YOU’RE THE JUDGE! IS THE SCHOOL’S READING PROGRAM WORKING FOR YOUR CHILD?
Aside from being loved and given a means of communicating, verbal or otherwise, being able to read is arguably the greatest gift you can give your child-who-will-one-day-be-an-adult.
I’ve heard frustrating stories from many parents about how the school does or does not offer reading programs that actually work, and so I want to give you a pep talk that I hope will empower you.
YOU’RE THE BOSS, BELIEVE IT OR NOT
Don’t be kowtowed, run over by those in authority who are presumed to know best, assumed to be experts. YOU are the expert on your child. As such, you have a right to see the reading program the school is using for your child. You also have the right to monitor both the skill of the educator and your child’s ability to respond to the particular method used.
Put yourself in charge. You are the boss of your child’s future.
WHAT YOU’RE WONDERING:
Is my child progressing in reading? How can I tell, if I’m not “after-schooling” her in reading? If I’m not her reading coach?
KNOW YOUR STUFF: A SIMPLE CHECKLIST
There is a simple checklist you can keep on your desk that will enable you to know where your child’s reading level hovers, more or less.
Go to www.mrsperkins.com and download the Dolch High Frequency Word lists. Pre-Primer through Second Grade ought to do it. You don’t need to download past that level, as your child will be reading independently by that point. Mrs. Perkins gives free downloads of those lists either as PDFs or as Word documents, whichever you like.
Your child may be able to read isolated words on that list, but it doesn’t guarantee that she can generalize that vocabulary, able to read those words anywhere and everywhere. So what do you do?
You’ve got some options.
One, you can get on your computer and write a few paragraphs of high interest which incorporate the word list you’re wondering about. Pick 10 words from a word list and try that out. If that works, take another 10 words and write another few paragraphs. You’ll find out quickly where the vocabulary “holes” are.
Two, you can use my Special Reads Series of high frequency books to find the level not yet mastered; when you identify which book has vocabulary not yet mastered, you back up and work that level. I use my series for both intake assessment of students and ongoing teaching.
HOW CLEAR IS THE CLASS READING PROGRAM?
This is your first guidepost: is the program designed for the brain and reading?
Some reading programs, both in print and online, look as if they are trying to teach children to look NOT at the type, but at the picture! (or to listen to the sounds of the dog barking in online videos, etc.)
Here’s an experiment
Look through your child’s eyes. Pretend you can’t read yet. Let your eyes go where they are naturally drawn to when you look at the page/screen. Make a note of that.
Your eyes went right to the picture, didn’t they? How long did your eyes stay on the picture? When did your eyes drop down to the type? How long did your eyes linger on the type before returning to the picture? The brain goes on automatic when we look at a page/screen. Noticing where YOUR eyes go gives you terrific information: your child’s eyes will do the same.
The ideal you’re looking for: Large type, good spacing between words, text either separated (on different pages) from the pictures, or at the very least, more dominant on the page than the picture is? The learner will be captured by a large, colorful picture; that’s easy. Getting the attention back on a small line of black foreign squiggles is not.
AND LAST…VISIT THE CLASSROOM DURING READING TIME
Do this in a way that you can observe without your child noticing that you’re there, because that will blow the whole scene. See if you can arrange to observe your child’s reading lesson without being obvious about it. Take a good look at the interaction between the teacher/aide and your child. Is it working?
And if you’re not allowed to observe your child’s classroom, think about what that means. Enough said.
You’re the boss of your child’s future. Don’t let anyone forget that.