Saturday, 29 November 2008

We can help children READ better....

The first step to good reading ability is really the acquisition of good oral skills.

This means that a child who has good language will read more easily... but it does not end there. A child who is more exposed to books and reading will pick up reading faster than one who is not exposed to the printed words.

Certain natural milestones indicate that the child is ready for formal reading instruction. The child starts experimenting with words, starts to pretend to read and begins to attempt make believe spellings. (S)he will hold a pencil and scribble and even pretend to be grown up and handle grocery lists.

While these automatically indicate the reading ( and writing ) readiness in most children, there will be those who will lack these milestones and will raise alarm bells to some learning problems.

Dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia- have all been hyped by media and a lot is to be said about the often irresponsible and insensitive labeling of children ( and even adults) into categories that get stereotyped and treated as if they are abnormal.

ALL CHILDREN CAN BE HELPED TO READ AT GRADE LEVEL. This is a simple statement . It is a true statement. It only requires effort and dedication and plenty of patience but it can be done.
Once a care-giver is sure there is no organic reason fort the child being unable to read at grade level ( may be he has a visual or auditory handicap?), it is time to tighten your seat-belts and get ready for launch!

English is a difficult language as it morpho-phonemic. The letters often do represent sounds... but there are good many words that do not satisfy any phonemic rules and must be studied and remembered as sight words.

Consider simple counting words! One ( won?!)... two ( too?! or to?!)... three ( is fine) and four ( why not fore?) five is good so is six and seven. But eight!? ( Remember ate?) ... It is certainly not easy to keep a track of the context AND the word for many children.

One has to start with the basic sounding out of words and build GROUPS of words. This is classically done in most curricula today in the form of the initial exposure to short vowel sounds ( bat, bet, bit, bot, but) This makes it easy for young children to develop awareness of the sound associated with a written/ printed word. VArious consonants can then be introduced making it mat, met, mit, mot and mut) or even dab, ten, rob, dot, rub... The consonant sounds can be reinforced in groups. Rhyming is interesting and attention grabbing for the young children and immediately captures their minds and attention.

From here the child can naturally and easily be led into building up words as in making mate from mat or mat becoming material. The transition is easy for the phonically written words. The whole concept breaks down, however, when we encounter what have come to be known as sight words. The simple sight words must be introduced to the children early on and be made fun to play with... to- do- but go? no? so?

The sight word vocabulary will expand exponentially once the child gets comfortable with the idea of holding a book correctly and attempting to read. The whole language method focuses on reading TO the child once, may be twice; reading WITH the child another time and finally being around and letting the child read on his own. The detractors of this method of teaching argue that the child is reading by rote where as he has not really learnt to read the word. One only has to ask- What EXACTLY IS reading? It is reading from memory. With each sweep of the eyes, the brain picks up a group of letters, performs an extensive search in the memory banks for what that group could mean, gives a sound to the written word, converts it into decipherable language and executes the task of reading- all in milliseconds! Reading IS very much a memory task. If we can make the memory stick by repetition, wel... why not! It is easy. It is doable. It only requires time.. and patience.

These early reading strategies are valuable-
Hold the book correctly
Read from left to right
Repeat the phonic content of simple words
Introduce sight words
Read. repeat, read again
Encourage writing effort
Encourage the understanding of alphabetic principle

From here we will truly move on to our journey of the roller coaster of reading fun!
Whooopppie!! Here goes...

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