Reading

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The first step in becoming a better reader is learning to read. This includes learning the alphabet, decoding words phonetically, and building vocabulary. Over time children put this foundation to work as they read to learn and grasp concepts.  This brings a child to utilize the skill of reading comprehension, which is currently emphasized in schools.

The current school curriculum is emphasizing reading, specifically reading comprehension versus attaining general knowledge. And yet, despite the enormous expenditure of time and resources on reading, American children haven’t become better readers.1 For the past 20 years, only about a third of students have scored at or above the “proficient” level on national tests.

Also, the school-free summer months can bring on learning losses of one to two months in reading compared to the previous year. So what can you do???

  1. Begin early. Read aloud to your infant as part of a daily routine. As your child gets older, you can begin to engage and ask questions and talk about the story. Once your child begins to read, have her read aloud to you.

  2. Role model. Read! Check out books from the library. Show an interest in reading and your child may develop the same interest. Read articles, books, recipes, etc. that role model that you read as well.

  3. Make appropriate materials easily accessible to encourage reading. Have magazines, newspapers, and articles available that engage your child’s interest. Through proper adult supervision and controlling filters, you can even find interesting reading on the internet.

  4. Find help if necessary. Most children can learn to read, even if some do need a little more assistance. Solicit help from teachers or professionals to determine if your child has a learning disability or other problem that needs extra support. 

With your support and encouragement, your child will begin a lifelong journey of reading.

  1. Why American Students Haven't Gotten Better at Reading in 20 Years, Natalie Wexler, The Atlantic, April 13, 2018

Vocabulary Disparity

How to begin? What word to use? Have you ever struggled to find the right word ? A strong vocabulary starts as early as a preschooler according to recent research.  As reported by Big Ideas, Little Learners: Early Childhood Trends Report 2019, vocabulary disparity begins to appear at 18 months. 1

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Helping preschoolers learn new words can help improve the disparity and establish strong reading skills. Here are 6 ways to build a child’s vocabulary 2:

1.   Visit the Library

Ask the librarian for help if you are not sure where to begin. Attend the fun and engaging activities at your local library. Events at a library are a public service and typically are free.

2.  Teach and Reinforce The Alphabet

Singing the alphabet song is a simple way to get preschoolers engaged in learning. You can use the alphabet to play games such as selecting a word that begins with letters in order of the alphabet.

3.  Use Descriptive Words

Expand on the description of items when talking with your child. Using descriptive words may be beyond your child’s understanding but using them in proper context makes them more comprehensible. Also, try using synonyms with your child to broaden their vocabulary and word choice.

4.   Become a Super Sorter

Label items in your child’s room and sort items into bins. Seeing is learning and can teach children to think logically and build their vocabulary. Another way to learn new words is to help them visualize it - use flashcards or pictures from magazines for this.

5.   Practice Rhymes

Not only is rhyming fun but can help toddlers think about how different words can relate to each other. Reading books such as Dr. Suess can be fun.

 6.   Read Aloud Together

Book time can be quality one-on-one time with your preschooler. Select books that will interest your child and stretch their understanding. Along with reading, engage your child by asking questions and allowing them to ask questions. This will expand vocabulary and also begin to build comprehension skills.

 Expanding your child’s vocabulary is not difficult but it is necessary to help them along the path to reading. Starting early is the key to reduce the disparity of vocabulary for your child. While it does take some planning to attend the library or label/organize your child’s room, the benefits will become apparent as your child begins to incorporate new words into every day conversation.

1 Big Ideas, Little Learners: Early Childhood Trends Report 2019, Omidyar Network, 2019

2 8 Fun Ways to Build a Child’s Vocabulary, Very Well Family, January 2019

Summer is Coming - Get Ready for the Slide

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As the school year comes to an end, students get excited about relaxing, having fun and enjoying the warmer weather. As they hit the playground and run for the slide, their memory and learnings from the school year begin to slide. So how do we prevent “slide” over the summer?

“In their overview of the summer slide, Quinn and Polikoff offer a few key facts:

  • Learning and achievement are perishable. The average student loses a month of academic-calendar learning each summer.

  • The impact of the summer slide contributes to a more pronounced achievement gap.

  • Research has found a link between socioeconomic status and the loss of reading skills experienced over the summer.

  • Studies show older students lose more over the summer than younger ones.

  • Students see greater academic dips in math than in reading.”1

Here are some things that can be done to slow the knowledge “slide”:

Head to the library. Read, read, read… select a book that interests the child. Reading improves English capabilities and increases word knowledge. Reading can be interactive by having discussions with the family – providing summaries or reading together for the younger ones. As writing is being more emphasized in school, a short book summary could be written to keep up the practice.

Keep the communication going. In addition to reading with the child or reviewing books together, communicate with your children. Ask about their day, incorporate items that are being studied – colors, letters, numbers, animals, history, civics, etc. Connect with an instructor or educational coach to provide support.

Complete work over summer. There are many options to get assigned work over summer break. Schools or libraries may supply summer projects. Also many after-school supplemental educational programs offer assignments for summer.

Do work at home. While there are many options to do homework over the summer, utilizing online versions of programs can be very supportive. The more interactive, the more likely children will spend some of their summer break doing online studies at home.

Implementing a strategy can prevent the “slide” of your child’s knowledge over summer. Contact your local Eye Level Center to discuss how their summer programs can help.

 


  1. Ariel Goldberg, 2018,  What Summer Slide Actually Means-and 5 Ways to Fight it