On the first day of our three-week road trip to Canada, we stayed at Papa Gray’s Aunt and Uncles’ house in Lebanon KY. I had the pleasure of talking with his Aunt Kathy, who is a “reading recovery teacher”. After 31 years in various teaching roles for elementary students, she rocked my world about reading.
Since I have a brilliant 4-year-old (I may be biased), reading has been more present in my mind lately, as she is learning the sounds of letters and has shown a major interest in learning to read. The other day, she came in with a sheet of paper that said “mama” on it – I had no idea she even knew how!
We have always been big readers, and Ladybug Girl has an amazing knack for picking up anything that is in a rhyming format – she can finish the word on books she’s never read before if it’s a rhyme – just by checking out the pictures and filling in the rhythm. She’s my “lyrics queen” – and, if I teach her by singing, she can remember it easily.
So now that reading is becoming more of a priority for us, I’ve been preparing for bringing out the flashcards and the lesson plans to start memorizing and learning the phonetics for the words… but maybe I’ve been laying the groundwork all along.
In talking with Kathy, I asked her what we could do, and she said when they work with children, they ask 3 questions “Does it sound right? Does it look right? Does it make sense?” The focus of reading, according to a veteran teacher of over thirty years, isn’t about the words. It’s about the story.
That completely hit me. She’s so right! Sometimes children start regressing with reading, or losing their interest, and the issue ends up being that they’ve hit a block – they are hitting words they don’t know. When children learn words by sight…it’s great that they understand the words, but can a teacher/parent really teach every single word by sight? Eventually they will run across words that don’t work.
What about phonetics? Just sound it all out! “Ska – ka- ya” may be Sky, but it just doesn’t work that way. If a child doesn’t know the word “sky” by sight, and can’t make it work phonetically, then what is left? “The bird, she will fly – high in the ___” Some children will be lost because they have not learned to connect the words in context. The meaning is more important than knowing the specific word. You have to learn to read within a story – pulling context clues, seeing similar words/concepts in other books and carrying it over, and fully grasping the meaning of it all.
Interestingly enough, this goes along perfect with my concept of education – I don’t want my children to merely memorize the words and letters – I want them to know the meaning – the significance – the context of how it applies to life. To read is to open the door to a world of opportunity, and it’s not about the actual letters – it’s about the beautiful story it creates.
And…the best way to teach your children to read? Pull them up in your lap and read a book together – I can guarantee you they will get way more out of that than simply learning to spell.