Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Reading Skills - Phonics

When I mentioned the The Reading Skills Pyramid in a previous newsletter, it generated alot of reaction and curiosity from you. Some controversy too.

To recap, learning to read is an exciting time for children and their families. While thrilled by their children's emerging literacy skills, many parents are surprised to learn that reading is not automatic and that, regardless of family background, many children require support in learning to read.

The Reading Skills Pyramid illustrates the five key areas in becoming a proficient reader: phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. Todays' newsletter focuses on the skills involved in word decoding: print concepts, phonemic awareness, and phonics.

Creating readers starts in a language-rich environment in which books and reading are a daily habbit. Even during the infant and preschool years, children should be addressed with a rich vocabulary. Story telling and reading from books develops interest, vocabulary, and print concepts. Important print concepts are that each book has a name and author (and where they are listed) and that books are read from front to back, left to right, and top to bottom.

An important early skill is phonemic awareness*. Children become aware that words are made up of sounds which can be assembled in different ways to make different words. Children build these pre-reading skills by practicing nursery rhymes and playing sound and word games such as learning to hear and recognize rhymed words.

Phonics is the understanding of how letters combine to make sounds and words. Teaching phonics starts with a knowledge of the alphabet. Children then generally learn the sounds of each letter usually by associating it with the word that starts with that sound. Phonics skills grow as students distinguish between vowels and consonants and understand letter combinations such as blends and digraphs.

Tutoring, workbooks, games, or kids learning software can help teach or reinforce these skills. Parents help in this process by providing high-quality educational materials, establishing a pattern of daily reading, creating a rich language environment, discussing a child's progress with teachers, and following up on their recommendations.

Literature: Some of the best literature on the process of learning to read is available from the National Institute for Literacy. I recommend the series, "A Child Becomes a Reader: Proven Ideas for Parents from Research -- Kindergarten through Grade Three,".

Time4Learning's online language arts program builds these foundation prereading adn reading skills for children. Try it today. If you don't see progress, cancel within the first 14 days for a full refund.

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