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Improve Literacy Newsletter

18 September 2009 -- Issue 17


Hi there!

Apologies that it's been a while since the last newsletter, but we've been overseas for the last few weeks and have only just got ourselves back into the swing of things... So without further ado, let's get into it! This month we are going to be looking at 'reading readiness' - or in other words, the point in a person's educational development when he or she is ready to start reading, and can start to make sense of what is being read.


In this issue:

1. The importance of 'reading readiness'
2. How to know if your child is ready to read
3. Ways to test reading readiness and reading levels
4. Practical Guide to Reading Comprehension eBook
5. The Improve Literacy website


1. The importance of 'reading readiness'

Reading readiness generally refers to the time when a person is ready to start reading. If your child knows:

  • what letters are
  • what sounds letters make
  • that letters go together to form words
  • that you read from left to right, and from the front of a book to the back

then usually s/he is in a good position to be able to start reading.

Most schools, because of their sheer size and the way they are set up, are unable to cater for the individual needs of their students, who invariably come from a variety of backgrounds, both on an educational and a cultural level.

This is where parents have a distinct advantage over class teachers, as they can address the individual reading strengths and weaknesses of their child. What's more, parents can have a say over the books that their child is going to read, unlike a teacher who has little or no choice over her students' reading material. This is key in a child's reading development, and for ensuring he is ready for reading.


2. Reading at the right level

To get the most benefit from reading, a child needs to read material that is matched to her reading level. If she tries to read something that is too difficult, she is going to struggle to understand it. If it's too easy, she won't be challenging herself enough for the exercise to be truly beneficial.

With a passage that's too difficult, the risk is that a child will spend too much time and energy trying to find out what the words mean, rather than discovering how the elements of the piece fit together. A young reader should be able to read a passage at normal talking speed with about a 90% success rate. As a rough rule of thumb, if a child stumbles on more than one or two words in every ten, then he is probably reading a text that is too hard for him. Also, make a note of any long, overly complex sentence constructions. This is also an indicator that a text is too hard.


3. Ways to test reading readiness and reading levels

There are a number of tried and tested ways to check if your child is ready to read, and whether she is reading at the right level.

a) The Five Finger Test

- Open a book at any page and ask your child to start reading
- Each time your child comes to a word she doesn't know, she raises one finger
- If she comes across five tricky words on the same page, and has raised five fingers, it's likely that the book is a bit hard for her at the moment.

b) The Goldilocks Method

- Remember how Goldilocks tried to find the porridge, chair, and bed that were "just right"? Well the same process can be applied to kids' reading books, to ensure that their level is also 'just right'.

Too Easy Books

As your child reads, ask yourself these questions. If you answer "yes" to three or more of the questions then the book is probably too easy for your child. Your child can still have fun reading it, but next time it might be a good idea to choose a book that is a bit more challenging.

1. Has your child read this book many times before?
2. Does he understand the story very well without much effort?
3. Does he know and understand almost every word?
4. Can he read it smoothly and fluently without much practice or effort?

Just Right Books

As your child reads ask yourself these questions. If you answer yes to three or more of them then the book you are reading is probably "just right" for you. These are the books that will help your child benefit most from reading.

1. Is this book new to your child?
2. Does she understand most of the book?
3. Are there a few words per page that she doesn't recognize or know the meaning of straight away? Remember to use the five finger test.
4. Can you help your child with the book if she hits a tough spot?

Too Hard Books

As your child reads, ask yourself these questions. if you find that you answer yes to most of these questions, then the book is probably too hard for your child. Don't forget about the book - you can always try it again later.

1. Are there more than a few words on a page that you don't recognize or know the meaning? Remember the five finger test.
2. Are you confused about what is happening in most of the book?
3. When you read are you struggling and does it sound choppy?
4. Is everyone busy and unable to help you if you hit a tough spot?

As you get more experienced in choosing "just right" books, you may find when you pick the book up again that it is "just right".


4. Practical Guide to Reading Comprehension eBook

We examine the topic of 'reading at the right level' in more detail in our forthcoming eBook A Practical Guide to Reading Comprehension, which is being launched very soon. It is an activity-based guide, full of fun and practical tips to help your child get a grasp of reading comprehension strategies.

We are offering our newsletter subscribers a special pre-launch discount price, so watch out for an email in the next few weeks.


5. The Improve Literacy website

Our website http://www.improveliteracy.com provides information and advice to parents about child literacy and ways to motivate children to read. You can also make your child the star in our personalised storybook, which is designed to stimulate a child's excitement about reading. Feel free to spread the word to other parents or people you think might be interested in our articles, newsletter and storybook!

 
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