With National testing implemented in Australia there is an ever increasing interest in results. Economically the future of our country is at risk if the outcome of this testing is not investigated and successful intervention and extension harnessed to drive improved teaching and learning. The emphasis in this article is on reading and early learning as a strategy in creating a brighter future for all Australians. It also includes early reading strategies to promote reading success.
The Early Years
Preparing children for reading before they come to school and continuing with this development in the early years of schooling, are strategic measures to eradicate reading problems as soon as possible. The early years are when students are LEARNING to READ. By the end of Year Three all children should be accomplished readers. In Year Four, children READ to LEARN. This means that the skill of reading is used to learn specific knowledge in key learning areas such as Science and SOSE. Without adequate reading skills, learning will be a struggle every step of the way.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LANGUAGE SKILLS
Oral Language (the ability to understand and express) is the foundation of all language skills including reading. Children who present at school with limited language skills are already on an escalator to failure. To prepare children and to prevent failure a variety of experiences that enhance vocabulary, understanding and expression need to be addressed.
Additionally, still in the field of language, Phonological Awareness known through research as the GREATEST predictor of reading success needs to be taught explicitly and systematically. Phonological Awareness is an awareness of speech sounds in words and the ability to be able to work with these sounds in the absence of letters. Lack of Phonological Awareness skills impacts on the ability to read significantly as it is the step that builds the foundation for reading.
Furthermore, the early years set the stage for later learning. The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. This strategy strengthens relationships, encourages language and listening skills, attention and curiosity. All prepare children for school and learning to read. (Becoming a Nation of Readers, 2000)
Children with any language difficulties require early language intervention to improve their opportunity for success in reading. Along with daily reading out loud by an adult, explicit instruction and support in language; including phonological awareness, phonics, blending of sounds, decoding words into syllables as well as automatic high frequency word recall will develop reading to competency level.
All Australians need an education system that not only espouses early intervention and extension with researched programs that work, they need these programs implemented in the early years where constant monitoring ensures success. Parents need to take an active role, in relationship with the school, to ensure that language is developed in a way that success will be guaranteed in the future not only for the individual but for Australia.
Ann Foster is a talented teacher who creates programs that improve results quickly. Ann is Principal of an online tutoring business, Letter Box which caters for primary school children in reading, writing and spelling. Ann has spent 30 years in teaching as a classroom and as a learning support teacher working with small groups in extension and remediation programs. Her Master degrees in Special Needs and Counselling and Guidance position her to guide children who need specialist attention.
Visit the Letter Box website for more information.