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Teaching Children to Read

Difficulty reading can have many long-term effects on children. From destroying their confidence to affecting their entire learning experience, the effects can be devastating. Educators have become so concerned with children's reading ability that they have designed specific programs dealing with reading instruction. There have also been numerous research studies conducted to further examine reading teaching practices. The result of all of this research has resulted in two main forms of reading instruction: the most common approach called "phonics" (also known as "the phonetic approach"), and the less common approach called "whole language" (sometimes also referred to as "the whole word method").

Phonetic

The phonetic approach is the most commonly used teaching method because it is often considered to be the easiest way to learn. This method makes use of blending letters and sounding out words. Children are taught to read and comprehend only the level of words they commonly speak. They are then taught the letters of the alphabet, as well as the 44 sounds of the alphabet (also known as "phenomes"). Once a child has learned what each letter looks like and sounds like, they are then taught to identify large words by breaking each down into individual syllabic sounds. This encourages children to approach reading slowly, and understand fully how words and sentences are constructed. Teachers who regularly use this approach insist this is the most efficient approach to reading, and that children who learn to read using phonics have a much easier time learning in general.

Whole Language

The whole language method is a much less commonly used approach, and is based on the idea that children need to learn to read the same way they learn to speak. The method makes use of memorization, and requires that children remember thousands of words separately, and not in a contextual sense. This process is typically taught by reading aloud by sight, while not being allowed to sound out the words. Students are taught to follow along with the teacher to recognize words, and when they are unsure they are instructed to guess at the pronunciation. Teachers of this method argue this is the best way to learn to read because it is more natural, as one would learn to speak, and that taking the time to sound out individual words and learn sounds is laborious.

The National Reading Panel conducted a search to locate studies that were conducted after 1970 that compared the phonetic method to several other reading techniques. The panel found over thirteen hundred studies of this nature, which clearly indicated that the phonetic method increased children's learning ability, allowed children to read at an earlier age, and that the method was considerably more effective than methods that did not make use of phonics.

No matter which reading instruction method is used, one fact remains true: reading can be extremely difficult for certain children. Typically children who have a hard time reading have difficulty with memorization, which only further exacerbates the situation. The phonetic method simplifies reading and helps to give children a sense of confidence and accomplishment. By learning sounds, as well as how to combine sounds, children expand their overall comprehension as well as expand their personal vocabularies. In the long run, this helps students to have a better understanding of material they are reading in other subjects, in addition to providing skills they will carry with them into the workplace.


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