Saturday, November 7, 2009

Learning to Read

When I started first grade thousands of kids hadn't gone to Kindergarten because no census had been taken during WWII and school districts didn't know they were coming. I'd gone to Kindergarten, but only for a few weeks. But first grade was legally required, so there were 42 kids in my first grade class. Our teacher was new to the job and I won't go into how terrible she was except to say 21 kids were held back and had to repeat the grade because they hadn't learned to read.
But seven of us started second grade reading at fifth grade level.
Of course we all had parents who read to us at home, but so did most kids. And all parents "knew" it was harmful to try to teach kids to read themselves, so none of ours had tried. So what was the secret?
The public schools in California at that time were using sight reading (See, Hear, Say) curriculum but, because so many of the first graders weren't learning by that method, the teacher had tried using phonics and required them to chant the letter sounds every day while the rest of us worked at other things.
Remembering that experience, I played a phonics record or tape (you can tell that was a long time ago) every day as the children in my home preschool settled in for their naps. The familiarity would help them doze off.
I think doing that was one of the main reasons so many of the children began reading
on their own.
As I mentioned in my last post, I'm firmly opposed to trying to push
reading skills on kids who aren't ready for them, but this is an entirely
pressure-free way to prepare them to learn.
And it might also be a help to older kids who have learning disabilities
to play phonics CDs as they fall asleep at night.

1 comment:

KDL said...

My daughter's KG curriculum has a heavy emphasis on phonics and we've tried to follow up with this at home. When she asks me to help her spell a word I now "sound out" the consonants, though I still tell her the vowels because those sounds can be more complicated. I have been amazed at the progress she has made with her ability to match letters to sounds. She wrote a word from memory today and also figured out her classmates names from a list by looking at the first letters.