Reading is, undoubtedly, one of the most joyous activities in which one can engage. We can be taken to far-off lands, meet exciting people and become a part of thrilling adventures. Reading also increases our knowledge, sharpens our critical thinking skills, expands our vocabulary, and even reduces stress. Unfortunately, not everyone gets to experience the benefits of reading. In fact, 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning to read. What’s more, students who fail to read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of school. So what can you do to help children become proficient readers? Well, aside from immersing them in print-rich environments and being a model reader yourself, children need to be skilled at deciphering the written English code.
- Segmenting – Skillful readers have the capacity to separate individual sounds in words. For example, the word yellow has 4 distinct sounds - /y/ /e/ /l/ /ō/. Being able to distinguish sounds from letters is a key skill for beginning readers to master.
- Blending – Competent readers have the ability to push individual sounds into meaningful words. Reversing segmentation, the four sounds in /y/ /e/ /l/ /ō/ become the word yellow.
- Phoneme Manipulation – Phonemes are units of sounds, and putting sounds into and taking sounds out of words is another skill of proficient readers. Taking the letter n out of grown leaves grow. Replacing the g with c makes the word crow. Whew!
Phoneme manipulation also involves recognizing and manipulating phonograms or the symbols that represent sounds (letters). The English language is made up of all kinds of funny little nuances. Have you ever written a word and said to yourself, “This doesn’t look right.” As a reader, we often rely on our ability to substitute one phonogram for another. For instance, when croe reads the way we want, but doesn't look right, we make adjustments – taking the oe out and replacing it with ow to get crow.
In the end, given proper and explicit instruction, all children (and adults) can be taught to read. With the appropriate time and effort we can all live fantasy-filled, stress-free lives! Bee informed and Bee Wordy!