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The Three Key Components

The follow may be helpful either to parents who are helping their child read at home or help parents talk with their son/daughter's teacher/tutor:

Teachers are taught that there are at least six major components that must be included for students to learn reading. They are Comprehension, Fluency, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Vocabulary. Some also tack on such things as Spelling, Writing, and Handwriting but that is a completely different area which I may get into in a different blog. Below is a brief definition of those terms, questions you can ask your child's teacher, and "tricks" you can do at home to help further along your son/daughter's reading ability.

Reading Comprehension: Probably the most important topic. It basically means, "Does he/she understand what he/she is reading?" The best way to help them is to ask them a wide variety of questions about what they're reading, what you are reading to them, or even what they are watching on TV/in a movie. There are several different types of questions you can ask to ensure they really understand the story than just having him/her spitting back names of characters and things that happened. Challenge them to make inferences and draw conclusions from the story. Furthermore, have them relate the story to their own lives.

Questions for Teachers: How do you assess the students' reading assessment? How do you encourage higher order thinking (inferencing, predicting, etc) when reading?

Fluency: How well can the child read a loud? You can test him/her through Reading Running Records which may be available online. They read a passage and you count the mispronounced words or how many he/she just skipped. Sadly, the only way to build fluency skills, just like any other skills, is through constant practice. Read stories to your child so you can model good reading and then get him/her books to read back with you.

Questions for Teachers: Do you use Running Records? If so, what is my child's score? If not, what do you use to assess my student's reading fluency?

Phonemic Awareness/Phonics: These basically mean knowing all the letter sounds and how letters sounds when they're put together (sh, ch, etc.) There are plenty of worksheets on short/long vowel sounds and any other area the student is having problems. This is how people sound out unfamiliar words. Plus, great sites like starfall.com have sections devoted to letter sounds.

Questions for Teachers: What strategies/programs do you use to teach Phonics & Phonemic Awareness?

Vocabulary: This focuses on the individual words themselves. The more a child reads and explores the great his/her vocabulary. Start out early talking about things all around. Look at pictures of things together and talk about them. Write the word down with the picture and keep a scrap book to go back over with your son/daughter. There are certain vocabulary words that students should be able to simply read and understand called sight word. In order to know what words your son/daughter need to know each year check out a Dolche list of words for each grade level. Those too are available and can be practiced online at such sites as http://www.dolchword.net/.

In short, the best way to become a good reader is both for you to continue reading to your child and have him/her continue reading back to you and/or independently. But, always keep addressing Comprehension, Fluency, Phonics, and Vocabulary and not just ask him/her, "Are you reading? Yes? Good."