(StatePoint) Reading is the most important skill that children need to master to be successful in school and life. However, kids increasingly are struggling with this most basic of academic abilities.
The United States currently has one of the lowest literacy rates in the developed world. According to the National Report Card, the country is experiencing a literacy crisis, with 68 percent of fourth graders and 69 percent of eighth graders testing below grade level in reading.
When children have difficulty reading, they quickly can fall behind their peers. Luckily, there are ways to improve almost any child’s reading proficiency.
“Telling children to try harder is not the key to developing better readers. Rather, students need to be taught the building blocks of words: phonograms and spelling rules,” says Denise Eide, a teacher and author of the new book, “Uncovering the Logic of English.”
There are many things parents can do to help:
• Explain writing is code. Many students guess wildly while reading because they have never realized words are made of individual sounds blended together. Show them how letters and groups of letters represent sounds. Then practice blending the sounds to form words.
• Teach all the sounds. Many letters say more than one sound. For example, the letter “S” sounds different in the word “sad” than the word “is.” Many students misread simple words, because they don’t know all the sounds.
• Make it fun. Learning the basics doesn’t need to be boring. Engage young children through play. Practice the phonograms with games, large motor activities and art projects.
• Cover pictures. Many young students struggle with the left to right eye movement of reading. Allow students to look at the pictures then cover them with a blank sheet of paper while reading. Covering pictures makes it easier to focus on text.
• Teach all nine ‘Silent E’ rules. Many students know only one reason for a silent final “E” — the vowel says its name because of the “E.” This explains words like “game” and “ripe,” but leaves many kids struggling to read “have” and “give.” Learning the nine reasons, including that English words do not end in “V,” prevents students from needing to memorize thousands of exceptions.
• Find answers. Too often we answer questions about reading with “that is an exception.” This frustrates many bright students and discourages them from reading. Rather than dismissing words as exceptions, look for answers and explanations. English is more logical than most Americans think.
Answers to questions about English reading and spelling can be found in “Uncovering the Logic of English” and by visiting www.logicofenglish.com.
“Many students complain English spelling appears inconsistent, especially highly logical children who may grow up to be scientists or mathematicians,” says Eide. “By teaching students how English works you will improve their reading abilities and encourage them to read!”