Learning to Read - Research Informs Us
Learn what skills are necessary to learn to read and what kind of instruction he should have.
By Jan Baumel, M.S.
Most kids learn to read no matter what method of instruction is used. But 20 percent of school age kids are poor readers and remain that way through their lifetime. You may have heard that letter reversals are an early indicator of reading problems. Actually, many young kids exhibit some reversals as they're learning to form letters and sequence from left to right. The scientific, independent research results tell us that reading is a language-based skill. This means that delays in early language development are better predictors of reading problems.
What Should I Look For?
The best way to tell how kids in kindergarten and first grade will develop reading skills is to look at their ability to break up spoken words into the individual sounds, or phonemes. They have to be able to isolate sounds and manipulate them in words.
- Can your child tell you if two sounds are the same or different, e.g., /p/ /b/?
- Does he enjoy stories that rhyme? Does he play with rhyming?
- Can he name words that begin with the same sound?
- Can he hear that the words "ash," "so," and "it" each have two phonemes?
Our language is based on the alphabetic principle. Written words are made up of letters that represent sounds. Kids need to learn that certain sounds go with certain letters.
- Can your child say the alphabet?
- Can he tell you the names of letters?
- Can he match a letter sound with the symbol?
Reading comprehension depends on quick and automatic reading of single words. If kids read slowly and struggle with words that should be familiar, they won't remember or understand what they've read.
- Does he remember words he's read before?
- Can he sound out new words quickly?
- Does he decode new words correctly?
- Can he tell you what he has just read?
If problems with reading have existed over a period of time, he has average or above average intelligence, has received basic instruction in reading, and has no physical or emotional disabilities that might affect learning, he may have a reading disability. Talk to his teacher, and make sure that he's receiving effective, research-based instruction. If necessary, consider having him assessed.