What parents need to know about the research on how kids learn to read

teaching children to readA student in a Mississippi elementary school reads a book in class. Research shows young children need explicit, systematic phonics instruction to learn how to read fluently.


Terrell Clark for The Hechinger Report Teaching kids to read international relations and security network ’ thyroxine easy ; educators frequently feel powerfully about what they think is the “ right ” way to teach this substantive skill. Though teachers ’ approaches may differ, the research is pretty clear on how best to help kids learn to read. here ’ s what parents should look for in their children ’ s classroom.

How do kids actually learn how to read?
research shows kids learn to read when they are able to identify letters or combinations of letters and connect those letters to sounds. There ’ second more to it, of run, like attaching meaning to words and phrases, but phonemic awareness ( understanding sounds in speak words ) and an sympathy of phonics ( knowing that letters in print match to sounds ) are the most basic first steps to becoming a proofreader .

If children can ’ metric ton headmaster phonics, they are more probable to struggle to read. That ’ mho why researchers say explicit, systematic direction in phonics is important : Teachers must lead students step by mistreat through a specific sequence of letters and sounds. Kids who learn how to decode words can then apply that skill to more challenge words and ultimately read with eloquence. Some kids may not need much help with phonics, particularly as they get older, but experts say phonics instruction can be essential for young children and struggling readers “ We don ’ t know how much phonics each pull the leg of needs, ” said Anders Rasmussen, star of Wood Road Elementary School in Ballston Spa, New York, who recently led the transformation of his schools ’ reading platform to a research-based, structure approach. “ But we know no kid is hurt by getting besides much of it. ”
How should your child’s school teach reading?
Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an adept on reading teaching, said phonics are crucial in kindergarten through second degree and phonemic awareness should be explicitly taught in kindergarten and first grade. This watch has been underscored by experts in holocene years as the debate over take direction has intensified. But teaching kids how to read should include more than phonics, said Shanahan. They should besides be exposed to oral reading, reading comprehension and write .

The wars over how to teach read are rear. here ’ s the four things you need to know .

Wiley Blevins, an writer and adept on phonics, said a good test parents can use to determine whether a child is receiving research-based read education is to ask their child ’ s teacher how reading is taught. “ They should be able to tell you something more than ‘ by reading lots of books ’ and ‘ developing a sexual love of reading. ’ ” Blevins said. Along with time dedicated to teaching phonics, Blevins said children should participate in read-alouds with their teacher to build vocabulary and subject cognition. “ These read-alouds must involve interactional conversations to engage students in thinking about the capacity and using the vocabulary, ” he said. “ Too frequently, when time is limited, the day by day read-alouds are the first gear thing left out of the read time. We undervalue its shock on reading growth and must change that. ”
Rasmussen ’ sulfur school uses a structured approach : Children receive lessons in phonemic awareness, phonics, pre-writing and writing, vocabulary and repeat readings. research shows this type of “ taxonomic and intensive ” approach in respective aspects of literacy can turn children who struggle to read into average or above-average readers .

What should schools avoid when teaching reading?
Educators and experts say kids should be encouraged to sound out words, rather of guessing. “ We in truth want to make certain that no kid is guessing, ” Rasmussen said. “ You actually want … your own kid sounding out words and blending words from the earliest level on. ” That means children are not told to guess an unfamiliar son by looking at a painting in the book, for case. As children brush more challenging textbook in later grades, avoiding reliance on ocular cues besides supports eloquent interpretation. “ When they get to ninth grad and they have to read “ Of Mice and Men, ” there are no picture cues, ” Rasmussen said .
Related: Teacher Voice: We need phonics, along with other supports, for reading
Blevins and Shanahan circumspection against organizing books by different interpretation levels and keeping students at one level until they read with adequate fluency to move up to the adjacent flush. Although many people may think keeping students at one level will help prevent them from getting frustrated and discouraged by difficult texts, research shows that students actually learn more when they are challenged by reading materials .
Blevins said reliance on “ leveled books ” can contribute to “ a bad habit in readers. ” Because students can ’ t sound out many of the words, they rely on memorizing repeated words and sentence patterns, or on using movie clues to guess words. Rasmussen said making kids stick with one reading charge — and, specially, systematically giving some kids texts that are below class flat, preferably than giving them supports to bring them to grade floor — can besides lead to larger gaps in reading ability .
How do I know if a reading curriculum is effective?

Some read course of study binding more aspects of literacy than others. While about all programs have some research-based components, the structure of a broadcast can make a adult dispute, said Rasmussen. Watching children read is the best way to tell if they are receiving proper teaching — denotative, systematic instruction in phonics to establish a foundation garment for read, coupled with the use of grade-level texts, offered to all kids .
Parents who are curious about what ’ south included in the course of study in their child ’ s classroom can find sources on-line, like a graph included in an article by Readingrockets.org which summarizes the diverse aspects of literacy, including phonics, writing and inclusion strategies, in some of the most democratic reading course of study .
Blevins besides suggested some questions parents can ask their child ’ s teacher :

  • What is your phonics scope and sequence?

“ If research-based, the course of study must have a clearly define phonics scope and sequence that serves as the spine of the instruction. ” Blevins said .

  • Do you have decodable readers (short books with words composed of the letters and sounds students are learning) to practice phonics?

“ If no decodable or phonics readers are used, students are improbable to get the come of practice and application to get to mastery so they can then transfer these skills to all recitation and writing experiences, ” Blevins said. “ If teachers say they are using leveled books, ask how many words can students sound out based on the phonics skills ( teachers ) have taught … Can these words be amply sounded out based on the phonics skills you taught or are children only using pieces of the word ? They should be in full sounding out the words — not using equitable the inaugural or first and final letters and guessing at the rest. ”

  • What are you doing to build students’ vocabulary and background knowledge? How frequent is this instruction? How much time is spent each day doing this?

“ It should be a lot, ” Blevins said, “ and much of it happens during read-alouds, particularly informational text, and skill and social studies lessons. ”

  • Is the research used to support your reading curriculum just about the actual materials, or does it draw from a larger body of research on how children learn to read? How does it connect to the science of reading?

Teachers should be able to answer these questions, said Blevins .
What should I do if my child isn’t progressing in reading?
When a child international relations and security network ’ t build up, Blevins said, the key is to find out why. Is it a teach challenge or is your child a course of study casualty ? This is a bad one. ” Blevins suggested that parents of kindergarteners and first graders ask their child ’ second school to test the child ’ s phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency .
Parents of older children should ask for a test of vocabulary. “ These tests will locate some underlie issues as to why your child is struggling reading and understanding what they read, ” Blevins said. “ Once fundamental issues are found, they can be systematically addressed. ”

“ We don ’ thymine know how much phonics each kid needs. But we know no child is hurt by getting besides much of it. ”Anders Rasmussen, principal of Wood Road Elementary School in Ballston Spa, New York

Rasmussen recommended parents work with their school if they are concerned about their children ’ mho advancement. By sitting and reading with their children, parents can see the kind of literacy education the kids are receiving. If children are trying to guess based on pictures, parents can talk to teachers about increasing phonics instruction .
“ Teachers aren ’ thyroxine there doing necessarily bad things or disadvantaging kids purposefully or willfully, ” Rasmussen said. “ You have many great reading teachers using some effective strategies and some ineffective strategies. ”
What can parents do at home to help their children learn to read?
Parents want to help their kids learn how to read but don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate want to push them to the orient where they hate reading. “ Parents at home plate can fall into the trap of thinking this is about drilling their kid, ” said Cindy Jiban, a former educator and current principal academic lead at NWEA, a research-based non-profit focused on assessments and professional teach opportunities. “ This is unfortunate, ” Jiban said. “ It sets up a parent-child interaction that makes it, ‘ Ugh, there ’ s this matter that ’ s not fun. ’ ” rather, Jiban advises making decoding playful. hera are some ideas :

  • Challenge kids to find everything in the house that starts with a specific sound.
  • Stretch out one word in a sentence. Ask your child to “pass the salt” but say the individual sounds in the word “salt” instead of the word itself.
  • Ask your child to figure out what every family member’s name would be if it started with a “b” sound.
  • Sing that annoying “Banana fana fo fanna song.” Jiban said that kind of playful activity can actually help a kid think about the sounds that correspond with letters even if they’re not looking at a letter right in front of them.
  • Read your child’s favorite book over and over again. For books that children know well, Jiban suggests that children use their finger to follow along as each word is read. Parents can do the same, or come up with another strategy to help kids follow which words they’re reading on a page.

Giving a child divers experiences that seem to have nothing to do with read can besides help a child ’ s reading ability. By having a assortment of experiences, Rasmussen said, children will be able to apply their own cognition to better comprehend textbook about respective topics.

This history about teaching children to read was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, mugwump news organization focused on inequality and invention in education. Sign up for Hechinger ’ mho newsletter .
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