There is so much talk about children learning to read and this at a very tender age. It has become paramount to make sure that as parents and educators we look at some very important skills set as we go about supporting the children’s growth in this area. Reading comprehension is that vital skill we must take very seriously.
What is Reading comprehension?
This simply put is the ability to read with understanding. Being able to put together the meaning of words and sentences in a flash as you read the text. We must ensure that the child can understand the text as a whole and not just the words in isolation.
Why am I pointing this out?
I have come across children with limited vocabulary skills but very good phonics training who can read almost anything put in front of them, but they cannot answer questions based on the text they can so perfectly read!
Why is this? And yes it may be some learning difficulty that has not been identified but I have found mostly that the fault is actually ours the adults. The child does not understand because they do not know the meaning of the words they can so easily read!
We can do better.
Talk to these children, tell them stories, read books to them, learn nursery rhymes together, sing songs, learn poems, let them tell stories, role play, increase their sphere of experiences. A child can only give you, what they have experienced, what they know. If we concentrate on phonics to the detriment of everything else that should be developed organically, then the child will give you back phonics and nothing else.
Let us be intentional in what we do, in how we teach our children how to read.
Sometimes we are so engrossed in Phonics – the mechanics of reading and even with that we only focus on a third of the sounds, leaving the other sounds in the English language poorly explored.
We need to pay attention to all the reading skills that would finally culminate in our children being able to read with understanding.
What would they be needing?
They need phonemic awareness apart from a knowledge of phonics, they also need a good bank of vocabulary, a continued growth in the development of being able to read fluently with speed, accuracy and expression. All this will come gradually from continued and consistent practice.
When children have a limited bank of words at their disposal, reading, no matter how well they do the mechanical side of things is not as enjoyable.
Vocabulary building is a specific reading skill we must intentionally work on. This will continue for life. We must start early. It is wrong that the words children know are acquired only from what they read, the ones they know orally too, should be expanding.
Meaning in communication should be explored, they should be able to read between the lines and get cues of the meaning of a sentence from the sentence itself. So you see it is not just the mechanics of phonics that is at play here. There is so much more.
Let us help our children become wholesome joyful learners. We can do this when we intentionally work towards enabling them to become readers with reading comprehension skills.