If you are like me, the struggle is real with this one. Getting kids to read typically goes one of two ways – kids absolutely love it and never put books down or kids absolutely hate it and never want to pick a book up.
I was the kid in school that absolutely hated reading. I wasn’t good at it, so I never wanted to read, making it an ongoing battle at our house. My brother, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. I have a feeling most families are this way.
As a parent, I have tried to do everything to ensure my own daughters are more interested in reading than I was. We have read to our daughter since the day she was born and never really stopped. She loves it when we all read together. And although she loves books, she hates practicing her sight words.
The teacher in me knows that reading isn’t just about reading, it’s about the skills a child needs in order to be able to read. These include things like knowing sight words, being fluent (the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression) and having a great schema, or background knowledge. Individually, these concepts are all pretty easy to develop and build. Some students are great at all three, some students have great fluency, or can easily memorize sight words, others have a great deal of schema. But without all three of these components, your child can struggle with long-term reading success.
Let’s learn more about the three major components to reading – sight words, fluency, and schema. While all three of these components build upon each other, the hardest one for teachers to accomplish is schema. I am going to explain what we, as teachers, and what you, as parents, can do to help your child become a fluent reader.
Each local school district may have a different term for this concept, but regardless of its name, the concept of sight words is your child’s foundation, where it all starts. These are easily described as the words we need to know that are hard to sound out but we have to have in order to begin reading. By the end of each grade level, students are expected to know a certain number of these words.
Kindergarten – First – 50 to the first 100
Second – Third – 200 to 400
Fourth – Fifth – 500 – 1000
The best way to learn these words is through memorization using flashcards and games. You can buy sight word bingo on Amazon for under $20. Websites like ABCYa, RoomRecess, IXL, Tell A T-Rex, ABC Mouse, Lexia and Dreambox are also great tools. Some of these have free sign ups and apps, and others require a membership, but in my opinion they are totally worth it. There are also a ton of game ideas to do at home with your kids. My daughter loves writing them in flour and shaving cream on the kitchen table! Trust me, we’ve tried just about everything in our house to get Harper to work on her sight words.
I’m a firm believer in not pushing it. Is it worth the nightly battle? Probably not. Should it be a part of some routine? Absolutely. Exposure will, without a doubt, get your child where they need
Fluency describes how fast and accurate a child can read and comprehend. If I am being honest, I was out of college before I was any good at this. Not because I couldn’t read, but because I hated it. I would have to re-read the same passage, over and over. The idea is that your child reads a certain number of words and understands what they read within a minute. These numbers below are average words per minute based on grade level, but these can vary. If your child is close to reading this many words per minute by the end of the year, you’re on the right track.
First grade – 60
Second grade – 95
Third grade – 100
Fourth grade – 120
Fifth grade – 140
Sixth grade – 150
If your child is struggling with fluency there are a few things you can do to help. Have your child focus on what the text is saying and ask questions about the text. Start easy and work your way up. Also, knowing sight words and having word recognition will help them to better comprehend the text. Another great way you can help is reading and allowing your child to repeat what you read or through choral reading where you both read together. All of these will help your child build their fluency.
Schema, or background knowledge, comes from books, videos, lessons from school and real world experiences like trips, adventures, family stories, imaginative play with friends, and quality time with parents. The greater your child’s schema, the more they are able to relate to and comprehend the topics and content they are reading, which in turn allows reading to be fun and enjoyable for your child.
Reading doesn’t have to involve pulling teeth and fighting your child every night, but trying our best to build on each of these components will in turn allow our children to be better readers.