By Don C Jones
Reading should be fun, but to enjoy reading, one must be a good reader. Would tennis be fun if the ball never went over the net?
This technique is the result of over 50 years experience teaching reading, one teacher to one student. It started with my father in 1956 and continues today with my son, Darren and me. This method has been used with thousands of children and always works! All children can learn to read, but each learns at a different pace.
Here is how to teach your child to read:
- Sit with your child in a quiet place with an appropriate book.
- Read a line out loud, pointing to each word as you read.
- Make sure your child is watching the words as you read.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3.
(I am using "she" instead of "he/she" below)
When she hears a word pronounced correctly and sees it on the page at the same time, she will build an automatic association between hearing and seeing the word. It may take many repetitions, but she will eventually be able to read the words.
I recommend 10 minutes a day as a minimum, but there's no need to stop if she is enjoying the book.Don't be fooled into thinking this technique is not powerful just because it is simple!
Some helpful hints.
- Make it fun. Use inflection in your voice. Get into the story.
- If a book isn't interesting after a few pages, get another book.
- If she seems to be reading the words, point to a word on a page after reading the page and see if she knows the word. You might also do this if she is just listening and not watching the words.
- This should be quality parent/child time you both look forward to.
- Do not become frustrated if she is slow to remember the words. Be patient.
Here are some questions you may have:What books shall I choose?
For non-readers, choose a very simple book. This usually means a book with one line per page and a picture that goes along with the words. "Bob Books" by Maslen is a good place to start.
For 1st grade and early second grade readers, choose simple books they can eventually read on their own with practice. Most children get a big thrill out of reading a book by themselves.
For older children, choose an interesting book where they know most words, with no more than 4-5 words on a page they don't know.
What if my child is young and doesn't know the alphabet?
It doesn't matter. Use the same technique, but choose very simple pre-kindergarten books.
Remember; don't put any pressure on her beyond what she seems interested in doing.
Is that all there is to reading? What about phonics, comprehension and vocabulary?
Yes, there is more to reading than just this technique. In our reading center we teach phonics, vocabulary and oral fluency (the ability to read smoothly and accurately) in addition to comprehension exercises.
Phonics is only used when she comes to a word she doesn't know. If she knows the word, she just says it, there's no need to sound it out. As my dad would say, ""Reading is not sounding.""
Oral fluency and vocabulary can be picked up by reading a lot.
In other words, if I had to pick one simple technique that anyone can use to teach a child to read or to read better, this read-along method is it!
A Funny Story
Liam was a first grader who just moved to the United States from Norway. In Norway, they apparently didn't believe in teaching reading in Kindergarten, so Liam didn't know the alphabet or a single word. Starting first grade was quite a shock to his mother when she realized that just about every student already read at a 2nd or 3rd grade level (she happened to be in one of the best school districts in the state).
During my first lesson with Liam, I used this read-along method. By the end of 30 minutes with Liam, he could read the book all by himself. It was a very simple book. "This is a banana", etc.
When he got into the car to go home, he wouldn't let his mother pull away from the curb until he had read the book to her. During all this, his older sister (3rd grade) was listening.
After he finished reading, his sister said, "You're not reading, you just memorized it."
Liam said, "I AM NOT, I could read it with my eyes closed!"
How my Father Discovered the Read-Along Method
In the early 1960's, my father attended an educational conference in Arizona. The keynote speaker was a professor from Arizona State. My father asked the speaker what was new in the field of reading instruction. The professor told this story.
"I was teaching a class in reading instruction. Each student in the class was given a 3rd grade class at the beginning of the semester to work with. The grades given out to the college students would be based on which 3rd grade classes improved the most in reading during the semester. The top 20% would get A's, the next 30% B's etc."
"We spent a lot of class time going over the latest methods for teaching reading to primary students. Each student could choose the techniques they thought best to use with their 3rd graders. One student was a woman in her 40's who had raised a family and wanted to start a teaching career. She didn't like any of the new methods presented in class, so she decided to just read to her class for the entire semester. She gave each child a copy of the book and had them follow along as she read."
"At the end of the semester the children taught by the older woman gained much more in reading ability than any of the other 3rd grade classes."
The professor was stunned by the results, but was forced to admit that following the words as they were being read was more powerful than any of the methods of that time.
My experience says that the read-along method is still the most powerful single technique that can be used in learning to read.
Educator Don Jones has taught reading and math in a 1-to-1 environment for many years. He learned the methods from his father who started The Arcadia Reading Clinic in 1956. For more information, please visit http://www.growthspurtonline.com/