According to the U. S. Department of education, 38% of U.S. fourth graders are unable to read simple sentences. It is an alarming fact and indicates that either these children have reading disabilities or they have not been given proper guidance on how to develop good reading skills.
A child’s brain from birth till the age of 7 is like a sponge, absorbing anything and everything that comes its way. It is a jumbled sequence of visual and auditory messages, and when channelled and nurtured with proper guidance can be converted into meaningful expressions, one among them is reading just as much as speech is.
On an average, by the time most kids have completed first grade, they are able to read simple four to six letter worded sentences. For example, “Sing, sing, sing. Sing mother sing. Can mother sing? Yes, she can. Mother can sing.”
In order to be an effective reading support teacher, there are some steps to be followed to help guide a child. Listed below are a few interesting points.
# 1. Teach the sounds of the letter along with the names:
There are many languages where the name and the sound of the letters are the same. Examples are French and that of most languages in India. When it comes to English, the name of the alphabet differs from the sound. Hence teaching a child the sound (phonics) along with the name is imperative. Be flexible with the child’s efforts as regional accents may vary from the teacher to the child’s background.
# 2. Teach lower case letters first:
It is common sight in many early learner alphabet books where children are taught capital letters first. But on the contrary, it is the small letters that the child has to first be familiar with in order to read. While books for two or three year olds highlight capital letters in big, colourful fonts, the familiarization of lower case letters is what helps kids read with ease.
# 3. Ignore Grammar rules for beginners:
While teaching a child to read, focus has to be on the recognition of letters and words rather than the grammar. Stressing on the proper use of grammar only confuses a child making him or her stress over imperfections and mistakes.
# 4. Balance reading with writing:
Children who are taught to write find it easier to read. Writing is like a revision of the mechanical effort of reading. A young child at the age of seven is able to read about 400 basic words with ease.
# 5. Do not depend on Computer Software and on Audio and Video tapes.
Children have a short attention span. They can grasp an idea easily that is within the 10 second period range. Prolonged use of visual and audio aids bore a child when it comes to learning. While different types of computer software with teaching programs are easily available, the child still needs a teacher to assist through the reading course. The additional background music distracts children, while the frequent breaks in reading to discuss a word makes for very painful reading for a child when done independently through computer software.
#6. Stress on sight words:
For many children, following words phonetically can be difficult and hence there are basic words that are called sight words that have to be memorised. For example, ” the, they, them, there, here, she, he, how, when, who, where, why, what, etc.” These are words that are common in most lower grade readers and hence easily memorized too as a result of repetition.
# 7. Help the child get the feel of the book:
Today as more and more children grow through an e-learning phase, the use of books is diminishing. However, children who are given books in hand and are given opportunities to have fun with the sight of letters away from class room black boards and computer screens or television screens, are able to read easier and faster.
# 8. Read aloud when teaching:
It is important that the teacher reads out loud, clearly and at a slow pace for children to grasp the full impact of words. Be expressive. When a crash happens in the story and there is an exclamation, emphasize on that sound, capturing the attention of the child in case his mind is drifting away from the reading. Take breaks of half a minute to one minute in between paragraphs to ask the child for feedback about the story. For example, “Do you know what happened when Jack’s mother threw the bean-seeds out?” (Reference: Jack and the bean stalk).
# 9. Teach a child to read silently when alone:
When a child is to read alone, at first, reading a few words out loud might be fun. But as the child proceeds to long paragraphs and lengthier reads, it can be tiring to have to read aloud the entire chapter. In this case, the child has to be taught on how to silently focus on words without getting distracted. Begin with few sentence paragraphs and then proceed to multiple paragraphs. Sitting alone and reading silently can help a child concentrate and be immersed in what is being read.
# 10. Have fun with words
Reading is an exercise but can become monotonous when done with a drilling attitude. Children should not view reading skills as boring and taxing on their spirits, but should have an enjoyable yet educational time with it. Word games, songs and skits based upon what is being read help children focus away from the stress of reading to unconsciously connecting words to actions. Enacting words can be a replay of what they have read bringing the written word to life.
These are but some of the few strategies and points that reading support teachers have to bear in mind. Professionals who are trained to deal with children should always be innovative and base their methods depending on the child. While one method may work for one child, it might not work for another and hence it calls for flexible teaching methods with varying approaches, yet with the same goal in mind; to teach the child to read.