Five Skills Children Need to be Readers by 3rd Grade
What skills do children need to be fluent readers by third grade? The National Institute for Literacy says parents should focus on 5 key areas:
1. Spoken Words
Before your child ever sees a word on the page, he or she will hear thousands and thousands of words--spoken words. Every spoken word is a series of sounds.
Say the word "football." Now say it again, slowly. Take it apart. Stress each little sound, from the "f" sound at the beginning to the "l" sound at the end. "Football" has six sounds in it. A child who can tell these sounds apart is on the way to becoming a reader.
Children need to hear how sounds in words go together. "Hat," "bat," "fat," "cat," and "rat" are almost the same word--but most people don't wear cats on their heads on cold days. Only the beginning sounds in these words are different. But that one letter makes a huge difference. When you help a child hear and play with sounds in words, you're getting him ready to read, to see those differences between words when they're written down.
It's called phonemic awareness
Teachers call knowing how language sounds "phonemic awareness." You can start working on phonemic awareness when your child is a baby. Even saying silly words like "coochie coo" begins to make language sounds more familiar. Children should have a good sense of phonemic awareness by the time they start preschool.
How can a dad help?
Play games with words. If you see a boat, say to your child, "hey, look at that coat in the water!" She will know it's a boat, and probably tell you so! At dinner, ask your son to pass you his fish—he'll correct you right away that you meant his dish, not his fish.
Teachers call knowing how language sounds "phonemic awareness."
Play with sounds in all parts of words (beginning, middle, and end): like "job," "joy," and "jog," where the difference is at the end of the words. Rhyming is also important. Listen for rhyming words in songs, rap, and poems. Play a game: who can come up with three words that rhyme with "cool" the fastest?
2. Written Words
The leap from talking to reading happens when a child starts to see how written letters stand for the sounds of speech. It's like learning a code.
Take the word "rocket." The sounds you hear when you say "rocket" are represented by letters, or letter pairs: r, o, ck, e, and t. As young readers get better, they recognize words as soon as they see them. After all, you don't want to have to figure out the words "the," "and," and "from" every time you read them. Another great bonus of knowing the rules of how written letters sound? When a reader sees words he doesn't know, he can use his knowledge of letters and sounds to figure them out. Learning the rules of letter sounds takes lots and lots of practice. You would think it would be easy, since there are only 26 letters! But sometimes "e" makes an "eee" sound, sometimes it makes an "eh" sound, and sometimes no sound at all! And there are exceptions to the rules too. Who would figure that "igh" makes a sound like "eye," like in "high" and "sigh?" Young readers will spend a lot of time learning these rules and variations.
It's called phonics
Teachers call this knowledge of how letters represent sounds "phonics." Children can start learning about phonics when they are about four years old. That's when they start to pay more attention to letters and words in books. They will learn a lot about phonics up through first grade. In second grade, they should know most of the phonics rules.
How can a dad help?
Words are everywhere. Think of every word as a chance to help your child become a better reader. Look for words on signs, maps, billboards, cereal boxes, money, and birthday cards. Point out words to your child wherever you see them. Say them out loud. Take time to sound them out and show how the letters and combinations of letters make sounds. For example, standing at a street corner, watch for the sign to turn from "WALK" to "DON'T WALK," and see who can shout the word "DON'T" first!
Teachers call this knowledge of how letters represent sounds "phonics."
Reprinted with the permission of the National Institute for Literacy.
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