- Instant Reader
- August 31, 2017, 11:50 pm
Recent findings – a product of nearly four decades of scientific research on how children learn to read – challenge the belief that children learn to read naturally – just like walking and talking. Despite hundreds of published articles supporting the claim that reading is not a natural phenomenon, many old-schoolers still insist that kids should not be taught to read early as they will just naturally read.
According to statistics, only about 5% of our nation’s children learn to read and write with ease before school, and without any great effort or pressure on the part of their parents. They pick up books, pencils, and paper, and they are on their way, almost as though by magic. Only 5%! What about the 95%?
From the numerous recent researches done globally on the study of Reading, one of the most compelling findings reveals that children who get off to a poor start in reading rarely catch up. This is because learning to read is critical to a child's overall well-being. If a youngster does not learn to read in our literacy-driven society, hope for a fulfilling, productive life diminishes. In short, difficulties learning to read are not only an educational problem, they constitute a serious public health concern.
This is something I could truly attest. I have dealt with students starting from first grade to sixth level really having a hard time coping in all their subjects and struggling to finish a task. They even show pits of depression simply because reading is a total burden for them. Nothing is more conclusive than their poor start in reading. Bridging the gap is a huge task to take. These kids were left behind.
Several students whom I have assessed to have poor reading skills due to the lack of direct (explicit) and precise (systematic) reading instruction (phonemic awareness) before they reach the age of nine suffered most in their academic subjects.
Coupled with this identified and lurking learning disability is an emotional seesaw resulting into their very poor self-esteem.
Reading is the product of decoding and comprehension (Gough et al. 1993). Although this sounds simple, learning to read is much tougher than people think. To learn to decode and read printed English, children must be aware that spoken words are composed of individual sound parts termed phonemes. This is what is meant by phoneme awareness.
The consequences of a slow start in reading become monumental as they accumulate exponentially over time (Stanovich). Associated with failure to acquire early word reading skills, these consequences range from negative attitude toward reading (Oka and Paris) to reduced opportunities for vocabulary growth. It then bloats to missed opportunities in the development of reading comprehension strategies to less actual practice in reading than other children receive (Brown, Purcell and Allington).
Several times I have listened to parent after parent tell me about their feelings that there was a problem early on, yet persuading themselves to discount their intuition. They opted to wait to seek help for their child.
Later when they learned that time is of the essence in developing reading skills, the parents regretted the lost months or years.
Another revealing facts on reading researches show that the crucial window of opportunity to deliver help is during the first couple of years of school (preschool years).
So if your child is having trouble learning to read, the best approach is to take immediate action (Hall). The longer you wait to get help for a child with reading difficulties, the harder it will be for that child to catch up. If help is given in fourth grade, rather than in late kindergarten, it takes four times as long to improve the same skills by the same amount (Lyon G.R 2007).
Good readers are phonemically aware, understand the alphabetic principle, apply these skills in a rapid and fluent manner, possess strong vocabularies and syntactical and grammatical skills, and relate reading to their own experiences. Difficulties in any of these areas can impede reading development. Further, learning to read begins far before children enter formal schooling. Children who have stimulating literacy experiences from birth onward have an edge in vocabulary development, understanding the goals of reading, and developing an awareness of print and literacy concepts.
Conversely, the children who are most at risk for reading failure enter kindergarten and the elementary grades without these early experiences. Frequently, many poor readers have not consistently engaged in the language play that develops an awareness of sound structure and language patterns. They have limited exposure to bedtime and laptime reading.
Taking it from Anne Northup, the US Representative to Congress, “a six year old is only six once, you cannot come back 15 years later and make things right”. Our children deserve nothing less.