We Know: How to Improve Your Child's Reading Skills

How do I know if my child is reading well for his or her grade level?

There are national levels, or benchmarks, that a child should reach by a particular age or grade. For example, a first grader should be able to read simple words aloud, smoothly, and for meaning. A third grader should be able to understand and decode new words when reading. By fifth grade, the child be able to skim text for meaning.

What if my child has not reached his or her grade level benchmarks?

When children fail to advance in reading it is often because a step was missed somewhere in the learning process. To read well, children should learn through:

  • Phonics: The study of the way letters represent the sounds. These sounds are strung together to form words. Children who are taught phonics are able to read any word just by sounding the it out. Unfortunately, they often to fail to comprehend what they are reading.
  • Sight words: Words that are recognized automatically. Alone, sight words can be difficult for children who have trouble memorizing things. When combined with phonics, sight words are learned over time through recognition.
  • Comprehension: The ability to understand what is being read. A child must make a connection from sounding out "B-a-l-l is Ball", to understanding that a 'ball' is a round toy that comes in different sizes, and is used for different games.

How can I teach my child the steps they may have missed?

Parents teaching children to read should keep the lessons light and stress free. This is best accomplished through learning games.

  • Scrabble is a great game for teaching phonics. An inexperienced reader can team up with a parent and who can teach the sounds of each letter, while stringing together words.
  • Bingo and flash cards are great games for teaching sight words. These games force repetition, and promote memorization. A google search for "sight word games" will provide hours of learning fun.
  • Concentration is a great game to teach reading comprehension. Make two sets of cards. One set should have words. The second set should have corresponding pictures. By matching these words and pictures, your child will be able to recognize many words. Another version of this game, using definitions instead of pictures, will improve vocabulary and comprehension.

Finally, to prevent reading problems and give children a thirst for reading, read to your child starting from birth.

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