How to Evaluate and Improve Your Child’s Reading

May 1, 2020 11:49 am Published by

If young Ben reads to you while you are preparing dinner and you hear a smart delivery with few hesitations and a confident, snappy pace you may assume your ten year old is a whizz. No problems, a star reader. But this could be a grave mistake and Ben may well be heading for big problems at secondary school because, in fact, Ben can barely read at all, he is illiterate.

Today, there is very little formal reading carried out in schools. Occasionally, hesitant readers are given time out with a classroom assistant. But as there will probably be several remedial readers with a brief time slot and no more than a passing nod in the direction of phonics, these children can emerge, after several years, barely advanced from where they began.

The others teach themselves to read. And this is where bad habits begin and may last a lifetime. If they can read a book (from a set list) and answer online questions, they are deemed good or able readers. But what actually happens is that many read the blurb, gloss over the story to get the gist of it, answer a percentage of the questions and move to the next book. The better readers speed read omitting punctuation, the most challenging words and frequently the prepositions (place words) like in, on, behind, over etc. This is similar to the way we all read silently but we do it after many years of knowing how to read correctly.

Reading aloud as we used to, combined with phonics, is the ONLY way to learn to read. It is the ONLY way for ALL children. It casts the widest net possible to teach all children, even many classed as ‘special needs.’

Reading aloud teaches children to observe punctuation, the traffic lights of reading and the means by which a writer makes sense of his work. Imagine a page of a book with no punctuation. No full stops, no commas, no question or exclamation marks. The entire text would be meaningless. When we read aloud we are reading for an audience and are forced to observe punctuation. Nor can we omit the prepositions (those little place words) which bring meaning to a line. ”The spy thundered over the step above the pursuers and was finally on the roof.” Those prepositions are critical to the meaning of the text and frequently form the basis of examination questions. When we read to ourselves we frequently scoot over these words and if children always read silently they will carry the habit into the exam room.

Phonics and sounding out any unknown words is the only possibe way for a child to understand what he is reading. If, when reading silently, he reads ‘ration for reaction’, ‘rigin for regional’, ‘nibble for nimbleness’ and ‘spot for Scotland,’ (real mispronunciations) the text will be meaningless. Sad, because comprehension is the basis of every subject throughout every school year.

The ONLY way to teach punctuation and word identification is by reading aloud while being closely monitored.

So, check your child’s reading by asking him/her to read aloud while you watch every word and every piece of punctuation. You must have an identical copy of the book or be able to see the book the reader has.

A good reader will:

  1. Read every word correctly or sound out unknown and difficult words.

  2. Observe every punctuation mark, stop at a full stop, pause at a comma, colon or semi-colon and indicate with his voice a question or exclamation mark.

  3. Read slowly for his audience.

A poor reader will:

  1. Stall at unknown words and either omit them entirely or insert anything vaguely appropriate.

  2. Be almost unaware of prepositions.

  3. Ignore most punctuation marks, even full stops.

  4. Read fast.

A needy or remedial reader will:

  1. Hesitate at most words, especially those of five or more letters.

  2. Find it difficult to sound out words, because phonics the child should have known by age 5-6 have never been cemented.

  3. Will not be fully aware of the purpose or appearance of punctuation marks.

  4. Will find it challenging to read a full page.

The bluffers like Ben at the beginning of this blog post.

    1. Will really read it fast.

    2. May possibly hesitate at unknown words but will swiftly bluff it out and insert any word            at all.

   3. Their pronunciation can be wild, e.g. ‘Timothy for Tom,’ ‘cop for companies,’ ‘beer for                beginner,’ all real substitutes from real children.

   4. Will read with great confidence and aplomb, so that if you are not watching the text you           will marvel at this great little reader doing justice to a very weird story.

So please check your child’s reading. If you have a poor, remedial or bluffing reader go right back to the sound alphabet and all the phonics.

Teaching a child to read via phonics simply requires the sounds, your patience and time. I have taught 3 year olds this way and every age group to adults. I had two 3 year olds who taught themselves listening to their older siblings and a 4 year old who taught himself and a friend using my sounds. All became brilliant readers.

This time will soon pass, for now it has been a golden opportunity handed to you. It is absolutely free and only requires your time and effort.

I shall follow this post up with a list of all the phonic sounds.

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This post was written by Alonah Reading Cambridge

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