Thursday, 6 October 2011

Learning to Read

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.
- Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

Reading is a huge part of school life. In fact, children start school with the expectation that they are at school to learn to read (which is fantastic and exciting!). My goal is to convey the enjoyment of reading and invite them to explore the magic of books.

It doesn't matter if your child can't read when they turn five, because often they already know the basics without even realising it. They know these because they have had stories read to them, they have seen other people around them reading, and they have held and turned the pages of their own books (even if they have just been looking at the pictures).

Children often start school with all sorts of book knowledge.

Things like:
  • How to hold the book so the pictures are the correct way up.
  • How to open the front cover.
  • That you can turn the pages one at a time.
  • That the pictures often relate to the story.
  • That print contains a message.
I start reading with children on their first day of school (guided reading), often these books contain a word or a very simple repeated sentence on each page and a picture that strongly relates to the word. The children can 'read' because they are able to use the picture to figure out what the word is.
When they bring this book home it will often seem like they are reading from memory. That's okay, because they are! Being able to remember the words of a book is a good strategy for a beginning reader, but they are still using several other important reading strategies. 
In 'kidspeak' here are the first reading strategies that I use with beginning (emergent) readers:

We are learning to (WALT) ....
  • Look at the picture for a clue. WHY? Because pictures tell us about the story.
  • Point under the word. WHY? So we know what word we are reading.
  • Point to each word as we say it. WHY? So we what word to say.
  • Make the beginning sound of a tricky word. WHY? So we can try to guess the word.
Several other concepts about reading are modelled (through my physical actions and through thinking aloud) to the children as we read; how to turn the pages correctly, where to start when reading a sentence (left to right and top to bottom), that the purpose of reading is to gain meaning from the text, and understand the idea that words convey meaning.  

So, when your child brings a book home to read with you, share their excitement. 
Don't be disappointed if it seems like they have memorised the text. Remind them to look at the picture for a clue if they get stuck. Help them point under each word as they say it. And make the first sound of a tricky word with them. 

(Look at my 'Starting School' page for how to make the letter sounds)

When they finish reading to you, ask them about the story; What was their favourite part? What did they learn? Can they retell you the story? Ask your child to point out a repeated word in the story (basic sight words like; I, the, and, is, am, can, Mum, Dad).

And, remember to record the date, name of the story, and a comment about their reading in your child's home-reading diary. As a teacher this is always helpful as I can see what reading strategy they are using, words they did well with, or what is still tricky and will I need to reinforce in our next guided reading session. 

Of course, don't forget to keep reading to your child. They will still love listening to you read.

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