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1 EDITOR'S NOTE: The following release is written as a three-part series. When reprinting, please include the boxed introduction before each section in the series. Reading is a complex skill that opens doors to learning for a lifetime. Parents play a key role in helping their child acquire the skill of reading. To best help their child, parents should familiarize themselves with how children learn to read, the teaching method being used by the child s school, and age/grade milestones in the reading process. The following three-part series, adapted from the Schwab Learning s Bridges to Reading, contains information, strategies and checklists to help parents understand the building blocks of reading. To learn to read well, children need to know how to recognize and pronounce words (decoding), the meaning of words (vocabulary), and how to understand the meaning of a group of words or connected text (comprehension). To build these foundations of reading, children need effective reading instruction. Methods of teaching reading Over the past century, two methods for teaching reading have prevailed, phonics and whole language. A phonics approach focuses instruction on learning to associate printed letters and combinations of letters with their corresponding sounds. Phonics instruction gives students strategies to unlock or decode words. A phonics approach to teaching reading can include: Sounding out words as a way of figuring out new words. For example, in a phonics lesson, moon would be sounded out as /m/ + /oo/ + /n/. Practice worksheets or exercises on letter sounds, matching pictures with spoken words, short vowel/long vowel or letter of the week. The whole language approach is based on the understanding that reading is finding the meaning in written language. Multiple experiences with words written and spoken are the focus of whole language. A whole language approach to teaching reading can include: Teaching reading and writing throughout the day in the context of the lesson topics. Teachers emphasizing storybooks rather than worksheets as well as multiple writing opportunities. A decade of research shows us that there is no one best way to build literacy skills in children. A balanced approach to teaching reading combines a strong foundation in phonics with whole language methods. Only through more than one kind of instruction can students gain the skills to recognize and manipulate the sounds of letters and words and the skills to understand what they read. Since all children learn differently, only a balanced approach to teaching reading can give all children the skills they need to read well.

2 Part I: Decoding In order to read and spell, students must be able to blend sounds together to make syllables and blend syllables together to make words. Also, they must be able to break down words into syllables and syllables into sounds. Students can be taught these skills. Children in the first and second grades must learn consonant and vowel sounds and other common letter patterns such as ar in park, oo in moon, and ai in rain. By the third and fourth grades, children should know prefixes and suffixes such as un in unlikely. They should also know compound words and rules for adding suffixes. In the fifth and sixth grades, students are ready to begin learning the Latin and Greek word roots, such as scrib = to write as in scribble. These roots are found in many thousands of longer words and are excellent clues that will help students decode word meanings. Children with reading problems generally have trouble decoding single words. They do not read new words correctly and quickly, and they have trouble understanding the meaning of words and comprehending their meaning in a sentence. However, children with learning disabilities can learn to become skilled, independent readers. If they receive direct, explicit instruction in a research-based phonics program. Children with learning disabilities benefit from being taught skills in phonemic awareness and phonics in a systematic approach. Strategies to Improve Decoding You can work with your child to improve her decoding skills. The following strategies may help your child become familiar with letter and sound and patterns. Read Dr. Seuss, repeat nursery rhymes so that your child has the opportunity to hear rhymes. As you read to your child, point out words that rhyme because they contain the same vowel and final consonant as in fat, mat, sat; moon, spoon, loon. Play rhyming games with your child. You can even use pretend words that show sound patterns. Point out consistent patterns that may appear in a story such as words ending in ing or er, or words with the same prefix such as return, rerun, remember. Read aloud at the same time your child is reading to himself or aloud. You can read billboards together while driving in the car, or practice reading the words of a favorite song or poem. Assist your older child in finding the prefixes, roots, and suffixes in words like photograph, submarine, and normally. This practice will help your child use decode words.

3 Checklist for Decoding Instruction If you suspect your child might have reading problems, go through this checklist. If your child is unable to complete several of the items on the checklist, this should not be considered a problem unless most children his age are able to complete the same tasks. However, if you answer Sometimes or Seldom to many of these items, and if other children of the same age are able to complete similar tasks, it could indicate that your child has a problem. If that is the case, take the checklist to your child s teacher to determine what can be done to help your child, if there is a problem. My child: Usually Sometimes Seldom Can tell whether two sounds are the same or different, e.g., /d/ /t/ Can name words that begin with the same sound Can say the alphabet and name the letters Can match a letter with its sound Can blend sounds into words Has an adequate sight or reading vocabulary Reads words aloud accurately and remembers them Reads sentences aloud fluently

4 Reading is a complex skill that opens doors to learning for a lifetime. Parents play a key role in helping their child acquire the skill of reading. To best help their child, parents should familiarize themselves with how children learn to read, the teaching method being used by the child s school, and age/grade milestones in the reading process. The following three-part series, adapted from the Schwab Learning s Bridges to Reading, contains information, strategies and checklists to help parents understand the building blocks of reading. To learn to read well, children need to know how to recognize and pronounce words (decoding), the meaning of words (vocabulary), and how to understand the meaning of a group of words or connected text (comprehension). To build these foundations of reading, children need effective reading instruction. Part II: Vocabulary A child s vocabulary consists of receptive and expressive words. Receptive words are words your child understands when she hears or reads them. This listening vocabulary is important for understanding the spoken word and helps children follow directions, understand lessons, and link objects and events to precise words. Receptive vocabulary is also important in understanding the meaning of the words read in a storybook, textbook, or other written material. Expressive vocabulary refers to the words children use to bring vivid meaning to their thoughts and ideas. As your child s expressive language improves, she becomes more precise in speaking and writing words. Strategies to Improve Vocabulary You play an important role in your child s development of vocabulary. Here are some strategies to improve your child s vocabulary: Use precise words as you label objects or people and places, such as, Uncle Randy is about three inches taller than Aunt Donna. Ask your children precise questions such as, What did you and Timmy eat when you went out for supper with his parents? Wait for your child to answer. Talk about words with multiple meanings, such as duck. As you introduce new words, use them in several settings and contexts. When you read with your child, point out clues to the meanings of words found in the rest of the sentence. Using these context clues will be helpful for the child s independent reading. Point out the structural clues to the meaning of words found in their prefixes, roots, and suffixes. For example, contrast the meaning of dislike and unlike, or discuss the structural clues found in report, import, export and deport.

5 Checklist for Vocabulary Instruction To determine if your child struggles with vocabulary, fill out the following checklist. Remember that your answers should be age-appropriate. Note that your child has a problem if she struggles more than children her same age. If you answer that she sometimes or seldom completes the items in the checklist, take the checklist to her teacher to determine what can be done to help your child. My child: Usually Sometimes Seldom Can explain meanings of words spoken to her or use them in context Shows she understand words by being able to explain what she s read Uses a rich vocabulary in speaking and writing Figures out word meaning from context Analyzes the structure of a word to understand its meaning i.e., un-like-ly (prefix, root, suffix)

6 Reading is a complex skill that opens doors to learning for a lifetime. Parents play a key role in helping their child acquire the skill of reading. To best help their child, parents should familiarize themselves with how children learn to read, the teaching method being used by the child s school, and age/grade milestones in the reading process. The following three-part series, adapted from the Schwab Learning s Bridges to Reading, contains information, strategies and checklists to help parents understand the building blocks of reading. To learn to read well, children need to know how to recognize and pronounce words (decoding), the meaning of words (vocabulary), and how to understand the meaning of a group of words or connected text (comprehension). To build these foundations of reading, children need effective reading instruction. Part III: Comprehension Your child s comprehension or understanding of written words depends on two skills: the ability to recognize single words and the ability to develop a vocabulary appropriate to her age. Your child must also understand the meaning of the words in a sentence and, as she progresses, the meaning of words in a paragraph, page and story. To understand a sentence, a reader must know how the subject and verb are related. In order to understand a paragraph, a reader must comprehend the story topic, the paragraph s main idea, and the supporting detail. Readers also need to understand the function of opening and closing paragraphs within the text. If older students can identify the style of paragraphs descriptive (specific details), sequential (order), or argumentative/persuasive (convincing) then they will have better comprehension of the text. Strategies on Helping Your Child Improve Comprehension Discuss the elements of a story as you read it to your child. Ask her to name the main characters and summarize the plot. Have her retell or illustrate a story in sequence. Discuss the story elements found in a television show or film you watch with your child. Contrast the attitudes and behaviors of several characters in a graphic organizer, such as a matrix. Have your child draw a timeline of important events, such as the events in her life or in a story. Tape important sections of a story or textbook for your child. Listen to these sections several times and discuss the key points together. Learning a variety of these strategies will certainly improve your child s reading skills, and it will also improve her ability to write compositions. She will be able to use what she learns about text styles and the elements of sentences and paragraphs to write stories and reports.

7 Checklist for Comprehension Instruction To determine if your child struggles with comprehension, fill out the following checklist. If you answer sometimes or seldom to many of the items, and other children the same age as your child are able to complete similar tasks, your child may have a reading problem. If you suspect there is a problem, take the checklist to your child s teacher to determine what can be done to help her. My child: Usually Sometimes Seldom Decodes words accurately and automatically Understands the precise meaning of words. Can identify the main idea in a paragraph Can separate important from unimportant details in a story Can read several paragraphs and summarize them accurately Understands the elements of stories Knows the various structures in expository text Can graphically organize a story or summarize an expository passage

8 For More Information Contact Micheline Kennedy Carter Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (202) J. Thomas Viall The International Dyslexia Association (410) or (800) ABCD123 (toll free) Shirley Gazsi National Center for Learning Disabilities (888) (toll free) Ann Kornblet Learning Disabilities Association of America (888) Ann Wallace Schwab Learning (650) Kirsten McBride Council for Learning Disabilities (913) Division for Learning Disabilities at the Council for Exceptional Children (888) (toll free) The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CCLD) is a collaborative public awareness effort of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, the International Dyslexia Association, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the Division for Learning Disabilities at the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council for Learning Disabilities, and Schwab Learning. CCLD is generously supported by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.

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