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Helping Your Child Become a Successful Reader
by Topsy-Techie

See also: The Teaching of Reading and Spelling | Readings for Fluency | Readings for Comprehension | Dolch Words

For most children, the process of learning to read is an exciting one. For children with learning difficulties, the process can be frustrating, discouraging, and fraught with feelings of failure. Parents of these children are not immune to discouragement, either. If they themselves did not have difficulty in learning to read, they feel confused as to why their child would be struggling. And if they did have reading difficulties as a child, they can feel guilt about passing down their "reading genes." For both child and parent alike, this is a time to seek out support and encouragement. Websites such as SparkTop.org for kids, and GreatSchools.net for parents, can help you and your child gather information about reading difficulties, and connect with others who are dealing with similar issues.

When gathering information about learning to read, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the conflicting ideas and advice. Some books, articles, and websites can tend to oversimplify the process by advising that you simply inundate your home with books and reading materials and your child will just naturally acquire a love of reading. Other sources will delve deep into the controversies of "whole word" vs "phonics" instruction, and can leave you feeling as though your head is spinning with too much information. What has been lacking has been information for parents which simply summarizes the current thinking on teaching reading and helps parent understand what the expectations are at each level of education.

One tool that parents might find especially helpful is the Reading Skills Pyramid. This tool is a visual representation of the sequence each child goes through as they learn to read. Just as a child learns to catch a ball, then throw a ball, then learn to aim the ball, and then to hit a ball with a bat before they can join in a baseball game, there are natural steps and milestones that children need to go through before they can become successful readers. The reading skills pyramid highlights each of these steps in the sequence. Trying to teach the steps out of sequence can frustrate your child (and you). For instance, prior to trying to learn phonics, the child should master a set of pre-reading skills including understanding basic print concepts, discerning sounds, and awareness of the phonemic “parts” of a “whole” word. Once children understand that words are made up of sounds, the idea of phonics makes much more sense. And while most children do follow this sequence, be aware that there are a great number of variations. Right-brained learners sometimes bypass phonics entirely and begin learning words by sight and pattern.

Other steps in the process include gaining vocabulary skills by incorporating words and meanings from their environment, increase reading comprehension by learning to summarize and sequence, improve reading fluency, and growing phonics and spelling skills. Parents can be supportive through each of these steps by reading to and with their children often, playing games with them that focus on sound and letter connections, asking their children questions about what they are reading, and using a wide variety of vocabulary in conversation.

Parents of children with learning disabilities will need to provide additional reinforcements, as well, such as keeping open conversations with your child about the way their brains work and how their learning differences do not make them inferior, but unique. This also includes helping your child find what he or she excels in, and encouraging their passion in that area. If your child's schoolwork and grades are suffering because of their learning difficulties, you might want to provide them with tutoring or online learning enrichment that will help them get back on track. By encouraging your child's strengths, remediating the source of their difficulties, and praising him or her for their successes, you can help foster a lifelong love of reading in your child.

Author: Topsy-Techie is a homeschooling mother and online writer. She writes the blog about learning to write at Time4Writing.com and the homeschooling blog at Time4Learning.com.

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