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How to Raise a Reading Champ!

In a previous article I wrote about some of the merits of The Whole Language Approach and some of it's shortcomings. The debate between the merits and detriments of Whole Language vs. Phonics has gone on for many years and in the 80's the debate was reinvigorated.
Today the debate continues but many experts agree that a combination of these approaches at the correct times will create the best results. Providing your child with the tools necessary to read while fostering a sense of enjoyment and enthusiasm for reading.
Children cannot learn to read without an understanding of phonics. All children must know their ABCs and the sounds that letters make in order to communicate verbally. The question in early childhood programs is not whether to teach "phonics" or "whole language learning," but how to teach phonics in context—rather than in isolation—so that children make connections between letters, sounds, and meaning.
Phonics should not be taught as a separate "subject" with emphasis on drills and rote memorization. The key is a balanced approach and attention to your child's individual needs. Many children's understanding of phonics will arise from their interest, knowledge, and ideas. Others will benefit from more formal instruction. There are many opportunities to teach the sound a letter makes when children have reason to know. For example, the first letter a child learns typically is the first letter of her name.
Parents should read familiar and favorite stories (poems, rhymes, etc.) to their children again and again, during a shared reading experience. When a child can see the text and see the reader point to words as they are spoken it facilitates the learning of words and of letter/sound patterns, as well as an understanding of print and how it is read in English.
By engaging in activities that reinforce letter/sound relationships, as part of the shared reading experience children are better able to exhibit an understanding of these letter/sound relationships .

Reading is one of the most important cognitive skills your child will learn. Their ability to read, their level of comprehension, and the enjoyment they get from reading will be determining factor in their future ability to learn.
As parents and caregivers, you can help lay down the foundation for a love of reading and nurture children's development. Here are some things you can do to raise a lifelong reader:
Talk, Sing, and Play
Babies delight in hearing language. Talk as you do simple everyday things together: recite nursery rhymes, and do finger plays, games and action songs.
Make Time to Read
Try to read with your child every day at a regularly scheduled time. If possible, choose a time when you can be relaxed and not rushed. If you have more than one child, spend time reading with each child separately, especially if they're more than two years apart. On days that are particularly hectic, bring a few books when you take children along on errands. Taking time to read to children on a regular basis sends the message that reading is worthwhile.
One More Time...PLEASE?!
As every adult who cares for children knows, they often ask to hear the same story again and again. They delight in knowing what comes next and often learn a favorite book so well that they can "read" it on their own. That favorite story may speak to your child's current interests and emotional needs, so it's important for the adults in their lives to be patient during this phase. Young children are eventually ready for different stories if they are continuously exposed to a variety of books.
Slow Down
It's not just what you read to children, but how you read that matters. If adults rush through stories or read without enthusiasm, children quickly lose interest. Try to read with expression and use different voices for the characters. Reading at a leisurely pace with occasional pauses gives children time to take in what they hear, mull it over, and imagine the people, places, and events. Pose a question or make a remark that will prompt the child to think, express themselves, or relate the story to their own experiences. It's also a good idea to follow children's cues. Sometimes they are caught up in the story and don't want stops or detours along the way.
Choose Books with Care
Reading together often, you learn a lot about the kinds of books your child likes and understands. Visit the local library and involve your child in deciding what to bring home. Selecting books that relate to what's happening in the child's life at that time is a good way to ease transitions and allay fears about upcoming events. Topics such as potty training, new siblings, adoption, or moving to a new home are covered in a variety of books that are written specifically for young children.
Surround Children with Reading Material
In addition to library books, children also like having some books of their own that they can read whenever the mood strikes them. Affordable used books can be found at yard sales, thrift stores, secondhand book stores, and public library book sales. Consider subscribing to a good children's magazine--children love having something come in the mail just for them!
Show That You Value Their Efforts
Nothing is more important for fostering readers than showing genuine enthusiasm. Ask your child to read to you, a younger child, or a special visitor. Talk with him about what he is reading and respond positively.
Reading Coping Strategies:
One concern that has been raised is that children who seem to be successful early readers later have reading problems. Some of these children may have dyslexia or other learning disabilities or they may have been unable to hear the proper sounds when being taught to decode words in their frustration they decide to memorize a large number of words but by the time they reach the 2nd or 3rd grade the number and complexity of words has become to difficult to memorize. The Coping strategy that has served them well for the past few years has left them without the phonological vocabulary that they need in order to continue their reading development.

Sight Words:

A sight word is any word that is known by a reader automatically. Sight words are pronounced without decoding the word's spelling. A common first sight word is a child's given name. Beginning readers are at an advantage when they learn to read sight words that occur frequently in print such as those included on the Dolch and Fry word lists.
It is possible to read a word on sight but not know the meaning of the word. For example, a child might be able to read on sight "there, their and they're" but not understand the differences in meaning.
In phonics instruction, sight words refer to common words where one or more phonemes in the word has a unique spelling that cannot be sounded out using common phonics rules (for example: aunt, friend, and sieve).
Reading researcher Diane McGuinness estimates that there are approximately 100 common words in English which fit this description, and require specific word-level memorization. This amount is far less than the 220 sight words listed on the
Dolch word list.
The Dolch Word List is a list of often used words put together by Edward Dolch, PhD. There's like 220 words, split into school grade levels. They originally appeared in his book "Problems in Reading" published in 1948.

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