Learning to read is important because we interact with the world through the written word. A LOT. Writing emails, Facebook posts, reading instructions, sending text messages, or even just seeing a sign when driving to a new destination. A lot of our daily interactions are based on the written word.
Reading is also a very good predictor for academic success, according to Michigan State University. Yet less and less time is spent reading and teaching our kids to read. We are letting our kids jump straight to YouTube and TikTok videos.
Did you know, only 25% of children learn to read without any difficulties? That means 3 in 4 kids are left with some kind of issues when learning to read. The following guide was written for parents of these 3 in 4 kids.
The article is separated into four parts. The theory, possible issues for struggling readers, the recommended exercises and an executable plan.
The following part is for kids, aged 8+ who are starting to read connected text.
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Learning to Read Phase 4: Reading
Once a child has mastered the basics it is time for the longest phase of them all. Reading of connected text. In order to develop into a fluent reader, the kid needs to practice, practice, and practice some more. Ideally starting with simple stories, gradually moving to more difficult, complicated texts. The goal of this phase is to train the brain so they read the written text the same way they listen to spoken words.
It is good to assist children when they begin reading stories, but reading TO your kid does nothing at this point anymore. The goal is to progressively leave them more and more space, so they become self-sufficient and can read and develop on their own.
What your child needs to understand
Reading of connected texts is absolutely vital for reading fluency. Without reading actual texts, everything you have done so far is basically useless. So far the child has been experiencing reading from a more theoretical point of view. They have been learning about the rules and got familiar with structures, words, and simple sentences. Reading of connected text means to put all of that into practice.
Your child should start reading simple stories that also contain words that are new to them. They can acquire knowledge about these new words from context (words that are already familiar to them). That way the progress continues. The more reading practice your kid now gets, the better reader they will become.
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As mentioned above, the goal is to make reading automatic. Without thinking about the word. Simply reading it out. This is called Orthographic mapping.
In order to read fluently, our brain needs to instantly recognize words or at least parts of the words. This needs to be completely automatic and involuntary. In a way, for a skilled reader, every word is a sight word (they read it on sight). The process of how the brain acquires this skill is called orthographic mapping.
Letter-sound connections are formed in order to combine and recall the spelling, pronunciation, and the meaning of words. Orthographic mapping enables every reader to recognize letter patterns that make up a word as well as the spelling, pronunciation and the meaning of that word.
For example: Take the word “read”. Because of Orthographic mapping, you know how to spell it and that you have to pronounce it /ri:d/. You also know it’s meaning.
Now take the word “pead”. You know how to spell the word if you hear it. You would still pronounce it /pi:d/, because your brain knows that the letter p in that case is pronounced /p/, the letter combination “ie” is pronounced as a long /i:/ and d is /d/. All that information exists in your brain because of Orthographic mapping. You would not, however, know it’s meaning, because it’s actually not a word and your brain has not attached a meaning to it. If “pead” were a word and you would hear it in the past, your brain would have attached the meaning to it and you would have that stored in the memory as well, like with “read”.
In order for the Orthographic mapping to take place, your kid needs three skills:
- The letter-sound skill or Phonics (Attaching sound to letters, ie. /h/ /a/ /t/)
- Blending (Combining those three sounds into a word, ie. hat)
- Acquiring the patterns (Knowing the rules of the language, ie. “a” in the middle of two consonants is pronounced as /a/).
If your kid has mastered the Phonics Phase, the Blending Phase and has acquired the patterns of a language, then they need as much reading practice as possible. This is where reading of connected text comes in.
Possible issues for struggling readers
It is quite possible your kid will hate reading if he has issues understanding the text that you give them. This happens a lot to children with reading disabilities. They lack the necessary phonemic and blending skills, leading to the Orthographic mapping not happening, making it (next to) impossible to start reading fluently.
This can become a huge issue as the problems will not resolve themselves. Your kid will have to read a lot of texts during the course of their life, which instantly becomes a problem if they don’t want to read. The goal is to motivate them to read by providing them with a text they can read as well as by raising their phonemic and blending skills.
How to react to reading issues
If your kid doesn’t want to read connected texts it is quite possible they don’t have the necessary phonemic and blending skills to read confidently. Put extra time into those skills by revisiting phases two and three of this guide.
Additionally, we can help a dyslexic child by giving him texts that he can read with greater ease. More on that in the recommended exercises.
Helps with: Reading Practice
If your child likes to read on their own, then that is perfect. Go to your local library, pick the books you enjoyed as a kid and give it to them. It is completely ok to assist your kid while reading, asking them questions about characters in the book or about the story itself. This helps children think about the story and improves reading comprehension. It is also possible children will be completely consumed by books and will want to read by themselves. That’s ok as well. Give them stories they enjoy and make regular runs to your local library.
Books for Dyslexics
Helps with: Reading Practice, Motivation
When your kid doesn’t like reading because of a reading disability, you can reach for customized books for dyslexic children. These are books that use special fonts and clearer backgrounds so they are easier to read for dyslexic children. They usually help, although can become quite expensive, so they are more appropriate for younger children, who enjoy reading the same book over and over again.
Try it out!
Download the adapted version of Alice in Wonderland!
Helps with: Reading Practice, Motivation
Like we already mentioned in phase one of this learn to read guide, color is your friend. If your kid has difficulties recognizing letters, you can try to color them into a specific color. Make ‘b’ red and ‘d’ blue or the other way around. This is extremely useful, although very time-consuming.
Reading with Kobi
Helps with: Reading Practice, Focus, Motivation
Kobi is a mobile app, made specifically to help children learn to read. It can be used by any child entering the world of stories and it is carefully crafted to assist the struggling reader during their reading development. Kobi uses a proprietary color-coding technique in combination with proven methods to help early readers read with greater ease. When reading with Kobi, 94,62% of children show significant improvement in reading speed, reading accuracy and improved motivation, all key aspects of reading fluency.
The mobile app contains its own library of titles, suitable for early readers and also lets you import digital books and scan physical ones.
This phase of the learning to read process is about empowering your kids to start reading on their own. Start giving your kid more autonomy. Instead of you reading most of the story to them, let them read to you. Occasionally ask them about the story and encourage them to share their thoughts on the characters. After reading, ask your kid questions about what they have read to make sure they understood the content. Occasionally switch around and read them a good night story.
Practice is crucial. Even more so for struggling readers. Encourage your kid to read as much as possible. If you can’t motivate them or if reading is difficult for them, download the Kobi app and start a free trial. The combination of reading from a tablet and Kobi’s motivational tools help motivate kids so they start reading. Keep practicing for 15 minutes a day.
|10.30 – 11.00 am||6.30 – 6.50 pm||Before Bedtime|
|Monday||Read with Kobi|
|Tuesday||Read with Kobi|
|Wednesday||Read with Kobi|
|Thursday||Read with Kobi|
|Friday||Read with Kobi|
|Saturday||Segmentation Practice||Read with Kobi||Good night story|
|Sunday||Blending Practice||Read with Kobi||Good night story|