caregiver, chances are that your child regularly pesters you with the routine question of “What does _____ mean?” This is a golden opportunity for early learners to absorb what they know in the outside world before they even enter the classroom. Take road signs for example – Kioga regularly uses these with her own kids to teach them how words hold significance. A mere stop sign is a great place to start. Here, you can explain to your child how the “stop” on the sign conveys directions, which drivers in turn follow. Not only will this teach your early learners that words and messages are written everywhere, but it will also show them the importance of reading in sending and receiving messages.
3) Read the same things repeatedly
When kids read the same thing more than once, it increases their reading skills. “If you read the book Cat in the Hat and you read it out loud 50 times, eventually they’re going to pick up on a couple of the words in there,” Kioga explains. After a child graduates from having stories read to them, it’s their turn to read things repeatedly to themselves for more advanced practice. “It’s the reason why we read our favorite poem more than one time or our favorite book more than one time,” Kioga says. “It’s easier to read something the second or third or fourth time, because you know what to expect and know what’s coming.” This, she goes on, increases a child’s fluency – otherwise known as the amount to which a child can accurately and swiftly read and comprehend text.
4) Ask your child questions about what they have read
When it comes down to it, reading is about significance. So once your child is able to comfortably read by themselves, the next step is getting comprehension down. “Parents can just ask questions like ‘What was that story about?’ or ‘What do you think is going to happen next?’” Kioga suggests. Information is why we read as adults, which is why comprehension should be practiced as early as possible. Later on in children’s lifetimes, they will have to read and absorb routine documents like written driver’s tests or apartment rental agreements. Getting this routine down with your child in their early education will therefore make this challenge less steep.
5) Foster a positive learning environment
This one may seem obvious, but there’s a significant chance that your child might not be reading in an environment that’s going to give them the most enjoyable experience. Reading is often seen as homework for children when it doesn’t have to be. “If the child is unhappy or bored or it’s too hard, or if the child ends up crying, none of that is going to make them want to be a better reader,” Kioga explains. It’s up to parents to cultivate that positive relationship and feeling around reading – and the best way to do that is to tie it to something that the child enjoys. “Frame it as something they want to engage in, not something that’s laborious or hard, because that just sets up a child for no success in the future.”
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