The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

How Children Learn to Read

Looking at my usual sources of inspiration this past week I didn’t find anything I wanted to write about. So instead, I decided to write about my experience in teaching reading and that of several teachers I worked with over the years when I was a principal . 

Whenever I was able to spend time with my five year old grandson I would play a game with him that he loved. While we were sitting close together I would read him a story, but also stop at different places and ask him to read the next word. Without hesitation he was able to do that almost every time. Although he was not yet reading whole stories on his own, he became a good follower of my reading and capable of naming most of the simple words I chose for him. He was on his way to becoming a reader

The key reading skill for children is not only being able to identify words but also to do it promptly without struggling. They can’t spend time sounding out a dozen or more words and still enjoy-–or fully understand—what they are  reading. That’s why using phonics to determine the sounds of words is a difficult process for young children and one that often discourages them about learning to read.

What children need are strong roads into becoming successful readers and materials that satisfy their interests. Below I will suggest some teaching plans for primary grade classrooms that work to make both those things possible.

  1. At the beginning of the school year teachers should read aloud frequently, demonstrating how they make word pictures visible to students and stopping at times to explain words or actions in the story that may be difficult for children to understand.
  2. Once a month accomplished upper grade readers should be invited to read aloud to small groups of beginning readers in elementary classrooms. For a normal size classroom three or four readers should be enough to give a small audience the opportunity to see pictures clearly, comment on story events, or ask questions.
  3. Once a week children of different abilities should be paired to read a new story together. The stronger reader can help the weaker one by reading a word or a sentence that is giving the other one trouble.
  4. Children may also be asked to turn a story into a newspaper comic strip. They will draw the story’s characters in action in a series of boxes with spaces for their words or in circles coming from their mouths.
  5. Groups of students who are good readers may be invited to create a play about a story they have read, and discussed as a group.

Of course there are other ways to help young children learn to read. I would be pleased to hear about any good methods readers are aware of and would publish them here next week.



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