Lois Lowry has an essay published in the book, A Family of Readers. The essay describes an experience she has with her daughter exploring letters and print as they walk through the streets of their neighborhood. Ms. Lowry pointed to the Os in the word LOOK and described the letter as the eyes of the word.
"Then--a miracle!--one evening she glanced at the print in a picture book I was reading to her and happened upon the same word. She saw it on the paper looked up at me, saw that I was reading the print, heard me say the word look---and made the magical connection in her mind that propelled her, like a little tow-headed rocket, into reading."
Reading is a process of discreet skills. Children scan left to right, discriminate between letters and words, match letters to sound, hold the sounds in short term memory while segmenting and blending the sounds...the list is extensive. The process is usually similar for most children but the moment that the "magical connection" is made varies from child to child. Sometime children are so busy telling stories and inventing stories that the task of reading a story does not hold value to the child. Often these children arrive to reading through the backdoor. They break the sound symbol code as they learn to write their imaginative stories. If you slip into this child's shoes for a moment it makes perfect sense.
As a Kindergarten teacher, I fear only one thing----anxiety. If a child feels pressured, pushed or perceives the process as beyond his or her reach emotion may shut the process down. It is a balance between motivating, inspiring and encouraging reading and avoiding feelings of being overwhelmed and powerless.
Parents often ask for advice as to how to support their child at home in a way that is fun, empowering and without judgement. I have created a cheat sheet as they begin the reading journey with their child (and avoid the "show stoppers" ).
Reading with my child: A cheat sheet
- Preview the book and ask: What do you think this book is about?
- Look at the picture clues together. What is happening on each page?
- Rephrase matching word choice. “The cat is chasing mice.” “Yes it looks like the cat is a chasing a rat.
- Read a page together in chorus and then model reading a page and ask the child to read a page.
- Stop for comprehension checks.
- “What occurred that allowed the rat to escape.”
Reading Strategies for Unknown Words
- Use pictures clues
- Link to prior knowledge
- Use the words around the unknown word to predict.
- Substitute a word that fits the context.
- “This word fits in the sentence but does that word begin with a “p” sound?”
- Look at the beginning and ending sounds
- Break the word into word parts
- Segment the word into letters and then blend the sounds
- Cross check
It is important for early readers to use their finger as they scan from left to right. This supports matching symbols to sound and discriminating between words and letters.
Children may memorize the text of early readers! This is perfectly fine and reaffirming