Many parents have reached out to us with the question of, “How can I help my struggling reader at home?” You have probably heard ad infinitum, ‘be sure to read to your child.’ Reading to your child is lovely AND necessary for so many reasons. But, that’s a different topic. If you are reading this post, you have probably made trips to the library and reading bedtime stories a common occurrence. You want to know what MORE you can do, because the practices you are currently engaging in just aren’t helping your child close the reading gap. Take heart. There are a lot of short, fun activities that parents can implement at home to strengthen the various components of structured literacy.[Read more…]
Since our inception of Informed Literacy, we have fielded numerous inquiries from parents asking, “How can I help my child who is a struggling reader?
It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to watch your child fail day after day, week after week, month after month, and even year after year. Unfortunately, the response to intervention model can turn into a ‘wait to fail’ model unless you know what to ask for.
Before you can advocate for your child, there are some basic understandings of learning to read that every parent should know.
Reading is a code-based system.
Students who rely on phonics (the code), do not need to use the picture or guess at a word. Guessing is an ineffective strategy and guesses are more often wrong than right. Some studies indicate that guessing at words only works about 14% of the time.
Many struggling readers avoid detection until third or fourth grade.
Students who have an extensive vocabulary and a broad range of experiences, are quite often good at guessing. They manage to get by using this strategy until they reach about third grade. Third grade is the point at which students move from learning to read to reading to learn. Often, these students who have compensated for code-based (phonics) weaknesses by guessing and checking will begin to struggle in Grade 3. Students must read and understand texts that have outpaced their vocabulary and experiences. Guessing, while never an ideal strategy, fails the struggling reader completely. This is commonly referred to as the “Third Grade Wall”. For more information about older struggling readers, click here.
Proficient readers know and automatically recognize the 6 syllable types.
The six syllable types are:
Closed – these are words containing one vowel followed by one or more consonants and the vowel is short (cat, pink, mesh, stick)
Open – these words contain one vowel found at the end of a word and the vowel is long (no, he, why)
Silent e – these words follow the vowel-consonant-silent e pattern and the vowel is long (make, stone, life)
Vowel digraphs – these words contain two vowels next to each other, the first vowel is long and the second is silent (boat, sleep, pie)
Vowel diphthongs – these words contain two vowels next to each other, the two vowels work together to make a completely new sound (boy, coil, couch)
Final stable syllable – the final stable syllable is not a stand alone word. The final stable syllable must be added to word part to create a complete word. Final stable syllables include c+le (table, giggle), tion (lotion, caption), and sion (vision).
It is vital that students who are beginning to read (or who struggle to read) have a solid understanding of these syllable types. Recognizing the syllable types is not enough. Students must be able to read single syllable words containing phonetic patterns with automaticity. Multisyllabic words are built upon one-syllable units. If students struggle to read one syllable words, they will most certainly struggle with multisyllabic words.
The Science of Reading is based on over 20 years of reading research and supports explicit instruction in the components of reading.
The components of reading are: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
There have been extensive studies on the best way to teach reading. The science is settled. Explicit, systematic, cumulative, reading instruction is the most effective way to teach reading. Here is one of our favorite videos on how reading takes place in the brain by one of favorite neuroscientists, Stanislas Dehaene.
How can I help my child who is a struggling reader?
1. Insist on a reading program that adheres to the Science of Reading.
There are major differences between programs that adhere to the Science of Reading and Balanced Literacy. Do not accept a Balanced Literacy approach to reading instruction. This eye-opening article clearly explains the deficits of a Balanced literacy approach.
Phonics instruction that is explicit, cumulative and sequential is critical for helping beginning and struggling readers become proficient. Fundations is an evidenced-based program and is perfect for classroom instruction in Grades K-3. Students who have a language-based reading disability or who have dyslexia often require a more intensive program such as Wilson or Orton-Gillingham.
2. Decodable reading materials are a MUST for independent reading.
Parents can help their struggling reader by insisting that the school provide their child with decodable texts. Decodable texts means that the words follow the phonetic patterns that the child is learning. Providing decodable texts for independent practice helps reinforce students’ understanding and builds automaticity for reading phonetically regular words.
Merely providing struggling students with leveled readers serves to reinforce the misunderstanding that our English system is random. When this happens, students revert to the faulty strategy of guessing and checking.
3. Ask about the teacher’s qualifications.
Qualifications matter. You wouldn’t go to an unlicensed dentist. You probably wouldn’t hire a plumber or electrician if they weren’t certified. So, you shouldn’t put your child in the hands of an unqualified reading instructor. The teacher must be knowledgeable in the foundations of reading. Look for training in Fundations, Wilson and/or Orton-Gillingham. Is the teacher a certified dyslexia practitioner?
4. Check for legislation in your state.
Some states have been passed laws (or are in the process of passing laws) requiring schools to implement reading programs based in the Science of Reading. Recent legislation in Connecticut, The Right to Read Act, requires every school system to be compliant by 2023.
5. Knowledge is Power.
The more parents know the more parents can effectively advocate for their struggling reader.
Case Study #1, Avery
In this post we will take a closer look at Avery, whom we introduced on our Instagram page. We will explore whether or not early intervention in foundational reading skills is needed. Avery is a kindergarten student who has strong oral language skills, a robust vocabulary, a depth of background knowledge. All these strengths have resulted in Avery ‘reading’ and passing a level D book as evidenced by her running record. But, is she really reading? Let’s take a closer look.[Read more…]
B/d letter reversals, while common in Grades K and 1, tend be a bit more of a concern as students move beyond first grade. It is ALWAYS preferred to remediate letter formation issues as early as possible before bad habits set in. Read on to discover some handy tips and tricks for correcting b/d reversals.[Read more…]
Teaching handwriting is one of the cornerstones of literacy because reading and writing are reciprocal skills. As students learn to spell words with the same phonetic patterns they are reading, it helps solidify their understanding. Automaticity and accuracy in letter formation frees up working memory. Then students can concentrate on what they are writing, rather than how.[Read more…]
There are stages that Emergent and Struggling Readers must go through in order to develop automaticity at the word level. One thing that we are constantly reminded of as Reading Interventionists is that students don’t inherently know when to take their skills to the next level. Students must be shown when and how to move on. This is true for automaticity too!
In this post we will walk you through a real life example of moving a student from learning to apply phonics to reading with fluency. We’ll call this student Sam.[Read more…]
The Science of Reading and Leveled Readers are the crux of the reading wars. If your school district is requiring you to use leveled readers as part of your reading instruction, there are ways that you can incorporate the science of reading within these texts.[Read more…]
Consonant Blends are two or more consonants that are next to each other. Consonant blends are not separated by a vowel. There are a few facts that you should know before teaching blends to your readers:
- Consonant blends can be found at the beginning or end of a syllable.
- Many (not all) beginning blends are often separated into l blends, r blends and s blends.
- Some ending blends include nasal blends (blends with n or m). Blends containing these letters are often the most difficult for beginning readers to read and spell with accuracy.
- Most blends contain two consonants, but there are some blends like str, scr and spr that contain three letters.
- Digraph blends are blends that contain a digraph and another consonant (i.e. nch in lunch and thr in thrill).
- Students who have weak phonemic memory often have difficulty reading and spelling words with blends.
Read on to find some helpful tips about teaching this phonetic concept.[Read more…]
Ever wonder how to improve student behavior during reading groups? In this blog we share techniques that we’ve used during intervention to help students improve their behavior. Often students who struggle to read, or who are receiving intervention, exhibit behavioral difficulties that stem from anxiety. When students struggle with learning, they often blame themselves. They see others catching on and making progress, while they continue to flounder. The first order of business is to acknowledge that the student is having trouble, it’s not their fault, and you are there to help them.[Read more…]
Not only do decodable texts support reading comprehension, they can actually increase comprehension!
We hear it all the time. “The purpose of reading is comprehension and focusing on code gets in the way of that.” We beg to differ. Let me tell you a true story.[Read more…]