As a parent, it is useful to understand ‘how children learn to read and what the research tells us about successful reading instruction. We know that almost every child has the capacity to become a confident and competent reader with evidence-based teaching and that parents can support this process in the home.
Some of the strategies that underpin an effective and evidence-based initial reading program include:
- Reading aloud to children often, sharing many different types of books and other print materials and discussing books with them before, during, and after reading;
- Helping children to discover that spoken words have parts and that the words they hear come apart into smaller units of sound (for example, cat is made up of three sounds /c/ /a/ /t/ whereas shampoo is made up of five sounds /sh/ /a/ /m/ /p/ /oo/;
- Teaching children to pull apart (segment) and push together (blend) the individual sounds in a word (learning to ‘segment’ sounds helps children to spell words while learning to ‘blend’ sounds helps children to read words);
- Ensuring children recognize the shapes of the letters of the alphabet, the names of alphabet letters and, most importantly, the sound most often associated with each letter;
- Explicitly and systematically teaching children how individual letters and letter groups are linked to specific sounds;
- Teaching children to analyse and sound out unfamiliar words rather than guess from pictures, the first letter(s) or the surrounding context;
- Teaching children "irregular" words they will see and read often, but that do not completely follow the letter-sound relationships they are learning. These are often called sight words--words such as said, is, was, are; and,
- Providing children with many opportunities to practice these letter-sound linkages by reading stories that contain the letter-sound linkages that are being taught. These stories are often in the form of decodable readers, examples of which include Dandelion, Little Learners Love Literacy, and Pocket Rockets.