Trust The Children

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Learning to Read At Home

I read this on a home schooling list I often read. It was a question about reading comprehension. If offer these comments, not as a comprehensive instruction set, but as some observations. But since it is so often a concern, I mention this here.

"Hi everyone. This is a question from my sister. Her son is in 3rd public school and he is having trouble with his reading comprehension. His actual reading is at or above "grade level" but his comprehension is really bad. He has a hard time answering the questions about it."

This is a common question. Something we experienced with our own children. Especially with boys. After having read about Key Vocabulary and Sylvia Ashton Warner, I see this now in a completely different light. And I don't think this is a "problem" like I used to think.

Of course, I am not an expert here, but may I offer what I see. He can read, but can't understand. So, he can comprehend the letters, make the sounds and vocalize them, but the meanings of the words is missing. In fact his ability to vocalize the words is above grade level. But just because he can vocalize the words, doesn't mean that in his mind the meanings of the words are connected with the words themselves or his ability to vocalize them. That is what I took from this. I think this happens to all of us actually.

So we have a 3rd Grade boy who has an inventory of words in his mind. For some of the words in his inventory he has meanings attached to those words and for other words in his inventory he hasn't yet attached meanings. When the words in his inventory are being used for which he has no meaning attached, he can say the words, but can't make sense of them. But here is the key to me, when words are used from his inventory where he DOES have meanings attached, I am sure his comprehension is just fine.

I am not suggesting that this mom is freaked out or anything like that. But some parents do get concerned, and even overly concerned about reading issues just like this. It is good to remember that to much of learning, including reading, there is a natural process. This boy, like many, needs much reinforcement for what he CAN do. His progress can BUILD on what he can read and can understand.

As to learning how to read, I really like the principles involved with the concept of KEY VOCABULARY, which is to take the vocabulary that a child uses when talking daily as the source to use when teaching reading. Why, because for the most part, the words a child uses in speech, are words that they DO attribute meaning to. Of course it takes a little more effort to teach reading this way. However, one benefit of this kind of effort would be that the child doesn't get traumatized needlessly thinking he is a "problem" because of this. Give him space while increasing word inventory with meaning and he will turn out just fine in this area.


  • This is why so many homeschoolers use "narration" or to tell back the story instead of comprehension questions. The parent is hearing what the child understood and prompting when they forget or don't understand. It is a time to define words the child doesn't understand and to attach meaning in a child's mind to things like colloquialisms, point of view, etc. Narration/discussion is a very powerful, but simple tool.

    Another thought is differences in learning styles. My son has a very hard time listening, but if you give him something visual while listening (text to follow, pictures) he can learn that way. Same thing for silent reading. For some, without the auditory component, there is no understanding.

    By Blogger funnymommy, at 5:05 PM, October 11, 2006  

  • I have noticed Cyndy reading an article from the new paper and then asking Joseph, "OK give me the who, what, where, when, why". Of course Joe is 12, not a pre-schooler. She did the same thing this morning when we were reading scriptures, asking Ben, explain the verses that you just read in two sentences. Simple things, that just build, as each day adds onto the next.

    By Blogger Mark and Cyndy Weiss, at 10:05 AM, October 12, 2006  

  • Hi Informative site on homeschooling. Good work

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:00 AM, June 11, 2008  

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