"If we want children to read a lot, we must teach them to read well"

16 June 2022

"If we want children to read a lot, we must teach them to read well"

How do we teach children to read? One theory is that for children to read well they must read a lot. In the 80’s many educators got swept up in this concept.

A reading intervention program was introduced into NSW schools, known as D.E.A.R. Drop Everything And Read. I was the year 5 student, sitting quietly, and obediently looking at a book. The words that I could read had little meaning. The white roads made by the black print jumped out to me stronger that the words.  My mind wandered to the anticipated netball training that would take place at lunch time. What this time of reading failed to acknowledge was that if we want children to read a lot, we must teach them to read well. 

Shire Christian School has held to a theory of reading instruction over many years based in synthetic phonics. Learning to read is not a naturally occurring process like learning to speak. We have developed a interactive, multi-sensory, research based method to teach our students how to read and write independently. Last week, the Junior School teachers Zoomed into a lecture from Dr Jennifer Buckingham from the organisation FiveFromFive and Multilit (Macquarie University). We learnt about the science of the reading brain. Reading links many cortex of the brain together. Reading comprehension requires the ability to decode words and comprehend language. To read this article you are using phonological awareness, decoding and sight knowledge to recognise words. Then you apply a background knowledge of words, vocabulary, language structure, verbal reasoning and literacy knowledge to give this article meaning. As you can see this is quite a complicated process and you did all of that in a matter of seconds. This makes me marvel at our great creator.

To be a skilled reader requires explicit, systematic phonic instruction; targeted daily practise of blending and segmenting words, building sentences WITH oral and silent reading of passages and books. Our school spelling program WRASSE (Writing, Reading and Spelling Skills in English) uses instruction of 72 letter sound combinations to teach the phonic and spelling rules in words. If you would like your own set of phonic cards for home practice they can be purchased through QKR! on the learning support page and then collected from the IRC. 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Jennifer Grose
Junior School Learning Support Coordinator

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