Skipping over the basics

Thinking back on how I was taught to read, I don’t know that all of it was beneficial. While it has been a long time and I don’t remember everything by any stretch, I recall being taught to “skip ahead” when I struggled with a word.  

After I “skipped ahead,” I could go back and decide what that word was later based on context clues. Or I could just skip the word and do my best to understand the paragraph based on the words I did know. In those cases, I wasn’t being asked to stop and sound out the word and therefore, I wasn’t being corrected when I wasn’t sounding it out properly. I also wasn’t learning what the word meant.  

Because I was shy in school at this time, I used “skipping ahead” as a way of not having to sound silly if I wasn’t confident in my ability to read a word aloud in front of my class.  

Today, I love reading. The thought that someone can combine words and create enchanted lands and stories that lift us right out of current situations and into new worlds is magical to me. The ways books can be used to help us understand those around us and share or better understand lived experiences is breathtaking. But I did have to train my brain to not just skip over unknown words and that was difficult for me for a long time.  

As a mom, I love reading with my son. I love trading pages. He gets the left page and I take the right. I LOVE how he laughs when I make voices for the characters and how he now does the same.  

But to be completely honest, I never really thought about there being ONE right way to teach my son to read. I just purchased books of all kinds and started reading with my child every single night. I printed out sight word flash cards. I searched for the best ways to teach my son, but I didn’t know exactly what to search for. I didn’t have a method at all when teaching my child to read. I just knew that I wanted my son to be a good reader and to one day share my love of reading.  

If you’re wondering, I didn’t teach my child to skip ahead. And now that I am learning about the Science of Reading, I am glad I didn’t. But there are a lot of other lessons I am learning.  

Not only have I found that skipping ahead is a bad practice, but I’ve learned there are a lot of other ill-advised practices that are common (and found in many of our classrooms) too.  

I’m not an expert on the Science of Reading, but I hope you’ll benefit from what I have learned so far: 

  • Don’t skip over words, have your child or student sound them out.  
    • The same thing goes for misread words. They should be corrected and sounded out (which I know can be hard –my son hated being corrected). 
    • Phonics has to be foundational! Successful readers are taught with an explicit and systematic focus on phonics and phonemic awareness.  
  • Reading instruction isn’t catered to a kid’s learning style.  
    • Structured reading instruction is vital. 
  • Using pictures to guess words doesn’t help children learn to read. 
    • This practice is known as “cueing” and SoR tells us it doesn’t work.  
  • Building vocabulary as exact words are identified and sounded out is important!  
  • Read decodable texts that reinforce phonics patterns instead of leveled readers.  
    • Decodable texts are meant for beginning readers. They help kids connect sounds in letters and solve words.  
      • I did not choose Bob Books for my son because I knew they were decodable books. A teacher recommended them to me while at a Stand Indiana workshop focused on IREAD. Before I knew what the Science of Reading was or why decodable texts mattered, I just thought these books were magic. My child who was not reading one day was enthusiastic about reading the next!  

One of my biggest school-related fears for my son was that he would struggle to read, and I feel blessed that he’s doing well. But if your child is struggling to read, I hope you will remember all kids are capable of reading and of excellence. I hope what I have learned about the Science of Reading so far helps someone out there. And if you have feedback or your own learnings from the Science of Reading, comment below!  

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