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Improving Your Young Child's Reading Skills

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My seven-year-old son loves school. He is great in math, but his second-grade teacher is telling me that his reading skills are at a first-grade level. When he reads to me, he rarely misses words. Although he's not a fast reader, most of the time he can retell the story back to me.

I have Hooked on Phonics, but getting him to concentrate 30 minutes a night sometimes is a challenge. I make flash cards for his spelling words every week. I want to know what else I can do to get his reading skills up to second-grade level.

A: Between the ages of four and eight, most children learn to read; however, they acquire reading skills at different rates. Because children's ability to read is the number one predictor of their future academic success, they need to master this skill by the end of third grade.

It's good to hear that you have established communication with your son's teacher. Since the teacher has identified that your son is presently reading below grade level, you need to make an appointment to talk more with her about your child's reading strengths and deficiencies. At the meeting, ask the teacher why your son is reading below grade level and for specific suggestions on ways to help him. Find out if the teacher feels that he needs testing or a tutor to help him.

You should continue to have your son read to you daily as well as read stories to him. Have him read a passage several times until he can read it smoothly in your reading sessions. Get a list from the teacher of the Dolch or Fry basic words that your child should know. Students must instantly recognize these words in order to read rapidly. Many of these words cannot be sounded out; they must just be memorized. Make flash cards of these words for drill and games.

Since your son has a difficult time doing 30 minutes of a phonics program, break the sessions up into several shorter sessions. Finally, to work on your son's reading speed, start reading out loud with him for at least 10 minutes every day. If you do this consistently, you will soon notice a difference in his reading fluency.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.


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