Early Literacy Reflections

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Phonemic Awareness – The root of it all. The ability to hear the sounds of a word. For example, the ability to hear the “b”, the “a”, and the “t” in bat.  As I read my 2 assigned readings from Reading Instruction that Works (Pressley and Allington) and Best Practices in Literacy Instruction (Gambrell and Morrow) it was phonemic awareness that stood out to me. I found myself reflecting on my own son (with hearing loss) who struggled to learn to read and a student I once had with severe learning disabilities who also struggled to read and write. I found myself wondering about their phonemic awareness that should have been acquired so long ago when they were little. I attributed their struggles to phonics, connecting letters with their sounds. But maybe they didn’t even hear the sounds or the syllables. Maybe, even at an age when it is assumed they have mastered this awareness, they haven’t.

Over and over again in my readings I am reminded how important oral language before entering school is and how socioeconomic status plays a part in the number of words a child hears before entering school. That the sounds of these words as well as their meanings are the foundation to reading and writing. Of course as I read this I smack my forehead in a “duh” moment. But this is really a huge implication (hence the many researchers who study this already know).

So this brings me to the home/school connection. For seven years I have wondered exactly how to communicate with parents/families in a way that makes a difference in how their children learn. The more I read the more I realize how important this notion, this action, is. This home/school connection. How do we turn nightly reading into a joyous activity the entire family enjoys? So often I hear, and I’m sure many other teachers also hear, that home reading time is dreaded by both parent and child. How sad is this! So do we back off and give more flexibility and freedom in home reading? Do we encourage parents, even my 5th grade parents, to read aloud to kids if that would be more enjoyable for both? I found myself thinking about reading aloud to my son while he was in 5th grade. In an older post I discussed reading Huck Finn and The Education of Little Tree to him when he was that age. Nightly reading was a much-anticipated time for us both. So I ask myself, “What reading skills were supported with such nightly read aloud sessions?” Well, vocabulary for one. Vocabulary is one area  that my 5th graders, my middle school science students (when I taught middle school science 10 years ago),and  my own children when they were younger, struggle with. Vocabulary is a critical skill for reading comprehension. So I guess nightly read aloud is good for that. What else?  Well, if the parent reads some and the child reads some, there is word recognition and fluency going on. Stopping along the way to discuss the book supports deeper comprehension. But mostly what I think about when I think about this is an adult sharing a love of reading with a child. Without that foundation, a love of reading, the nightly home reading assignments seem to be in vain. When I tell parents that reading aloud and taking turns with their child during reading aloud is something they can do in moments of home reading meltdown,  most are very happy to hear this is an option.

So I guess the final question here is, “How do we encourage, support reluctant adult readers in this home reading routine?”

http://readingfoundation.org/go/take-the-pledge/http://readingfoundation.org/go/take-the-pledge/

So grab a great book and share it and your love of reading with a child.

Mary

 

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