Are you one of those parents who often complains to himself: “Why does my child find it so difficult to read?” You may not be aware of it but nearly 40% of children face the same problem. The reasons are many and varied. Sometimes, children have a disability that makes reading difficult to learn. Others come to school without the basic literacy background they need to become proficient readers.
With timely help most reading problems can be resolved but many parents either fail to take notice or choose to ignore it completely. This would suggest that having enrolled the child in an elementary school, parents have absolved themselves of any further responsibility for the child’s academic progress.
This turns out to be counter-productive and unfortunate. Few people realize that a child is ready to learn to read about the time he starts to speak. And this window of opportunity is so short lived that if a child is not given the right opportunity, and cannot read with any level of proficiency by Grade 3, in most cases the chances of catching up will be non-existent. According to the landmark study by Hart and Risley, there is a well-established correlation between prior knowledge and reading comprehension. Students who have it, succeed. Students who don’t, simply fail, and the differences are identifiable as early as age 3.
This often results in a loss of self esteem and behavioral problems. As the children grow up, many of them drop out of school, and of those who do manage to graduate from high school only 2% students get admission in a four-year course at college.
Nearly a decade after Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act with the aim of 100% proficiency in Maths and Reading, most states have attained less than 30% proficiency. Not surprisingly, 68% of all grade 8 students could not even meet the reading standards at grade level.
This is why the importance of early childhood education is steadily gaining recognition under the Obama administration. And, as a result, many private and public schools, are offering pre-kindergarten (pre-school) as part of the elementary school experience. Yet, this has still to alter the fact that more than 1.2 million students will drop out of school this year. This averages out to 6,000 children simply saying “No” to further education every single school day.
Of course, you want no part of this scenario. In other words, no matter the constraints of time or money, you have set your aim high and will do the best for your child.
So where and when should a parent begin to develop pre-school reading tutoring skills and teach the child to learn to read? To start with, have you considered that once your baby is old enough you can put him on your lap and start reading children’s stories to him. At this stage a child is very receptive; a book is like a toy and listening to you read, a form of learning.
The next step is to personally educate yourself to put your child on the right path of learning. Fortunately, this will cost you little in terms of time and money.
English being a very widely spoken language, hundreds of research studies emanating from all over the world will show you that phonics is the best way to teach reading to children. This covers those with dyslexia (a problem with identifying alphabets) and other learning disabilities.
Incidentally, English is a phonetic language. Since kids learn to talk by imitating sounds and combining them to form words, learning to read through phonics has provided excellent results. Phonemes, the smallest units comprising spoken language, combine to form words and syllables and phonemic awareness is the foundation of spelling and word recognition skills.
Today, all countries that have a phonetic language teach reading through phonics. The one exception being the U.S.A. which adopted the whole word approach to teach reading, eighty years ago.. This method depends more on memorizing words (and some guess work) than the way the words actually sound. Though in the earlier days this may have had its merit; in today’s context it is a disaster.
With more expectations from new entrants at school as the curriculums suggest, and a workforce with 80% teachers ill-equipped to give your children the chance they deserve, your only option is to choose a good reading manual and give your child a secure start by teaching him at home.