Sunday, August 23, 2009

Learning to Fly

One of the primary goals to becoming a literate person is to know real freedom and autonomy. Freedom is to access knowledge and autonomy is to use it – or not. Do you read to entertain and escape? Do you read to learn? Do you read as a form of communication with others? Whatever the reason – the experience of engaging text is truly unique it carries the reader away into its world of language in imagery.

Have you ever seen a baby bird take flight? Well no, I haven’t either but I imagine that it is more like graceful falling than flying. Getting to know how to use wings to fly takes time and practice. That’s exactly like what the fledging reader needs. Time and practice. How do you guide your little one to learn how to take flight with words?

Your child’s classroom teacher may discuss reading strategies or fix-up strategies. Here are strategies that a reader can use to help them learn how to deal with mistakes (miscues) as they learn how to decode text.

“Use a picture clue.” – Many beginning books have a high correlation from picture to text the picture is a clue.
“Skip it then go back reread.” – Skip the troublesome word and finish the sentence then go back and reread it maybe you’ll have the information you need to solve the word.
“Reread” – If the reader doesn’t understand what was just read go back to reread, or if the reader took a long time solving a word go back to preserve the meaning of the sentence.
“Get your mouth ready.” – Sometimes the reader just needs to consider the initial letters of a word e.g. if the word is slip get your mouth ready by saying the /s/ sound.
“Look at word beginnings and endings.” Often times, middle (medial) parts in word are the more difficult for children to decode. We want to build confidence beginning (initial) parts of words are usually easier to figure, as is the end (finial).
“Find a word chunk.” This is a phonics cue in programs like Fundations they call these glued or welded sounds e.g. fan, an is the chunk or glued or welded sound.
“Does it look right?” When a child reads a word like glad and they read it as happy this, is the time to cue child back to the word glad and say does it look right?
“Does make sense? Why?” Children should always be reading to understand what they read, so if the child has just labored over a few sentences ask them if it made sense and then say why do you say that? See what they tell you.

These strategies help young readers learn how to read with autonomy – so that they can be free to learn and create.

One last quote from a favorite poet, “Hope is the thing with feathers” (Dickinson 1830-86) Literacy is what gives me hope – teaching children to read is teaching their minds to fly. They will answer all of the unanswered questions of today, but they need our help.

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