Teaching Children to Read Part 1

by Sophia McMillan
(Shane Training Centre, Japan)

Learning to Read

Most children start reading around the age of four although some are ready at three. Children quickly become fascinated and excited with the idea of being able to read. However, they can also feel nervous and intimidated. Our job as teachers is to harness the children’s interest and excitement.

Stages of Reading:
1. Listening
2. Speaking
Children need to recognise, understand and produce the spoken word before the written form can be introduced. They need clear consistent models from the teacher, drilling, chants, songs, responding to simple questions which will allow them to make meaningful links to the sound system of English. Learning sounds and letters without understanding any words is a purely mechanical and potentially off-putting experience for them.

3. Letter recognition
4. Phonic recognition
Phonics is the association of sounds and letters. It provides the building blocks to be able to decipher previously unseen written words. Once learners are comfortable with the sounds of English together with their alphabetical symbol, they are far better equipped to read.

Teaching letters and phonics should NOT be the time to introduce new vocabulary.

5. Whole word recognition
English is not a phonetic language (unlike Japanese for example) and many words do not follow phonic rules e.g. one and she and need to be memorized. Whole word recognition is reading words as a whole, and not analyzing the component sounds. Our learners are naturally quite good at recognizing word shapes as they have to memorize thousands of complex logograms (for example kanji).

6. Reading sentences

To teach reading an approach that combines both phonic skills and whole word recognition skills is ideal for children in the English learning classroom.

Children learn to read faster and easier if they learn to write at the same time. The motor memory of the letters, listening to their sounds and seeing them in writing reinforces new learning.

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