265.  I would like to know a method, step by step, to help a 6-years-old child to read.

ANSWER:

PERFECT QUESTION!!!!

To teach a 6-year-old-child to read you MUST begin when the child is born!!!

Ever since children are born, one of the most effective ways to insure great reading performance later on in life is for the parent TO TALK to the child while the child can observe what the parent is talking about.   The child has the opportunity to OBSERVE visually what the parents/relatives or teachers are taking about while s(he) LISTENS to the words the parents/relatives or teachers are using.   This is the MOST effective technique to develop vocabulary.   Repeat this process with the same words and with new words every time you can until the child begins to talk by imitating what you are saying (or what the parents/relatives or teachers are saying).   The child learns the most important concepts in learning to read:  messages/communication about the reality the child is observing can be transmitted through language, oral language in this case.  Learning to read requires the acquisition of a very similar concept:  messages/communication about the reality the child is observing can be transmitted through language, written language in this other case.

As soon as the child can fix h(is/er) eyes on pictures, picture books are essential to continue this oral conversation.   Now, the child begins to observe objects that may NOT be readily available within the reality of the home:  animals, furniture, colors, foods, ways of dressing, stile variations of an object, for example, different kinds of chairs or tables or shoes, etc.; the child can begin to talk about current feelings:  is the child happy, sad, tired, etc.   Abstractions can be talked about:   Mom is kind because she does so-and-so, Dad is generous because he provides toys for the child, etc.  

The more words a child knows the more CONCEPTS s(he) has stored in h(is/er) mind!!!!   The development of the brain --through the observations, listening and speaking about the reality and the abstractions that a child encounters in everyday life—is required for successful reading performance in the future.  The more a child

(1)               observes,

(2)               listens to learned and to new words,

(3)               speaks using learned and new words, including words that label observable objects, abstractions such as qualities, feelings, events, cause and effect relationships, etc.,

the easier for a child to learn to read in the future.

By now the child begins to acquire motor dexterity:  s(he) can walk, run, jump, hold a pencil, make a messy drawing, try to copy a letter, cut with scissors, etc.   It is time to begin to notice letters.   Learning to recognize one’s name and, eventually, learning to identify one’s own name among many, learning to write one’s name using the proper sequence of letters, learning to identify and write the names of all family members and the names of many objects within the home are the kinds of tasks that help introduce reading to a child, in any and in ALL languages, in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Armenian, etc.   These recognition and identification tasks of WHOLE WORDS, entire names or complete labels, are  easily performed and mastered because the words are extremely meaningful to the child.   One’s own name and the names of those one loves or lives with, and the names of easily recognized objects around one’s living environment are names or labels that evoke highly charged emotional reactions.  Learning to recognize meaningful words as WHOLE WORDS is a never-ending task.   It goes on forever and should be practiced every day with the NEW words that a child adds daily to h(is/er) aural and oral vocabulary. 

However, writing requires visual-motor coordination and fine motor dexterity while reading requires visual perception of shapes and patterns as well as visual and auditory discrimination and correlation.   Thus, for reading and writing the child has to develop highly intricate visual, auditory and motor skills.   This takes time and lots of practice.   Thus, the tasks described in the paragraph above need to be repeated often, repeated some more, always looking for opportunities to add new words that are highly emotionally charged to the child as the child practices mastered words.  Now, then, AFTER the child can easily recognize extremely meaningful words that name those persons and objects in h(is/er) environment or within h(is/er) interests, the child is ready to begin to notice similarities and differences.   This is the time to begin to pay attention to the sounds and the symbols (letters) that appear at the beginning of words.

Thus, words with similar initial sound/symbol correlations need to begin to be noticed:  Mom, Mary, Manuel, melons, meat, milk, meal, mattress, moon, etc., need to be presented and practiced emphasizing the similarities.   On the other hand, the child also needs to become aware that Mom, Dad, Grandma, sister, and brother have different initial sound/symbol correlations.   But Dad, dog, door, dinosaur, and doll show similar initial sound/symbol correlation.    Practicing these initial sound/symbol similarities and differences can and should become opportunities to “play” with word pairs, groups of three or four words.  Eventually final sound similarities and possible final sound/symbol correlation in rhyming words need to be presented and “played” with,

The parent or teacher helping the child develop these concepts –similarities and differences in initial AND final sounds/symbols—needs to insure that the child is NOT confused by the incredible number of English words that may begin with similar sounds but with totally different letters so that there is NO similarity in the written language but there is total similarity in the SPOKEN language.   For example, words like “candy” and “Cindy,” or “cat” and “key,” or “uniform” and “uninformed.”  The parent or teacher MUST have a very clear idea concerning what the child is asked to do:  If the child focuses on SIMILAR INITIAL SOUNDS then the spelling of the words does NOT matter.   The child needs to be praised for recognizing SIMILAR INITIAL SOUNDS.   If the child focuses on SIMILAR FINAL SOUNDS then the spelling of the rhyming words does NOT matter.   The child needs to be praised for recognizing SIMILAR FINAL SOUNDS.   Eventually, the child will discover that ALL the words that begin with a SIMILAR INITIAL SOUND may be written with different initial symbols –for example “c,” “k,” “ch,” “qu,” etc.  But THAT KNOWLEDGE comes later, much later.   Meantime, the child may “misspell” many words that begin with SIMILAR INITIAL SOUNDS.  

The learning of which ALTERNATIVE spelling needs to be used for a particular word requires, once again, that words with SIMILAR SOUNDS and SIMILAR SYMBOLS be presented together, as a “family” of words.  Thus, bear, pear, wear, swear, and tear form a “family” while dear, clear, fear, smear, beard, and ear form another “family” of words.   Please, NOTE:  There is absolutely NO reason or explanation for any or for ALL the many different SPELLING patters of words in English.   These patterns follow TRADITION, not rhyme or reason.

By now, by age 6, the child should be entering school and should be ready to develop a huge aural/oral vocabulary –through observing, listening and speaking—and should be exposed to many written representations of words some of which s(he) would have to master as WHOLE WORDS, others s(he) would master as members of “families” of words, and others --very, very few--, the child will master by actually observing the sound/symbol relationships represented by the letters in the words, that is, by “decoding” the words.  These three basic ways of “learning to read” and “learning to write” will continue to be practiced by the child as s(he) moves up the school grades and, interesting enough, throughout the entire lifetime of that child. 

The child will discover that, in English, MOST words have to be mastered as WHOLE words since there is NO way to employ any “decoding” rules to “read” or “write” the word correctly.  The child will also discover the English language word “families” that are based on patterns of symbols (letters) and corresponding patterns of sounds (rhymes).  And finally the child will discover that there are a few English words, very, very few indeed, that the child can actually “decode,” that is, figure out the pronunciation of the word by observing the symbols or letters that spell these words.   Hopefully, the child will learn to use the dictionary and the pronunciation guide that helps pronounce English words.   Most probably the child will depend on others –parents, teachers, family members, adults in the community, who already know and have memorized how to pronounce and spell English words.   It is to be hoped that the child will become a very resourceful individual capable of seeking help from all sources to continue to learn to read and write English words throughout a lifetime.                         

 

 

 


For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

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5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
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9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

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