Once again, I have been wrapping myself in the excitement of a child’s journey into independent reading, this time it is with my 6-year-old grandson, Calvin. In his first stage, he was merely trying to recognize the letters along with the letter sounds. I am not sure when his word fluency happened — one day he read a word, then two words and so on.
To witness a child finally string letters together to explore words is powerful! He is now at the stage where he sounds out words on absolutely everything: signs, cereal boxes, junk mail… anything with words. To be honest, I was concerned with all of the challenges surrounding COVID-19 and my grandson being fully remote for first grade — this school year was supposed to be his first as a full-time student — that his desire to “learn” might be hindered by a virtual learning atmosphere.
My concerns, though valid, were quickly put to rest as I watched him thrive. He loves his teacher, he loves learning and he and his classmates are a fantastic team. Though his classroom is via Zoom, his teacher has created a positive and structured environment for students. I am amazed daily at how resilient and willing children of all ages have been during the pandemic to learn and grow despite the obstacles we have faced. It has truly been an honor for me to witness my grandson become a proud and eager independent reader in 2020!
I believe the daily learning structure established by his teacher, encouragement at home, along with readily available books intended to grab my grandson’s attention were all jointly helpful. It is important for books to be within a reader’s capabilities; while we want to challenge, we don’t want to discourage. For example, if I notice my grandson reaching for a book that is surely above his comprehension level, I will offer to share the book (which means I’ll read the book with him and occasionally stop to discuss the story). My hope for my grandson is that he will find adventure, independence, laughter and growth with each book he reads on his own or shares with someone. I know with awareness and exploration that reading will take him places!
I do not want to overlook the fact that there are some children struggling with their academics or learning to read — these are such challenging times! Be patient and remember to never give up or lose hope because better days will come. I believe, no matter how little or big, every child should be praised for his or her accomplishments, especially now. Learning to read is not a race; it doesn’t matter who is first because the finish line is the same even if one child moves at a slower pace.
Children need two C’s to achieve their goals: consistency and confidence. If your child is having a difficult time learning to read, try a memory game by making flashcards (using index cards) of his or her high-frequency words. Make doubles of each word (I suggest focusing on 10 words to start), lay them face down in rows and columns. The object is for your child to recognize the words and say them with fluency to collect the pairs. To play, just flip over two cards, one at a time, and when a match is made, he or she must also be able to say the word to collect the pair. As fluency grows, add new high-frequency words. Building confidence will pave the way to reading independence.
Reach out to other parents, educators and/or members of your community if your child is having a difficult time. We are all in this together. As a children’s book author, a mother and a grandmother, if there is anything I can personally do to assist with reading goals, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, stay positive!
Tabatha Jean D'Agata