How Children Learn to Read
By: Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (1999)
Building blocks of reading
Reading skills are like building blocks. To learn to read well, children need the blocks of knowing the sounds of letters and the blocks of knowing the meanings of words (vocabulary), word parts (grammatical markers) and groups of words (overall meaning or semantics). To build these foundations of reading, children need effective reading instruction.
The best ways for parents to learn about the kinds of reading instruction at their child's school is to talk with teachers, listen to him or her talk about what they do during the day, and examine homework assignments. Knowing the differences between phonics and whole language - the two main approaches to teaching reading - can help parents determine what methods their child's school is using to teach reading.
Phonics focuses on the sounds of letters and words
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 "mm-oo-nn."
• Practice worksheets or exercises on letter sounds, matching pictures with spoken words, short vowel/long vowel or letter of the week.
Whole language focuses on comprehension
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 what children need to learn meanings of words.
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 balanced approach can help all children learn to read
A decade of research shows us that there is no one best way to build students' literacy skills. 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.
An effective reading program
From long-term studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health, it is known that an effective reading program should include the following components.
• Recognize that students learn to read in a certain order: first they must understand that words are made up of different sounds, then associate sounds with written words, and finally they can decode words and read groups of words.
• Students who have trouble learning to read need to be specifically taught the relationships of letters, words and sounds. (Awareness of letter/sound relationships is the main tool good readers use to decode unfamiliar words.)
• Each child needs a different amount of practice to be a fluent reader.
• Phonics instruction should be based on individual student needs and taught as part of a comprehensive, literature-based reading program.
• Abundant opportunities for children to read at their own reading level help them to learn to read for meaning and enjoy reading.
• Highly trained teachers can help children develop good, overall literacy skills: good vocabularies, knowledge of correct syntax and spelling, reasoning skills and questioning skills.
Reading instruction for children with learning disabilities
For children with language-based learning disabilities, learning to read is especially difficult because they have a harder time with sounds of letters and words than their peers. Research indicates that because phonics instruction focuses on recognizing and manipulating sounds of letters and words, more intense phonics instruction may be beneficial for children with learning disabilities.
Early warning signs of learning disabilities
From preschool through fourth grade, parents can watch for the following signs their child may have a learning disability:
• Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
• Difficulty "sounding out" unknown words
• Repeatedly misidentifying known words
• Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)
• Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -, x, /, =)
• Difficulty understanding or remembering what is read because so much time and effort is spent figuring each word
If a child regularly displays one or more of these behaviors, he or she may have a learning disability and parents should seek appropriate testing and intervention from their child's school.
With diagnostic tests, it can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy which students in kindergarten and first grade will have difficulty learning to read. Identifying reading difficulties early means children have more time to learn to be successful readers. Since reading is learned more easily and effectively during the early years, identifying language-based learning disabilities and providing appropriate interventions give children more time to learn to read well.
Learning to read is an art typical of reading. It is a process that takes place from birth. It is an ability that enables other forms of learning to take place and it is a skill that can be extended almost infinitely. It is not a matter of imbibing information but a means of using information to develop distinct abilities. It is not a skill in the sense of simple manipulation but one that closely involves the complexity of human mind.
Sadly not all children can learn how to read and spell. However, children need to learn how to read; parents and teachers need to understand the process of learning to enable it to take place, and they need to know how to give particular clues that make the learning possible. But then, is there any other factor and reasons that need to be considered in childhood reading? If that is so, then educators must think about this. That is why, I chose this reading article, “How Children Learn To Read” because I want to share its very important and realistic thoughts including my own opinion and comments about this article to the readers most especially to those elementary teachers and to those who will be teaching soon or later.
The underlying purpose of this critique is to sum-up on how children learn to read and to give insights and knowledge to help children with learning disabilities.
Accordingly, reading skills are like building blocks. Children need the blocks of knowing the sounds of letters and the blocks of knowing the meaning of words, word parts and group of words. To build these foundations of reading, effective instruction is highly needed in teaching reading for children to learn to read well. Likewise, there are two main approaches to teaching reading identified in the article and these are phonics and whole language approaches. Phonics approach focuses on the sounds of letters and words which includes sounding-out words as away of figuring out words and exercises on letter sounds, matching pictures with spoken words, short and long vowel or letter of the week. On the other hand, whole language approach focuses on comprehension which includes teaching reading and writing throughout the day in the context of the lesson topics and emphasizing storybooks rather than worksheets as well as multiple writing opportunities, Since all children learn to read differently, then only balanced approach to teaching reading can give them all the skills they need to read well. Balanced approach to teaching reading is a combination of strong foundation in phonics and whole language methods.
Based on the result of the study conducted by the National Institutes of Health before, it is known that an effective program can help build and develop student’s literacy skills. Moreover, it includes that those highly trained teachers can help children develop good, overall literacy skills such as good vocabularies, knowledge of correct syntax, reasoning skills and questioning skills. It must be recognized also that pupils learn to read in a certain order and each individual needs a different amount of practice to be a fluent reader as much as possible. In addition, children should be given abundant opportunities it read at their own level of learning to read and enjoy reading.
For children with language- based learning disabilities, there should be more intense phonics instruction may be beneficial for them. Since reading is learned more efficiently during the early years, then early warning signs of learning disabilities of a child should be observed and identified as early as possible. Indeed, those signs of learning disabilities must be provided by an appropriate interventions of parents to give children more time to learn to read well.
ASSESSMENT OF THE ARTICLE’S PRESENTATION
Foremost, the text of this reading article is really appropriate for the intended audience like parents and teachers who are responsible in developing children’s literacy skills. Contents, on the other hand, are presented in a certain order which is well-organized, clear and easy to read. Important terms have been clearly defined such as phonics, whole language and balanced approach to teaching reading. Moreover, the discussion is very logical because there is sufficient evidence and this is the result of the research that helps support the main idea of the article. In fact, not all children learn to read well but it was being mentioned in the discussion that a decade of research shows that only balanced approach to teaching reading can help all children learn to read.
Based on my own observation, I think authors never mentioned and consider parent’s background in the discussion. Yes, it is true that parents should identify learning disabilities of their children and provide interventions as early as possible. How about those parents who lived in remote areas? Can they help their children learn to read well? Although the information lacks this idea but authors’ facts are accurate because for this present generation, reading is extremely important. As a result, I could say that there’s no underlying bias in the discussion because view of points are equally supported. Thus, it shows that presentation of information is just fair in relation to its purpose.
Learn read and read to learn. This philosophy thought of mine is simply a lesson that I’ve learned after I read the article. I’m grateful because I was given an opportunity to read and critique this article because it really twisted my mind and help develop my analytical thinking. From that, there is a high degree of probability which I think I can help some children develop their literacy skills as future teacher as I go on with my journey.
I totally agreed the idea of the idea of the author that identifying reading difficulties early means children have more time to learn to be successful readers because I can relate it to my own experience. My mother always talked with my teacher about what I did during that day while my father examined my homework assignments every night. Sometime, it was really difficult for me to sound out or pronounce letter of alphabets and understand what I read. But because of often interventions provided by my parents, I learn to read and comprehend what I read. Yes, it’s true that learning reading is especially difficult for children with language-based learning disabilities. In fact, mostly of them are indigenous from different rural areas and because of their own dialects, it’s not easy for them to sound-out the letters and pronounce words correctly but I do believe it would not too late to make learning of those children possible since reading easy to learn during early years.
One thing that I’ve found out in the discussion is that writer must consider the background of the parents. Sadly, not all parents are literate. There still many of them who can’t give their children more time to learn to read. I could relate it those parents who are from remote places wherein instead of helping their children to read, they would prefer that their children would rather help them work in the farm. There’s only one thing that I realized, no one can help them except highly trained teachers. Indeed, it’s a great challenge for the teachers to make a difference.
The ability to read well is a prerequisite to success in most fields today. Therefore, I conclude that schools and families must take the responsibility for making sure all children can read well where parents and teachers should work together to improve children's literacy development. And since learning to read begins very early in life, then identifying reading difficulties early means children have more time to learn to be successful readers. But then, it must be considered also that not all parents are able to teach their children to read well and provide interventions because of their backgrounds. Hence, teachers must be highly trained to help children develop good, overall literacy skills.
Children learn in different ways and thus, they need different approaches. They must be taught on how to learn to read for them to read and learn. Good teachers have always recognized that children learn in different ways and require different strategies. Indeed, effective reading program are highly recommended for this kind of situation. For children with language-based learning disabilities, then more phonics instruction may be beneficial for them since it focuses on recognizing and manipulating sounds of letters and words. Children’s attitudes towards reading are therefore very important.
Posted By: Matimawa Aiza