Learning to Read is Not as Easy as Learning the ABC’s…
But it Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard!
Written by Janell Randolph, Kindergarten Teacher
English Is A Challenge
Reading is one of the most valuable skills developed during childhood, but learning to read the English language can also be one of the most cognitively challenging skills for a child to master.
Research has proven that learning to read is not a natural process. Children can’t learn to read simply by listening to someone else read or guessing words by looking at the illustrations in a book. Children do not learn to read the way they learn to speak. Just exposing children to text does not naturally develop reading skills. Written language is a code. The latest research has been very clear: Teaching children how to crack the code-teaching a systematic approach to learning the letters and combinations of letters that predictably represent certain sounds -is the most reliable way to make sure that they learn how to read.
There is obviously a lot more to reading than seeing a word on a page and pronouncing it out loud. Children must gain meaning and understanding from the words. They must build background knowledge, learn vocabulary, and understand syntax which is the order in which words and phrases are put together to bring clear meaning to what is being read.
There are two main components of reading
- Decoding Ability, which would include phonemic awareness, letter/sound knowledge, and fluency. Children need to know the different sounds in spoken language and be able to connect those sounds to written letters in order to decipher words. After several times of repetition and practice reading words, children will begin to develop fluency and decoding will become easier.
- Comprehension, which would include background knowledge, vocabulary, and syntax. Children need extensive background and vocabulary knowledge so that they gain meaning from the words they read. Eventually, they need to be able to recognize words automatically and read text fluently, paying attention to grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, to understand the text.
I want to focus on decoding because knowing how to decode is essential to becoming a reader. If children can’t decipher the exact words on the page, they’ll never become fluent readers or understand the material they’re reading.
A teacher is given the task of taking every child, from where they are in the reading process and moving them forward, to become a successful reader. This can be a very daunting task, as the skills necessary for learning to read, begin to develop from 0-5 years old, so obviously not every child has been given the same pre-reading experiences:
- available books in the home
- being read to daily
- included in conversations
- taught fun rhymes or poems, etc
A child may also become developmentally delayed in certain areas.
- speech development delays due to a hearing loss
- an undiagnosed vision problem
- English is not the language being spoken in the home during their early development of language, etc.
There are so many different early factors that can affect pre-reading or reading development. Yet it is still the teacher’s job to have every child reading at their age-appropriate level.
Diacritics Can Level Early-Learning Factors
What if there was a way that a child could master the decoding side of reading, up to a 2nd Grade reading level in approximately 12 hours of working with an app? That app would have to be developed using brain-based neuroscience to help children learn to decode and pronounce words much quicker than the traditional way of teaching reading. This new method would include a critical key to the learning process, which is to include a visual component called diacritics, which is an age-old way of teaching reading that has not been used in the US. Combining the symbol with the sound helps the brain reference the sound. Most children have a much wider speaking vocabulary than their reading level, so an app that includes diacritics helps them decode words that they wouldn’t be able to decode until they were taught some of the rules of the English language, which would come in lessons that are presented much later in the traditional way of teaching reading.
Even skilled readers must be taught directly and systematically how to decode, and sadly, some of our best educators have not been taught the science of “how to teach reading”. By giving them the right tools, children can much more efficiently move from learning to read to reading to learn! The goal and dream of every teacher and parent is to give the “gift of reading” to their children and see where that gift will take them!