.....Now, I know your days can be busy and you might have a lot going on, but just as you wouldn’t skip dinner time or brushing your teeth you can’t skip reading aloud to your child every day. Reading aloud is an extremely effective tool for improving reading comprehension....
For my next blog series I will be discussing “Ten Ways to Improve Your Child’s Reading.”
Tip #1 Turn Every Reading Lesson Into A Language Lesson
...Never use the book to introduce- use the book to reinforce. Pre-teaching is critical and itis paramount that you pre-teach critical vocabulary and language in your home before you sit down and expect your child to read a book about a new subject....
Should Process Precedes Skills?
Parents it is so important to give your child a basic understanding of what reading actually feels like. It’s hard to believe, but many students, regardless of age, have never truly read with fluency and expression.
Sure some kids can “read” but listen to them read and what it really sounds like is word attack on steroids. They are more involved in making sure they apply the appropriate skills to correctly sound out or identify the word they are currently focused on, than understanding that word. They see reading as merely identifying words in isolation, as unconnected strings of words presented in a horizontal format. There is no meaning, no expression and worse, no comprehension.
Is this your child? How can you find out?
First, have them read to you and ask them what they’ve read. Are they reading with a slow, monotone process? If so, nine out of ten times they will respond with “I don’t know!” Sadly, they are so focused on getting the words right that they are not gaining meaning from the printed page.
These students are stuck at the skills level, with the mistaken belief that skills precede process.
What should you do? Well first things, first - these students must experience the process of reading – reading fluently with expression and comprehension - before skills can really make sense. It has been my experience that once this happens, many students start to automatically apply and improve their knowledge of the importance of skills to the reading process. They can now understand where skills fit into the reading process.
Read to them, demonstrate how it is done! Then be an active listener while they read to you. Let them get on the “reading process bike” and stay by their side. Don’t send them down the biggest hill at first, but let them ride and once they experience what it feels like to ride - reading with expression - then you can more fully explain the importance of reading’s skills - i.e. the wheels, spokes, handle bars, and brakes.
In short, the process – reading with expression and comprehension – must precede its complimentary skills – sounding words out or memorizing sight words.
One final note: you can introduce skills “in conjunction with” process as long as process comes first. So as a parent if your child is learning “skills” in the classroom it is so important for you to make a special time at home for the process of reading. Carve out time whenever you can to expand their vocabulary and experiences of what reading for meaning really feels like. Just like you taught them how to ride a bike and tie their shoes show them what it looks and feels like to read for meaning with full expression and comprehension. Remember you are an important tool in your child’s reading success!
Here is a reading research fact every parent and teacher must burn into their memory bank:
All reading programs work
but not for all students.
More importantly, all reading programs produce failing students. One of these failing students might be your child – especially if your child is special needs and needs more than a conventional reading approach.
For example, did you know that some students are “phonetically deaf”? While there is nothing wrong with their hearing, they just don’t get phonics or “a skills-first approach.” Phonics is simply too complicated. They need a different reading approach.
In my book, The Failure Free Reading Methodology: New Hope for Non-Readers, I explain in great detail what the research has to say about phonetically deaf students. They are not new, these students actually constitute the largest number of students who are currently failing in school.
Sadly, they sit in class not understanding how to rhyme or break words into their individuals sounds or how to put these individual sounds back into meaningful units. They come home in tears or fail to look forward to going to school or their reading class. They start to give up and become a behavior problem or lose confidence in their reading ability. They start to see themselves as losers.
The worst part is that, they are never given the opportunity to demonstrate what they are really capable of doing, namely, to read for meaning – with fluency, expression and comprehension – from a passage or an actual book. Why? Because, their school is under the mistaken belief that they can’t.
How can they possibly read for meaning with fluency and comprehension, if they can’t do the “basics” you are told. The students are sent back to be drilled more and more on their weakness – their lack of knowledge of letters sounds. They get older and older and soon they become teenagers sitting in front of computer screens with dancing bears and bunny rabbits.
- But is knowledge of letters and sounds really the fundamental cornerstone of reading?
- Is this knowledge absolutely essential to moving forward?
- More importantly, can students who can’t get phonics, learn to read with meaning and expression?
The answers are: no, no and yes! No. Knowledge of letter sounds is only one of a variety of different ways to learn how to read. No. While important for some reading skills, phonics is not the cornerstone for future reading success. Yes, Yes Yes, Students who can’t get phonics, can learn to read with meaning and expression regardless of their special needs.
If you have a phonetically deaf child, let me give you two good pieces of news. First. You are not alone. Researchers are now finding that up to 30% of students in regular education and up to 50% of special needs students don’t get phonics. For example, the Federal Government recently spent billions of dollars, promoting “a phonics-first” reading approach known as Reading First. All students were taught phonics first, using the best scientifically validated reading research methods. So I ask: how did they do in this “phonics is the only way to fly approach?”
The answer: not very well. Consider the following excerpt taken from Edweek.
“A major federal evaluation of Reading First issued in 2008, for example, found that the program helped more pupils ‘crack the code’ to identify letters and words, but did not have an impact on reading comprehension …“ (Dec. 3, 2008).
Here’s the second piece of information. This research is clear, learning phonics doesn’t seem to transfer to reading comprehension!
Am I anti-phonics? No! But we need to put it in perspective. Phonics is not and never has been a necessary condition to either learning to read aloud or more importantly, learning to read for meaning.
If your child is failing in a phonics first approach, you need to change the approach. There are viable non-phonic, non-flashcard alternatives readily available. It is never too late to help your child reach his/her full potential. There is hope.
When I started out thirty years ago as a special education teacher, I never imagined I would become a school psychologist, special education director, university professor, education researcher, and author of an innovative reading methodology for non-readers.
I enjoyed my years as educator, but I felt terribly frustrated by that unreachable group of children who seem to exist in every school, defying instruction and never learning how to read anything. You know who they are because you all have them. They fall farther behind each year, eventually give up and then drop out of school. Unbelievably, there are almost a half million of these students sitting in America’s classrooms right now. Their average total sight word vocabulary is fewer than fifty words. That is a tragedy for each and every one of them.
No matter what I tried with my non-readers – and believe me, I tried everything – I just couldn’t help them. But eventually I realized there was a big difference between the poor readers, the struggling readers, and the non-readers. The non-readers were extremely deficient in vocabulary and background knowledge, and they didn’t respond to skills training. I started calling them “phonetically deaf ” because I could literally give them hundreds of hours of alphabetic instruction, and it still didn’t help! Clearly, they needed something very different.
Based on that experience, I developed the Failure Free Reading methodology, a compensatory methodology designed to scaffold vocabulary, fluency and comprehension for non-readers. My approach is not remedial like phonics interventions designed for the struggling readers who score from the 20th to the 50th percentile. Instead, Failure Free Reading meets the unique needs of the worst-performing students, those who score in the 0-15th percentile range. The program controls for three essential, research-based elements that together enable non-readers to finally be able to experience reading success: sufficient repetition, comprehendible sentence structure, and age and developmentally appropriate story content. I also found that by starting my students at their frustration level I was able to accelerate each student’s vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency — non-readers included. Today, non-readers of all ages – even secondary students and adults who gave up a long time ago – are experiencing what it feels like to read for meaning, with engagement and confidence. In just the first lesson, they realize “I can read.” I’ve had the great privilege of seeing this happen again and again, and it never fails to inspire me. Trust me, it’s never too late to help your non-readers take their crucial first steps to becoming readers.
Dr. Joseph Lockavitch,
Failure Free Reading Author and President