As a child, were you in the blue bird reading group, the red bird reading group, or the yellow birds? In case you did not figure it out at the time, the color coding was for the low, middle, and high readers in your class. I am pretty sure the main distinguishing factor was your ability to read aloud fluently. I know my reading group had mostly decent readers and a few halting readers; I was probably the middle level.
Reading aloud fluently is an indicator of comprehension and word attack skills. It is harder to comprehend a story while reading aloud because your brain is doing two jobs– decoding letters in order to pronounce the letters as words and synthesizing ideas that the words relay. When a child reads silently, he can skip the pronunciation part– in fact he can skip entire blocks of words that look unfamiliar, which will impact comprehension. So, while it might seem easier to let your child read alone once he is a (mostly) independent reader, you should still listen to your child read aloud from time to time.
Classroom teachers do not have time to perfect the oral reading skills of each child. This is a skill that has to be practiced at home in conjunction with the reading instruction happening at school. Here are some guidelines I recently gave to the parents of the students in my classroom.
- Sit where you can see the words on the page as your child reads.
- Correct any mispronounced words and have the child say the word correctly. This reinforces correct letter patterns in English and will improve spelling and word recognition in the future. Breaking words into syllables will help a child pronounce unfamiliar words.
- Correct any skipped or changed words and have your child read the words that appear on the page EXACTLY as they are written. This part is important. It may not seem like a big deal when kids paraphrase and adjust words while reading, but if they get in the habit of skipping, inserting, or changing words, it will affect a child’s overall reading at some point.
- Emphasize expression—students should pause appropriately for end punctuation. The voice should go up for excitement, questions, etc. If the reading is monotone or flat, practice reading with emotion. This will help you assess comprehension as well. If a reader does not pause or change his voice appropriately, he probably does not know what is really happening. Move to an easier book for practice.
- After reading a few pages, pause and ask for a recap to check for comprehension. If the reader is confused or can not recall key facts, find an easier book.
- If a page is particularly slow, the adult can re-read the page to the child to demonstrate fluent reading.
- End the reading session by modeling for your child. The adult reads a few pages aloud to the child. Make sure the child is in a place where he/she sees the words on the page.
- Enjoy this time with your son or daughter!
Print my Parent Note About Reading Aloud with the list of suggestions and a chart for tracking reading time. I know there are times when you would rather hear nails on a chalkboard than listen to a slow, choppy reader, but it will improve and is worth the time!