Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Reading A...B...C

Reading is not as simple a task as it is assumed to be, especially by fluent readers. A struggling reader or a child with learning/ reading/ writing disability can testify to the fact that the job is hard learned and hard earned!

A few strategies make the task easier. These are simple to follow and quick to produce results.

Phonics still are the best method of 'breaking a child into a reading habit'. The early leveled readers usually have one to two words per page, and usually ten to twelve pages to a book. Each page would have one word change and follows the principle of repetition. The child who can decode the short 'a' sound and read 'cat' can read easily the word rat, and hat, and mat and so on...

Thus, a caring teacher or parent can even create a book with the help of the child using a short vowel sound. And create a story around the words in pictures. In order to keep the child interested, draw in outlines, keeping the illustrations simple. Encourage the child to start holding the crayon and colour the pictures. Read the words to the child once or even twice. Follow the thirty second principle. If you wait for just thirty seconds, your child may surprise you by reading the text himself!

Allow the child to make mistakes. Read together with the child a third or even a fourth time. And then, watch. Watch the child get the thrill of reading the first passage or the first book. And one that (s)he created on his/ her own. When my daughter read her first board book of animals, we celebrated with a dinner. And when my son read his first book, we celebrated with ice-cream and cake. His was a HOP ( Hooked On Phonics) book. They both remember the thrill to this day. What is more, I do, too.

Incidentally, HOP is an excellent programme that literally takes the child from mat to mate to material.

It is best to start with letter recognition and do it with letter sounds rather than letter names. The reading in sounds, then comes easy. This builds sound circuits and memories.

The next step is to start teaching the short vowel sounds- sequentially. This would mean some time to be exclusively spent on cat, bat, mat etc. Teaching bet, let, ten, hen pen would come next. Then, would follow the sound 'i' as in igloo to reinforce bin, tin, pin, pig, bit etc. 'O' can then be introduced in pot, lot, cot. And finally, 'u', as in bun, but, hum, hut.

The short vowel sounds make initial reading fun and rhythmic. The memory circuits so established are strong foundations to build on later. These early exercises also can be made even more exciting by introducing nursery rhymes or Mother Goose or even songs that children can relate to.

Same language texting goes a long way in promoting literacy in those who know the songs and then are shown the lyrics. This only requires a good memory for the song or poem and a basic letter recognition so that the child can make out the sound of a written beginning and associate it to the memorized word.

Reading fluency develops rapidly after the initial work is done. It is surprising how easy it becomes to move from an early decoder to fluent reader. It only requires patience in the initial stages. Next battle to be won is that of comprehension. It might surprise some parents that their fluent reader child does not understand or remember what he has read only a few moments ago.

That requires special strategies to build comprehension.

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