Each child responds best to different methods
Imagine a child who always assumed they just weren’t “smart enough” finally achieving self-confidence. This is what happened to a first-grader named Isaiah.
Isaiah was struggling with reading out loud in class, and this took a toll on his self-esteem. When his mother came in for parent-teacher conferences, she was disappointed to learn he was having issues, and she was anxious to help solve them. The teacher suggested that Mom start reading to her child every day and also taught her several reading strategies to ensure Isaiah’s success.
Though some children may struggle more than others, anyone can learn how to read. Helping your child to learn will undoubtedly consist of a lot of trial and error, patience, hard work, and dedication, but the end result will be worth it. Here are a few strategies used by Way to Grow family educators that you can try at home.
In this strategy, the adult starts by reading a short sentence fluently and expressively. Then, the child is asked to repeat immediately after, so that the adult provides a model for them to imitate. Build up to paragraphs and eventually pages. When children get the hang of it, try switching and having them read first and you repeat after them.
This strategy consists of a parent or educator doing an animated and expressive reading while actively building a conversation around the book. This is done by asking the child questions such as, “What do you think will happen next?” This helps the child to not only develop reading comprehension and verbal skills, but also to develop their imagination.
The child and adult read a text aloud in unison. This helps to make the child more aware of the structures of written language. You do not have to read the entire text together; instead, you can choose segments that include more dialogue or that allow more expression (such as a scary part or an exciting part). This strategy helps vocabulary and fluency while strengthening word recognition skills.
Point and read
This strategy is fairly straightforward — you just read to your child while making sure they follow along by pointing to words with your finger. This technique works to build word recognition.
The key to your child’s success is to remember that that each child responds to drastically different approaches. For example, one family educator said that one of her kids will only read upside down! Make sure that reading and learning in general are never associated with any negativity. It should be an enjoyable time!
Start by reading to your children for just 10 to 15 minutes a day (at least three or four times each week) and build up by taking small steps. By doing this, you aren’t just teaching your child to read — you are giving them the framework for a culture of learning.
Even if you don’t see the results immediately, you can rest assured that you’ve set in motion an extremely important process. You’ve planted a seed, and as long as you keep nurturing it, eventually it will sprout.
Carolyn Smallwood is the executive director of Way to Grow, an early childhood education nonprofit in Minneapolis working to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed in school and life.