How do kids learn to read? It’s a question that many parents ask themselves when their child is coming up in kindergarten. And it’s an important one, too! The ability to read well can profoundly affect your child’s future success in school and later in life. This blog post will take you through the seven most influential factors impacting your child’s reading abilities.
Understanding how sounds are connected to print
One of the most important factors in determining reading ability is understanding how sounds are connected to print. Children need to be able to connect letters and their corresponding phonemes for them to read fluently. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations like the National PTA recommend that parents help children develop this connection by beginning phonics instruction between 18-24 months old.
This will give their brains ample time to learn sound associations and enough time before they begin schooling. Learning sight words become much more difficult due to higher cognitive demands on attention span and memory capacity.
A program such as DIBELS will assess different skills necessary for children to be successful readers, including phonological awareness, decoding, word recognition, fluency, vocabulary knowledge, comprehension, and generalization. These assessments provide crucial information on how well the child has learned these skills so parents can make sure they receive any needed instruction or help with their developmental process at home or school.
In addition to providing an assessment of a child’s literacy ability level through their performance on tests administered by trained professionals, which offer valuable insight into what may need more attention in terms of teaching methods and materials used (e.g., books), it is also important for parents to be mindful of their child’s day-to-day literacy experience in and out of school.
This involves understanding what reading materials are available at home, how much time the parents spend with their children during storytime or bedtime reading, if they have access to books when traveling, whether there is a book club or library card for them as well as being aware of any difficulties they may have processing text such as dyslexia.
It also includes paying attention to which words seem difficult for the child to decode and learning new vocabulary from context clues given in different contexts.
To diagnose specific learning disabilities that inhibit academic success, including but not limited to dyslexia (an auditory phonological problem), researchers use standardized tests like Weschler IQ or DQA.
The development of reading fluency
Reading fluency is the automatic, smooth reading of the text. Fluent readers can read quickly and easily while maintaining good comprehension. Developing such a skill takes time (usually around two years) and practice. Kids need both good decoding skills as well as strong vocabulary knowledge to become fluent readers.
They also must be given plenty of opportunities for reading in different contexts that will help them develop their language skills—reading aloud during storytime or bedtime routines, talking about books they have been enjoying at school or on family outings, etcetera!
Fluency can be developed by employing these strategies: having kids “chunk” words into phrases when they come across unfamiliar ones; using repetition so that kids can hear the sound of those words and get a better sense of what they might mean; work on pronouncing consonant sounds, such as “s” or “t.”
Here are seven factors influencing your child’s reading ability:
1. How much experience with books will your child have? The more exposure to print before kindergarten, the greater success in literacy skills afterward. This is why it is so important for kids who haven’t experienced any pre-literacy activities before starting school!
2. How does your child react when interacting with text? Will he be able to decode well enough to read aloud at slightly below their grade level by third grade (i.e., if there were a few words that he couldn’t decode, would his peers be able to help him)?
3. How well does your child write and spell? Does their writing align with grammar conventions (i.e., do they capitalize letters in sentences properly)? Will they learn how to read if they have trouble understanding what is being asked for in a text’s instructions?
4. What matter are you reading about or talking about when exploring literacy skills with your child? Is it something like “the dog ran,” which will likely not present as many challenges for an emerging reader because there are only three different phonemes used–“d,” “y,” and “a?” Or is it something more complex, like a recipe, which will require a reader to decode and comprehend more than six phonemes with some unfamiliar terms?
5. How much exposure does your child have to read opportunities in their everyday lives, both at home as well as outside of the home (i.e., is there an adult who reads aloud or tells stories while you’re cooking dinner together)?
6. What is the context in which you’re engaged in reading with your child? For example, is it a book that we are sharing and I’m asking questions or giving prompts to help them engage actively with the text, such as “tell me about this picture,” or am I simply highlighting words for them to input into an app on their device so they can hear how that word might sound when spoken aloud?
7. How often does my child have formal instruction on literacy skills (i.e., during school time)? Does my child’s teacher provide specific opportunities for children to read authentic texts at appropriate levels of difficulty across content areas throughout each day rather than expecting students to rise through differentiated tiers of books based solely upon grade level designation?
Constructing meaning from print
The ultimate goal of reading instruction is to enable children to understand what they read, how children construct meaning and the pace at which they do so depend on many factors.
Factors that can affect reading ability include:
– Ability to identify letters in print. This is also known as “letter knowledge” or “print awareness.” Children need letter knowledge before they are ready for instruction on how the letters represent speech sounds and words, a decoding process (trying to figure out what word was written from just looking at its printed form without sounding it out).
A child with only partial letter knowledge may know some of their ABCs but not others or may be able to recognize the first few letters he sees in a familiar word like a cat but not have an intuitive understanding of the rest of the alphabet order. It takes time and practice—often more than two years—to build a full letter knowledge.
A child needs to have reading readiness skills before he can become a successful reader. This includes being able to listen and follow directions, stay focused on one activity for an extended period of time without getting bored or distracted, understand the meaning of written words as they are read in sentences, and recognize that letters represent speech sounds (called phonemic awareness), and identify specific letter shapes that form each word (letter knowledge).
– A strong vocabulary helps children learn how print works because it provides them with more information about what they see on the page—they can make guesses about new words based on their prior understanding of others. One way parents bolster their kids’ vocabularies is by talking extensively about objects from everyday life.
– Children should read from an early age to practice their literacy and comprehension skills, but they also need opportunities for hands-on exploration with books. Kids must understand how the book is structured (e.g., front cover, page numbers), know what illustrations are called pictures, and distinguish between words on a page versus signs in public spaces or labels used by adults at home (i.e., “stop sign”).
– Kids can be exposed to print in many ways—through television shows and commercials and store signage while out shopping with parents or reading text messages sent from friends during playdates—so it’s good to talk about these sources; of print media together too! Weather, maps, and money are just a few examples of everyday print sources that kids can explore in-depth with parents.
Other factors that influence learning to read
– How many words do children hear each day via conversations, songs, and television.
– The age when a child begins reading to themselves.
– A family’s cultural background – including the language spoken in the home.
– If English is not their first language, it can be challenging for some kids to learn how sounds are linked with letter combinations on paper because they may have never been exposed to this before or had any experience sounding out words phonetically (i.e., making up nonsense sounds that represent letters).
– What type of media environment exists at home: books everywhere? Is TV always blaring? Soothing music playing all day long? Are there lots of opportunities for activities like coloring, drawing, crafts, and imaginative play?
– How much time kids spend reading – and whether they enjoy it.
– How parents encourage their children to read, too. Do you make a big deal when your child reads something that isn’t a favorite book or does he proudly share every new title on his shelf with you?
– Finally, what’s the family culture around books in general. How often do people read together at home (even if not always from an actual book)? Does everyone pile into bed before lights out for storytime each night? Or is there little emphasis placed on any of this because no one has enough time these days?”