Is reading time at your home a struggle? Do you see your child’s reading progress as minimal and slow? Can you think of at least a dozen other things you would rather be doing when your son or daughter is reading aloud...one...word…at...a...time…? Children learn to read in one of two ways:
- through decoding
- looking at the whole word
This first method, decoding, makes use of the phonics system; children learn sounds and by putting these sounds together, they form words.
When I was learning to read and I came upon an unknown word, I would hear, “sound it out.” It all sounded so simple. But what if your child is unable to put sounds together to form words?
I hear parents say all the time, “My child knows all of their consonant letter and vowel sounds. Why can’t they “sound out” words?”
Did you know there is an alternative to teaching phonics to improve reading skills? It’s a method I have used over and over again to teach reading to students quite successfully.
Whole-word readers look at a word as a whole and memorize it. It’s as simple as that. Through continued sight of that word, they commit it to memory. Through systematic practice of previously introduced words and continuous introduction of new words, these children build quite the vocabulary. It is not unusual for the students that I teach to learn all 900 commonly read words contained in the Fry Word List. I know students that read so well, I have lost count of how many words they recognize. One can only imagine the stories that could be put together with a minimum of 900 words to choose from!! These are the stories that parents are reading with their child each night to build fluency ( the smooth, rhythmic flow that most use when reading) These are also the stories that are used to strengthen the two main types of comprehension; literal (information and facts directly stated in the text) and inferential (the ability to process written information and understand the underlying meaning of the text)
Having said all of this, I certainly don’t mean to discount the phonetic approach to reading. If your child is able to grasp all 44 unique sounds in the english language known as phonemes...hooray!! But for those students that don’t have this option, whole-word reading offers a viable alternative to teaching a child to read and therefore be more equipped to navigate the world.