Children who make slow progress in reading rarely have just one difficulty. For example, it is not usually the case that their auditory knowledge is poor but their word recognition skills are good. Sadly, such children often have a multitude of problems and it can be very difficult to decide where to begin a remedial programme.
I have found that addressing children’s attitudes to reading and talking to them about what reading is and what readers do when they read is a very helpful starting point.
Initially, I ask children what they like/dislike about reading and why they think it is important to learn to read. When we ask what they think reading is, many children stress the decoding aspect of reading. Few speak of reading as an enjoyable pastime. I feel that it is important to foster a more positive attitude towards reading in order that the much-needed practice in skills takes place in a context of understanding.
With this in mind I always share a whole story whenever children read to me. I find that offering a continuity of approach, so that each child knows exactly what is expected of them during each session, is beneficial.
- Preparing the vocabulary: Before the child begins to read, spend some time with the children looking through the book and talking about it. Do this by commenting on the pictures, but ensure that difficult words are introduced. Wherever possible, feed the child the actual line of the text, without indicating that these are the printed words. When children read aloud after this method of preparation, they start reading the text already knowing the content of the story and having heard much of the text. When they actually begin the decoding of the words on the page, they are amazed to find they know the words. Of course, it is not that these have miraculously become ‘sight’ words but that they have heard them in conversation recently. As they strive to recognize the words printed on the page, the memory of the spoken word is still fresh in their minds. Following this process children often comment, ‘I didn’t know I knew that word’. This increase in fluency made possible by the preparation of the vocabulary, greatly increases confidence and self-esteem.