One of the most important skills a child will ever master is learning to read. Reading opens doors that otherwise would remain closed. Reading introduces children to the world at large, enabling them to experience things that would be impossible otherwise. However, there has been much controversy in recent years about the best methods to use in order to teach reading.
For instance, there’s the “Look and Say” or “Whole Word” method. In this way, children learn to recognize words, usually beginning with their own names. They do not break words apart into syllables, but rather learn words in their entirety. In essence, children form pictures of words in their heads which they are able to recall when asked to do so. This method, however, can be difficult for children with poor memories.
Another tried-and-true method is phonics. With this technique, children learn to sound out words. Usually, they begin with words that are easy to pronounce, such as “sad,” “bad,” and “Dad.” However, the difficulty with phonics is that there are many words that do not follow a set sound pattern, such as “resource” and “read.” Still, students who suffer from dyslexia are often best served through the teaching of phonics.
Yet another approach is “real reading” or “whole language.” Through this technique, children learn to read by trial and error, and are encouraged to read whole books rather than individual words. Children can gain confidence in this way, because they quickly develop the skills necessary to read entire sentences. The problem with this method, however, is that some students may be simply reciting books from memory rather than actually reading.
If you’re attempting to teach your child to read at home or you are trying to help your child polish his or her skills, there are a few things you can do to make the process easier. For instance, if you are using the “Look and Say” method, you can make signs with words, and then tape them to the objects they describe, including “sofa,” “table,” and “computer.” If you’re using phonics, play a round of “I Spy,” emphasizing the sound of individual words. In other words, you can say, “I spy something red,” and emphasize the “ed” sound at the end of the word. If you’re using the whole language approach, begin reading a book to your child, and encourage him or her to complete sentences. Another whole language method is to help your child to memorize nursery rhymes so that he or she can get the feel of words.
Certainly, teaching children reading can be a daunting challenge. Since reading is often the building block of learning, young people need to be proficient in reading in order to master other subjects such as science and social studies. In recent years, a number of educators have reverted back to phonics because they have found that “Look and Say” and the whole language approach are ineffective. But the type of approach that’s best may actually differ from child to child. If your child is having difficulty reading, it is best to check with a language specialist to determine which teaching methods are best suited to your son or daughter.