Learning to read is a complex process. It requires bringing together many different skills to be able to decode and understand new texts.
Here we debunk five common assumptions about learning to read to help you enable your child to be the fluent and confident reader you know they can be!
1. “Learning to read is a ‘natural’ process that will happen on its own”
This is arguably the most commonly held myth about reading instruction, that learning to read will happen all on its own. Learning to read requires the proper instruction of various skills and strategies. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be taught in a fun and motivating way, but it’s important to remember that foundational reading skills are crucial in helping your child become a confident lifelong reader.
2. “My child is too young to learn how to read”
The phrase ‘let kids be kids’ is a popular one, especially when applied to young children who are yet to begin school. However, the phrase is often misconstrued as meaning that children shouldn’t begin learning basic skills like reading until they start the ‘gruelling’ process of formal education.
The fact is that babies and toddlers are constantly learning every day, long before they’ve ‘realised’ that learning isn’t fun, and their minds are fuelled by curiosity about the world around them. From as early as age two, children can learn to isolate different letters of the alphabet and recognise their own name. By then they’ve also learned to recognise that a combination of letters represents meaning. Read 5 fun ways you can help your toddler learn to read.
3. “Phonemic awareness doesn’t have to be taught in order to be understood”
Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual sounds, or ‘phonemes’, in words. For instance, the word ‘cat’ is made up of three individual sounds; c/a/t. Phonemic awareness is one of the five core areas of literacy that children need to develop in order to become fluent and successful readers.
Some hold the view that it is not necessary to teach phonemic awareness explicitly to young children who are learning to read. However, research evidence strongly shows that children who are taught to recognise phonemes as part of reading instruction are more likely to develop strong abilities in decoding words. Children who are exposed to this type of systematic instruction develop these skills faster than children who don’t.
4. “It’s enough that my child learns and practises reading at school”
Research shows no matter the information, the learning of new skills is helped by regular practice. In learning a very complicated skill such as reading, practice is an important component for success. Practising new reading skills and strategies with a wide range of books gives children a distinct advantage over their peers to empower their success.
5. “My child hates reading”
There are a range of things that can cause children to disengage with reading, such as reading difficulties and a fear of being made fun of over reading preferences. The first step to overcoming the assumption that your child simply hates to read is to identify the cause. Are the books your child is reading too boring or too challenging for them? At what point in the book does your child give up and become frustrated? Once you have identified the root cause, it’s easier to solve the problem. Solutions might be allowing them to choose their own books based on their interests, choosing books together with you guiding them according to their reading level, or coupling reading with hands-on activities, like following a recipe to create their favourite dishes or following the written clues of a scavenger hunt.
We hope we’ve dispelled some common assumptions about reading instruction. Have any of these points challenged the way you think about the learning to read process?
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