What does the research say about how young children learn to read?
"Most young readers are not good at learning analytically, abstractly, or auditorily (Carbo, 1987). Therefore, for most young children it is harder to learn phonics through a part-to-whole teaching (phonics first) than through whole-to-part teaching (reading and writing first, and learning phonics from and along with words in familiar texts.)"Read more at How Most Children Learn to Read.
I've seen first hand children who can "decode" because they learned phonics, but they can't "read". These children have little or no fluency or comprehension in their reading. Phonics alone is usually not enough.
One part of the balanced literacy program is the understanding that when we read we use multiple "cueing systems" to read. We use more information than just the words we see on the page to find meaning in what we read:
It is only when these three cueing system work together can we understand the author's message, and that is why we read, isn't it?
Good readers do more than just decode words. Good readers:
- Have a purpose for reading
- Think about what they already know
- Make sure they understand what they read
- Look at the picture when possible
- Predict what will happen next
- Form pictures in their minds
- Draw conclusions about what they read
- Try to figure out new words
Think about it the next time you read an article in the newspaper. What is your purpose? You want to hear the story, what happened. You use information you already know to help you understand. If it is a detailed article on quantum physics you may have a hard time reading and understanding the article unless you have a lot of background knowledge on that subject. If you read something and it doesn't make sense you go back and re-read it. You look at the picture that goes with the article. You predict what happens next. Reading about a criminal you may expect that at the end of the article he will be sent to prison. You may predict that many people were injured in an article about a bus crash where you see a picture of the mangled metal that used to be the bus. You picture what you are reading in your mind. Drawing conclusions about what you read may include thinking about how they should make buses safer, or that buses are safer than you expected. You may need to slow down and decode a new word you have never seen, like the strange name of that bus company.
Children need to be immersed in literature and meaning along with learning phonics. They also need a bank of known sight words. Sight words are words that readers need to be able to read on “sight”. These are the words seen most frequently when we read and are often called high frequency words r frequency words. Your child needs to learn to read these words quickly, without stopping to sound them out.
"Continue to use a balance of each reading approach in first-grade reading instruction and continue to develop reading strategies that will reach both the global holistic learner and the analytical learner (Dillon, 1997)."
A balanced literacy program, which was originally designed for use in a classroom, easily translates into the homeschooling situation. A balanced literacy program at home includes:
- Reading Aloud: Parent reads selection aloud to the child
- Shared Reading: Parent and child read text together
- Guided Reading: Parent introduces a reading book at student's instructional level
- Independent Reading: Child reads independently
- Modeled Writing: Parent and child collaborate to write text; parent acts as scribe
- Interactive Writing: Parent and child compose together using a "shared pen" technique in which the child does some of the writing
- Independent Writing: Child writes independently
A balanced approach to reading includes a balance of sight words and phonics. It also includes a balance of reading to your child, with your child and by your child. Reading to your child is what you already do, reading aloud to your child. Reading with your child, or "shared reading" is when you and your child read a story together and you actively engage your child in the reading process. Reading by your child is your child reading independently.
You are already familiar with reading aloud to your child, and what it means for a child to read on his or her own, so here's a little more information on what shared reading is (you may find you already do a lot of this with your child):
- During shared reading the parent models and explicitly teaches the process, strategies, concepts, and mechanics of reading.
- The child joins the parent in reading and re-reading a specific text.
- Shared reading allows children to absorb what they need to know about reading without having to read independently.
You do similar things in writing by modeling writing, writing together "sharing the pen" and having your child write independently.
What exactly is a child supposed to learn in Kindergarten? Here are the Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten. Below each standard is a link to the post about teaching that skill:
READING STANDARDS: FOUNDATIONAL SKILLS
1. Print Concepts: Demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print.
a. Follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.
b. Recognize that spoken words are represented in written language
c. Understand that words are separated by spaces in print.
d. Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet.
2. Phonological Awareness: Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes).
a. Recognize and produce rhyming words.
b. Count, pronounce, blend, and segment syllables in spoken words.
c. Blend and segment onsets and rimes of single-syllable spoken words.
d. Blend two to three phonemes into recognizable words.
e. Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme (consonant-vowel-consonant, or CVC) words.* (This does not include CVCs ending with /l/, /r/, or /x/.)
f. Add or substitute individual sounds (phonemes) in simple, one- syllable words to make new words.
3. Phonics and Word Recognition: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words both in isolation and in text.
a. Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary or many of the most frequent sound for each consonant.
b. Associate the long and short sounds with common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.
c. Read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does).
d. Distinguish between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the letters that differ.
4. Fluency: Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.
Systematic instruction in reading traditionally begins in Kindergarten and continues throughout the primary grades. Using a balanced approach is a great way to grow a reader!