The importance of reading
The ability to read is one of the most valuable skills we can acquire. It is a tool for thinking, learning and entertainment. Reading opens doors and minds; it gives us the ability to unlock the secrets of the universe and release our imaginations. It is a skill that many of us take for granted, but without it the world would seem a more unfriendly place.
No wonder learning to read is a vital part of each and every school day!
Like everything else —the more you read, the better you get!
Reading is more than just saying all the words on the page in order. Reading is a process of getting meaning from print. Effective readers use their knowledge of the world and of language in their quest to make meaning from the words on the page. Reading takes place when the reader understands the message of the writer.
Strategies used by effective readers
Effective readers use a combination of three cuing systems to predict and check what the author has written. The use of these systems is obvious in the miscues (rather than “mistakes”) that readers make.
- The most important cuing system is knowledge of the topic. If you know lots about dinosaurs, you can read those big difficult-looking words and understand what they mean. If you know nothing of legal jargon then even sounding out those big difficult-looking words won’t help you understand.
- The second system is knowledge of language and grammar. We expect the words to flow with meaning and not be a jumble of nonsense.
- The first two systems combine to predict the words on the page. We then check with the print to ensure our expectations were correct.
For example, if the story is about a cowboy you may expect that he would jump on his pony, but when you look at the print, you find he actually jumped on his horse.
Effective readers may say ‘pony’ instead of horse, but they definitely wouldn’t say ‘house’ (which looks similar) as it just wouldn’t make sense!
However, readers who are not taught that reading is a process of making meaning, who are taught that it is simply a matter of translating letters to sound, or of remembering what words look like, may be content to read “The cowboy jumped on his house.”
Errors such as this are indicators that a reader is unaware of the purpose of reading and is paying too much attention to the print and not enough to the meaning.
Growing great readers!
From when they are still very young, it is important to talk with children about everything. As well as increasing their general knowledge, talk increases children’s knowledge of the language and how it flows, what sounds right and what doesn’t, and helps to build their vocabularies. By the time they start school, children who have been immersed in a language-rich environment know how to form grammatically correct sentences without ever being taught a rule of grammar.
Children who begin school with a depth of general knowledge and a large vocabulary have a much greater chance of success in both school and life than those without.
Supporting beginning readers
From when your children first start to read, support their development by encouraging them to use the strategies and systems that effective readers use:
- Engage their interest and help them to use their knowledge by looking at the pictures and talking about the book. Perhaps even read it to them first.
- Encourage them to have a go at reading and to think about what would make sense and sound right.
- Provide support whenever necessary by quietly reading along with them, or telling them any unknown words.
The most important things to remember with any reading session is to:
Enjoy the experience!
Be a listener, not a tester!
Continue to use these strategies as their reading develops but help children to become more independent in working out words for themselves. Initially, you may need to suggest strategies they can use, but as their confidence increases, you will notice them using strategies independently. Acknowledge their attempts and development.
Finding the cues!
If your child is unsure of a word, you can encourage them to work it out for themselves by cuing them into the clues. Suggest that they think about what would make sense, and
- Look at the picture
- Get their mouth ready for the word (say the first sound)
- Go back to the beginning of the sentence and re-read
- Leave the word out and read on to the end of the sentence.
You don’t need to use all these strategies for every unknown word, and if they still can’t get it —just tell them the word!
If your child reads something that doesn’t make sense but continues reading (for example, house instead of horse) stop them and ask: “Does that make sense? What could it be?’ Encourage them to go back and find the clues.
If they read something that doesn’t make sense and they realise and self-correct: praise them! They have independently monitored their ability to maintain meaning! What effective readers!
But it makes sense!
If your child reads an incorrect word that makes sense, don’t stop them. Let them read on to the end of the sentence, paragraph or book. Sometimes you can just ignore it. Sometimes you can praise them for maintaining meaning: “Well done! What you read made sense.” But encourage them to look more closely at the word and see what it would be. If they still can’t get it —just tell it!.
Remember—to grow great readers, from a very young age
Talk about everything
Read for fun and information
And let them see you read for real purposes and enjoyment too!
The greatest start you can give your children is a love for books and learning.
And when they start—don’t stop! Keep going! Read with them! Take turns! Have fun!
Read! Read! Read!
Information contained in this post is presented in a brochure Help your child with reading that can be distributed to and discussed with parents. The strategies are useful for parents to use with their own children at home or when volunteering in the classroom. Teacher aides may also find the information helpful.
The brochure supports other readilearn resources designed to help teachers and parents understand what we do when we read in order to help children develop effective reading strategies and a life-long love of reading.
This post follows up on last week’s post What do we do when we read? and others to do with the reading process; including:
Other resources about reading for parents include:
readilearn: teaching resources for the first three years of school
Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
Let readilearn lighten your workload.
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