Reading is perhaps the most fundamental of academic skills. It is essential to progress and success both in school and in the world of work. There are three main competencies that psychologists look at when accessing how well kids read. The first is their ability to decode single words. Whether they are sounding them out or memorizing whole words, kids need this skill first if any progress is to be made. The second challenge is related to kids’ reading fluency. Kids need to be able to decode words in an efficient and fluent manner. If they are not able to, a stacato, variable paced type of reading results. Reading fluency is an important intermediary step towards the third reading challenge, namely reading comprehension. A child who can decode words in a fluent and efficient way can focus their energy on understanding the meaning of the text before them. If too much time is spent decoding and fluency is negatively effected, the opportunity to understand what you have read can be lost.
Over the years, researchers have identified some underlying cognitive processes that effect kids reading decoding, fluency and comprehension. One of the main factors underlying early reading ability is called “phonological awareness”. This refers to kids’ ability to know what letter combinations make which sounds. For instance, kids need to know what the sounds “ph” or “th” make and how their sequencing and pairing create words. Knowledge of these word sounds are predictive of proficient reading and can be seen as early as first grade.
Phonemic awareness can be improved by providing rich language experiences. One way to accomplish this is by reading to your kids in the preschool years. Once they enter school, teachers can encourage active exploration and manipulation of word sounds. Most children will acquire phonemic awareness from these activities.
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