The best thing families can do is to play an active role in their children's literary development. This means reading to them, pointing out things in their environment to discuss, using interesting vocabulary and making reading a happy, positive experience.
There is a lot of attention being paid to “The Science of Reading” these days, and for good reason.The term “Science of Reading” refers to more than two decades of research that reading experts, especially cognitive scientists, have conducted on how we learn to read. It provided insight into what skills are involved, how those skills work together, and which parts of the brain are responsible for reading development. It has helped inform educators of an evidence-based approach to teaching foundational literacy skills. Thousands of research studies in classrooms and clinics have repeatedly shown that virtually all kids can learn to read — if the instruction approach aligns with what science has proven about how our brains work.
The Texas Education Agency has recently developed a 60+ hour continuing education course in The Science of Reading, which is mandated for all K-3 teachers in Texas. Wylie ISD is committed to providing quality instruction based on research and has invested heavily in training elementary teachers over the last 2 years. Wylie ISD is, also, one of the very few districts extending a stipend to teachers for all of their extra hard work, even though it is a requirement for our teaching certificates. Thank you, WISD!
A key component of scientifically based literacy instruction is instruction in phonological awareness and systematic phonics.
- Phonological awareness includes skills like rhyming, alliteration, identifying syllables, and blending syllables together. It also includes phonemic awareness, which is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. Individual sounds are called phonemes. Phonemic awareness skills are critical for learning to read. Children practice these skills through activities such as removing the /k/ sound from the word “cat” and substituting the /r/ sound to make “rat.” Through rhyming, substituting, and manipulating sounds in other ways, children get ready to learn to read.
- Systematic phonics refers to the process of teaching children to associate sounds (phonemes) with letters (also called graphemes). In English, there are often multiple ways to spell phonemes. For example, the sound /k/ – the symbol for the sound at the beginning of the words “cat” and “ketchup” – can be made with the letters c-, k-, and even sometimes ch-, as in “architect.” Systematic phonics involves learning these letter-sound correspondences in an organized, step-by-step way that reflects the findings of high-quality research studies.
The sound-letter connection is how children learn to read effectively. When all children are taught phonological awareness skills and systematic phonics directly, most can learn to read effectively and at or above grade level.
The Science of Reading says five essential components are necessary for effective reading instruction:
- Phonological awareness – awareness of the sound structure of words
- Phonics* – correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters
- Fluency – accuracy, rate and expression while reading
- Vocabulary – the body of words a child has learned
- Reading comprehension – the understanding and interpretation of what is read
Which at-home activities best support the early development of literacy skills?
Reading aloud to children, as well as speaking with them as much as possible, helps create an environment that’s rich in language. Exposing early learners to specific phonological awareness skills can be a part of daily life activities.
Here are some examples:
- Rhyming games. “I’m thinking about an animal that rhymes with frog…that’s right! Dog!” Then, have your child choose a word and ask you to think of a rhyme.
- Rhyming groups. “Let’s think of all the words that rhyme with mat.”
- Nursery songs. Tongue twisters, brief poems, and silly songs let children play with language. Very young children may especially enjoy finger-plays like The Itsy-Bitsy Spider that have hand movements to accompany the words.
- Car time. Ask children to spot a house, then ask what rhymes with house. Mouse! Dog? Log! Tree? Knee!
- Syllables. Help kids learn to break down words into parts. Rowboat = row boat. Classroom = class room. Eggplant = egg plant. Once a child understands syllables, they can break down words like “ap-ple” where the syllables don’t necessarily have meanings on their own, but exhibit closed and open syllables.