How is my child being taught reading? And why is that important?

How is my child being taught reading? And why is that important?

This has been a hot topic in the reading round for several years. If you’re in the know, you will know that this hot topic is “the science of reading .” Although new to many, the science of reading has been around for decades, and researchers have compiled literally thousands of studies conducted in multiple languages. These studies have been put together, peer-reviewed, and widely accepted as evidence to inform how proficient readers learn to read and write. In addition, we have learned through this research why some readers have difficulty learning to read and what remediation can be implemented to mitigate those struggles.

Researchers not only in education, but psychologists, implementation science, linguists, neuropsychologists, and cognitive psychologists contributed to the science. One thing that we have learned through this scientifically based research is that learning to read is multifaceted.

We have learned that unlike learning to speak, learning to read is not a natural process. Learning to read requires structured, systematic, and explicit instruction. So, what is structured literacy? Structured literacy is the idea of introducing new concepts and skills in a sequential, logical order. Each concept is fully explained and practiced, and teachers review the material often to support retention.

Structured literacy should include the following explicitly taught concepts:

  • phonetic awareness
  • orthography
  • decoding
  • syllables
  • prefixes and suffixes
  • syntax
  • semantics

Scarborough’s rope, as you can see below, is a visual representation of the development of skills needed over time that lead to successful readers.

Structured literacy and the science of reading should be used as the fundamental element of every classroom teaching reading. When general education teachers use the science of reading in their classroom, this explicit instruction can exponentially improve reading scores among our youngest readers. In addition, although some students can learn to read no matter the reading instruction provided, nearly 20% of our population are dyslexic thinkers. Dyslexic thinkers need this explicit, systematic, multi-sensory approach to reading. Providing this to every student in the classroom will reduce the number of students that needs small group or one-on-one instruction to learn to read.

This method of teaching reading is not only beneficial to students with dyslexia but any student who thinks and learns differently. It is also extremely beneficial to our second language learners. The elements of systematic, explicit instruction can help unlock the mystery of the English language.

So ask! Pull this list out and specifically address the areas of systematic reading. What is the scope and sequence for the introduction of new skills? How are they addressing phonological awareness? How are they practicing decoding? What are they doing to systematically teach spelling?

Get involved if your child’s school does not have a program backed up by the science of reading! Contact your school administrator, your school board, and your state representative, and tell them your child needs the science of reading. Talk to your child’s teacher about what explicit teaching they’re incorporating into their classroom. Talk to them about Response To Intervention and, if your child is included in this practice, what they are doing to incorporate the science of reading. New paragraph if your child is already receiving special education instruction, talk to your child’s case manager. Ensure your child gets an explicit, systematic, research-based, multi-sensory approach to reading.

If you fear your child’s school is not using a science of reading method to teach reading, here are some things you can do at home to help strengthen your child’s reading education.

  • phonological awareness
    • Phonological awareness is not taught in many classrooms. So some things you can do at home to help your child is playing the rhyming game, alliteration - find words that start with the same sound, count and identify syllables, find the vowels in different words, blend sounds together to make new words and ask your child to say a word by leaving out some of the sounds for example: slay say clash without the cl- …. “ash.”
  • Orthography
    • Identify the vowels in a word, learn the rules to double consonants, practice the magic E, practice digraphs, work on rhyming words, learn the different rules for using C&K at the beginning and k or ck at the end of words.
    • Use a multi-sensory approach
      • Give your child tub crayons to practice the rules in the bathtub.
      • Use sand on a cookie sheet to write the words in the sand.
      • Use shaving cream on a cookie sheet
      • Write the words in the air
      • Tap the words out on their arm or fingers
  • decoding
    • Touch each sound as you decode the word
    • practice letter-sound correlation
    • Play word games such as Scrabble or wordle
  • syllables
    • Teacher your child the chin trick (when your chin touches your hand, it is a new syllable)
    • Practice syllables by taking steps – make a game out of it.
    • Learn the rules for syllable division
    • Learn the rules for open and closed syllables
  • prefixes and suffixes
    • According to Scholastic the four most frequently used prefixes and four most frequently used suffixes account for 97% of prefixes and suffixes used in the English language.
    • The four most common prefixes are: re- (again), un- (not), pre- (before), dis- (not or opposite)
    • The four most common suffixes are: -ed (past tense). -ing (present verb form), -ly (state of), and -s -es (plural)
  • syntax
    • Syntax is how we order words in a sentence. As easy as reading to your child, having a conversation, and repeating back correctly what your child says incorrectly.
  • Semantics
    • This is the ability to understand a narrative. This includes the ability to understand multi-meaning words and the relationship between words. You can practice this by classifying objects, playing memory games, discussing the meanings of idioms, reading maps or charts, comparing different items, playing which of these things is not like the other, playing 20 questions, and finding synonyms and antonyms.

If your child is struggling to read and you want some help working with the school to improve your child's reading journey, please make an appointment to talk to me. I want to hear your story, and never want you to feel alone.