If your child is learning to read, there are some easy ways you can help to bolster their skills and development right at home.
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Erin Bailey, director of programs and content at Reading Is Fundamental, shared with us her advice for parents helping their children learn to read aloud.
From ages 3 to 5, spanning Preschool to Kindergarten or 1st grade, learning to read aloud and instilling confidence in kids is really important. For parents who want to be as supportive as possible for their growing readers, what are some of the best ways they can help to encourage little ones who are just starting to read?
So this is a really important topic. And reading aloud is an important skill in schools. We often refer to reading aloud as “fluency,” which generally refers to reading at the appropriate pace—not too fast, not too slow, just your regular talking voice and having accuracy with the words that you’re reading. Like making sure that you’re pronouncing the words correctly and using the appropriate expression that matches the tone of the writing. So those three things—rate, accuracy, and expression—compose fluency, which we often think of when we think of reading aloud. While this tends to be something that’s focused on in early childhood education and mostly reinforced with younger children, there are actually standards for fluency going all the way up to 5th Grade.
So I would highly encourage all parents to read aloud with their kids, regardless of their age. But with younger children, the most important place where families can start is by modeling good fluency by reading aloud to your children as often as you can. This helps kids hear what a fluent reader should sound like, so they can start to self-monitor when they’re reading to see if their voice is fluent.
When you read, you can also demonstrate for your child how to change the expression in your voice to match what the characters are saying and how they’re feeling in different scenes throughout the story.
The other thing I would recommend is re-reading. Sometimes, families think that children should read new books every time, but re-reading the same book is a great way to improve fluency, and children can even start to think about how their fluency has improved as they’ve read the same book over and over again.
Are there any things that parents should avoid doing while helping their child to become a confident reader?
Yes. I would avoid over-correcting your child by saying the word correctly for them. When they make a mistake, the better thing to do is to coach them around how to decode that unknown word and offer strategies for them. This could include asking them what letters they see in the words and what sounds go with those letters. They can even break up the word into smaller chunks.
So for example, if I saw the word “sprout,”and maybe the child can’t read “sprout” yet, I could ask, “do you see a smaller word in that word?” And maybe the child knows how to read the word “out.” That can help in decoding those longer words. This is usually called “chunking.”
Additionally, if a child reads a word incorrectly, rather than immediately correcting them, families should think about asking the child if that word made sense in the sentence that they just read. And this also goes back to the tip about re-reading. Once you’ve decoded a word, it’s usually a good idea to go back and re-read the sentence. That way it sounds smoother.
Something we’re really focused on is making sure we’re matching the right book to the right kid, and helping parents navigate their child’s own reading level—because it’s not always aligned with their age or their grade level. What are some indicators that a book is too challenging for your child?
Generally, as a rule of thumb, children who are reading books independently on their own should be able to read all the words in the book with about 95% accuracy or greater.
Now, of course, when they’re reading aloud, you may not be there marking down words to be able to know whether it’s 95% accurate or or greater. But there are some things that you can look out for. If the child’s voice is staccato when they’re reading—if they are reading it word by word versus smooth sentences—or if they’re spending too much time on a page or misreading a lot of words, that all could be because they’re spending so much time focusing on decoding the words, so their voice isn’t sounding as smooth when they’re reading. They’re taking too much of their time and brain power and energy just to figure out what each individual word is.
Additionally, we talked about how pace is an important part of reading fluency. So if your child is reading too slowly and it’s not at a speaking pace, then they’re spending too much time on decoding those individual words. This may be an indicator that the book is too challenging for them.
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