By Eileen Himmelrich
SHEMESH Reading Specialist
One of the most exciting accomplishments in a young child’s life is learning to read. Suddenly all those strange-looking shapes on the page make sense and the world comes alive through the written word. Reading is one of the main building blocks for all learning, certainly for success in school and even in life. Driving, shopping, communication, as well as each and every school subject – all of these require the basic skill of reading. So imagine for a moment what it must feel like when those shapes on the page do NOT come together, when extraordinary effort must be put into decoding even the most basic words. For over 30 percent of children, learning to read is a real challenge and, for some, it becomes a grueling process with little prospect of success.
The good news is that, with early intervention, many reading problems can be solved. When a child’s reading difficulty is identified early, that child is more likely to learn strategies that will raise his or her reading to grade level. So stay alert to some of the following warning signs and, if you notice them, don’t panic. Share what you’ve noticed with your child’s teacher and discuss strategies for addressing your concerns in the classroom and at home. If these difficulties persist, the next step is to ask your school administrator to refer the child for some an evaluation by the SHEMESH educator.
- Can your preschooler recognize letters and numbers? Even just the ones in her own names? Does she know the sounds associated with each letter?
- Can your child fill in a rhyme, recognizing the pattern of words that sound similar?
- How about his ability to learn and remember new words?
- Does your child avoid reading? Children who struggle with reading tend to avoid the laborious process involved in figuring out the letters and sounds. The barriers they face outweigh their desire to read. With proper guidance and teaching, they can overcome those obstacles.
Summer is a perfect time to help the struggling reader practice and even get interested in reading. The best way to do this is to make reading a regular part of your child’s day. Keep books at hand that are in rhyme and point out beginning and ending sounds in words. Since reading is based on a sound/symbol system, working with small units of sound and the letters that represent these sounds will help build a foundation for your child to become more comfortable with reading.
A multisensory approach is another way to help struggling readers succeed. Use sight, sound, touch and movement, such as writing in the sand when you’re at the beach. When you make this a fun activity, your child will never realize that he or she is learning! When they are active participants in this learning, children achieve greater success.
Lots of repetition, review and practice are additional key elements in helping children who need some extra support. Reading favorite books over and over again comes naturally to kids, so that’s a good place to start. Have your child read to you as you assemble the ingredients for a recipe. Keep in mind that success leads to success; when your struggling reader sees his or her vocabulary increasing and reading going more smoothly, there’s a sense of achievement and a willingness to continue working at reading.
The point is to make reading and talking about reading exciting and fun. As you listen to your children talk, they will know that you consider their thoughts and feelings important. That alone can encourage any child to read, think and share! Have a summer full of books and good times!