Joys of Reading
I’ll always remember that moment in kindergarten when the marks on the page of my book came into clear focus as actual words: Grandfather’s Farm. An electrical spark flowed through my mind. I was reading! I ran to my kindergarten teacher, pointed to the words and read them to her.
It should not be a surprise that I entered the realm of education in order to inspire young people to discover the joys of learning while reading to learn more about the world. Yet it was a surprise to enter the educational realm and jump into a battle about the best way to teach reading. Some teachers believed that if you read to students and surrounded them with books, they would absorb the skills of reading much as children absorb language in their early years, putting letters on the page together as toddlers put words into sentences.
Recent scientific research, however, underscores the importance of direct and precise phonics instruction for readers coupled with appropriate reading material. Students need step-by-step presentation of the alphabet with accompanying phonemic sounds. With a solid foundation in recognizing these letter patterns, children become independent readers who can sound out words on their own. Through practice, they become fluent and confident readers who delight in decoding texts and grow in their comprehension.
When you are looking at schools for your children, ask which reading program the school uses. Are teachers trained in the Spalding or in Orton-Gillingham, both methods of instruction that are systematic and consistent? Faculty at St. Luke’s Episcopal School, for example, are trained in Spalding and conduct excellent lessons for our youngest students, introducing engaging reading materials at appropriate skill levels. On average, SLES elementary students are reading two years above grade level, a sign that the Spalding instruction is working.
It is essential for educators and parents to recognize that a love of reading is what we most want to instill in our children. For that reason, we need to refrain from pushing too hard and demanding that they start reading instruction before they are ready. In addition, it is always important to weave reading aloud to children into our daily schedules. Balance is everything!
There is no greater reward than watching a child emerge as a reader. Every time I see it, I feel that spark from so many years ago in my kindergarten classroom.