Being literate means you can read and write, right?
You got it! Literacy can be broken down into two components: reading and writing. There are two main skills necessary to be a successful reader: decoding and comprehending. When teaching your child to read, you need to focus on both their decoding skills and their comprehension skills. This post will tell you more about what those skills are, when your child should acquire these skills, how to encourage their development, and how to keep reading fun. Before we jump into the how, let’s learn a little bit more about the what and the when.
What is decoding?
Decoding can be broken down into six main skills:
- Alphabet Knowledge: knowing names and sounds of letters in upper and lower case; understanding that letters stand for sounds and can be grouped to represent words; understanding that you can read words by identifying the sounds of the individual letters within them.
- Phonological Awareness: understanding that words can be broken down into smaller units, such as syllables and phonemes (i.e., individual sounds); ability to blend, segment, and manipulate sounds within words.
- Phonemic Awareness: understanding that each letter or letter combination represents a sound.
- Blending: the act of merging the sounds of a word together to form a word (e.g., merging “c-a-t” together to make “cat”).
- Segmenting: the act of separating the sounds of a word to identify the individual parts (e.g., looking at the word “mat” and separating it into “m-a-t”).
- Phonemic Manipulation: the act of moving around or changing the sounds in a word to make a new word (e.g., replacing the letter ‘c’ with the letter ‘m’ to change the word “cat” into the word “mat”).
By when should be child be able to do these things?
Great question. Look below to see what reading skills your child should display based on their age.
- Birth to 6—Emergent and pre-literacy: child becomes aware of print, learns letters, and memorizes labels and signs in his or her environment.
- 6 to 7—Decoding: child learns the letter-sound pairings and uses his or her alphabet knowledge to begin to blend and segment words.
- 7 to 9— Fluency and speed: child uses context clues, as well as decoding skills, to identify unfamiliar words while reading. Child increases his or her fluency and speed of reading.
- 10 to 12—Transition from learning to read to reading to learn: child is now using reading as a tool for learning new information.
- 14 to 16—Understands various viewpoints: child reads and comprehends complex information about a variety of topics, and from a variety of viewpoints.
Ok, great. Now that I know what these things are and when my child should be doing them by, how can I help?
Shared storybook reading is a great approach to use while targeting reading development, more specifically reading comprehension development. During shared storybook reading an adult reads a story aloud while engaging their child in discussion rich in language enhancing techniques. See the list below for examples of these language enhancing techniques, and how to use them. The overarching goal in shared story book reading is to draw your child’s attention to the things you do and the thoughts you have while reading.
- Model: model your thought process while reading by thinking aloud, or commenting on the story (e.g., before reading the title state, “the title of this story is ____”). Repeat and expand on your child’s comments as well.
- Track: move your finger below the letters or words while reading.
- Point: point to different aspects of the book while reading (e.g., if you are reading about a character in the story, point to a picture of that character while you are reading).
- Character Voices: while reading, use different voices for various characters. This will aid with understanding and your child’s engagement in the story.
- Comment: explanations, remarks, and observations that are intended to draw your child’s attention to story elements.
- Question: ask your child to share their knowledge about familiar story elements (e.g., “where is ____?”, “Can you find the letter ____?”, or “What do you think will happen next?”).
- Request: like questions, a request acts as a turn taking device and gets your child involved in the reading process (e.g., “let’s see if we can find ____”).
- Praise: encourage your child to engage in dialogue about the story, and praise them for their efforts.
- Define: provide your child with clear definitions of new vocabulary and concepts. Picture books often provide a visual representation of the word you are defining. Reference this picture while defining.
- Label: supply names and labels for new vocabulary. Point out specific pictures that represent new vocabulary.
- Summarize: after finishing the story, summarize what happened. Summarizing requires your child to use new vocabulary in a meaningful context. It also provides you with an opportunity to review new vocabulary and concepts.
- A B Seas Alphabet Fishing Game
- Write letters in shaving cream
- Make a letter treasure hunt
- Super Why ABC Letter Game
- Play go-fish with words at your child’s reading level
- While driving or in the bath play rhyming games
- Race the clock and see how many words you can come up with that have a certain ending (e.g., how many words can you come up with that end with _at in 30 seconds…cat, mat, sat, fat, hat etc.). Then see which words you can change into new words by changing the vowel or the last letter (e.g., if you change a to e, which ones are still words…met, set, etc.).
Anything else I should be doing?
Make sure to choose books that your child is interested in. Go on a library adventure. Let you child choose which book they want to read. Help direct them to books about topics they are interested in. Talk to your child about some of your favorite books and why you like them. You want to show them that reading is, and can be fun!
Reading is a key part of a child’s education. By grade three children transition from learning to read to reading to learn. If you child is really struggling with decoding or comprehension, don’t hesitate to seek out help from a speech-language pathologist or reading specialist. We would love to help!