Children begin developing reading skills well before they enter kindergarten. The speech and language skills that they develop as infants will influence their reading skills, as will listening to stories, viewing pictures, and talking about what is happening in books. Sometimes, when children begin formal reading education, they struggle more than other children. However, keep in mind that children all learn at a different pace, and a little struggling doesn’t necessarily mean that they will fall behind. You can help your child in a variety of ways, but you first need to understand what good reading instruction should include.
Parents and grandparents may remember the commercials for Hooked on Phonics from the 80s and 90s. We aren’t going to suggest that the program doesn’t work at all, but reading instruction must encompass more than phonics. First, phonics doesn’t work for all reading. Some words do not follow standard phonics rules. Second, students need phonemic and graphemic awareness before learning phonics skills. Phonics skills should absolutely be part of a comprehensive reading program, but it cannot occur alone.
Reading instruction begins in infancy and continues throughout elementary school. Children begin to learn sight words and high-frequency words by being exposed to them. High-frequency words are often taught out of sequence from where they belong in phonics instruction because they wouldn’t be taught until second, third, or fourth grade, but they are frequently found in kindergarten-level books. These are words with specific blends such as blue, three, and where. These words are often found in easy readers, but their blends aren’t taught until much later.
Why Is Reading So Important?
Reading is one of the most important skills anyone can learn. Almost no other skills can be learned without reading. Even mathematics requires reading comprehension. Word problems, real-world math situations, and math instructions all require reading comprehension. Likewise, science, social studies, health, and even lunch selection require reading skills. Once your child becomes an adult, reading is even more critical. Job applications, transportation schedules, and advertisements all require reading comprehension to navigate through life.
How Will I Know if My Child Is Struggling?
Some difficulty in learning high-frequency words is typical. These words are not easy to learn and will take some time. However, you can foster these learning experiences by continuing what they are doing in class. Ask the teacher to send the words for next week home on Fridays. Most classes have a weekly folder, and you can request the words to be sent home ahead of time. Get a head start on learning the words.
Talk to the teacher about your child’s progress. He or she will notice any areas of concern. Likewise, if you are working with your child to recognize these words, you will notice if they are struggling to keep up each week. Be sure that when you are working with your child, you are finding the words in stories, their environment, and using their high-frequency list or cards. Children need to learn the context for words, not just to recognize the word. Meaning and usage are just as important for learning as recognizing a set of letters.
What Do I Do If My Child Is Struggling?
The first step in helping your child is to be an advocate with the teacher. Reach out and ask what is being done in the classroom. One thing they may do is called Response to Intervention. In this program, teachers move between “levels” of intervention to assist students. Typically, it begins with extra instruction in the classroom and, in more challenging cases, moves into a referral for special services. Most children will not need a referral, but if your child does, you can continue to advocate for what is best for them.
Some children are offered tutoring during or after school. In-school tutoring and supplemental instruction can be critical for student learning. You will be shocked how quickly tutoring services can improve your child’s learning.
What About Outside Tutoring?
Tutoring can be beneficial for students, no matter what level or skill set they have. Tutors can offer both intervention and enrichment. Students improve with continuous learning and input. Additionally, tutoring sometimes utilizes different teaching styles than the classroom teacher or school-based tutor. There is nothing wrong with the teaching style used in the classroom, but some students benefit from a different style, and tutoring can offer those styles. This benefit generally comes from outside tutoring since schools tend to adopt similar styles throughout grade levels.
Additionally, tutors can help students build confidence. One of the most common problems amongst struggling students is a lack of confidence and anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with the reading skills, but the student feels anxious about learning. This anxiety can come from a variety of cognitive or mental influences, but tutoring can help alleviate the anxiety and frustration. Tutors are trained to help build the confidence of students through remediation and enrichment programs. Students who are bored in class will often hold back because they are unhappy. Enrichment outside of school can help them develop their potential. Tutoring can be excellent for all students.
Reading is one of the most essential skills your child will ever learn. If you have any concerns about the development of those skills, begin by advocating with the teacher. You can also supplement their instruction with tutoring for remediation or enrichment. The Progressive Centre uses an assessment tool that will help to determine what grade level your child is reading at. There is no such thing as a reader with too many skills. They may not get to practice them in the classroom, but the skills will be invaluable to life skills later. Reach out to us to see how we can assist your child’s skill development.