Reading equals school successes

Short stuff: Education

Trying to teach a child to read is anything but elementary. Two of my three sons had difficulty and by second grade required Reading Recovery, a reading intervention program. Our third son did not qualify for the program, but now in fifth grade is struggling with comprehension.

Because reading is the foundation upon which learning every other subject rests, it is important that your kids master this skill. Christine Rehak, the reading specialist at Meadow View Elementary School in Plainfield, who has spent 34 of her 38 years in education focused on the field of reading, offers these tips on how to help kids become better readers:

1 Make letter recognition a priority. Make sure preschoolers and kindergartners can recognize letters, can write them and know the sounds they make, Rehak says. Put away the flashcards and the kids will forget to resist. My kids love to play the ABC game when driving. We start with A and it is a race to see who can find the first A on a sign, building or license plate. You have to go in order and we win as a family if we find Z before we get home.

2 Don’t just read a story. Teach pre- or beginning readers how a book works, Rehak says."Show them how you read the words left to right. … Often, young kids don’t associate a difference between the pictures and the words. Show them where the words are and explain that the words are telling a story.”

3 Make reading interactive. When you read to your child, Rehak says to stop periodically to get your child’s take on the story. Ask questions. For example, ask what did Cinderella do to solve her problem, why did she do that, what would have happened if Cinderella had done this instead? Doing this helps your child develop critical thinking skills, she says.

4 Try partner reading if your child is struggling. You read a page and have them read the same page. Rehak says this will help them with fluency. Having a child read into a tape recorder also helps. With my kindergartner, we take turns reading. I read a short book and hand it over to her. She"reads” it to me using the pictures as prompts. In the beginning the stories were nothing alike. Now she comes very close.

5 Help your kids find books they want to read."Getting them to want to read is half the problem,” Rehak says."If they like sports, find books about sports.” What they read is secondary at this point. Even comics can provide practice to an otherwise reluctant reader. My fifth-grader gets to read Archie comics for 20-30 minutes before lights out. They were my favorite, too.

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