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Reading readiness has been defined as the point at which a person is ready to learn to read and the time during which a person transitions from being a non-reader into a reader. Other terms for reading readiness include early literacy and emergent reading.
Children begin to learn pre-reading skills at birth while they listen to the speech around them. In order to learn to read, a child must first have knowledge of the oral language. According to the Ontario Government (2003), the acquisition of language is natural, but the process of learning to read is not - reading must be taught. This belief contradicts basic language philosophy, which states that children learn to read while they learn to speak. The Ontario Government (2003) also believes that reading is the foundation for success, and that those children who struggle with reading in grades 1-3 are at a disadvantage in terms of academic success, compared to those children who are not struggling.
Because a child's early experience with literacy-related activities is highly correlated to the child's success with reading, it is important to consider a child's developmental level when choosing appropriate activities and goals. Early and enjoyable pre-reading experiences set the stage for a child's desire to learn. By participating in developmentally-appropriate activities (activities that are fun and challenging, but not frustrating), the child gains knowledge that will serve as the foundation for further learning as he or she enters the school system.
Reading readiness is highly individualistic. There is no "one size fits all" solution to teaching a child to read. A parent or educator may need to employ several techniques before finding the most appropriate method for an individual child. According to Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development a child can, through the help of an adult or more capable child, perform at a higher level than he or she can independently. The process of learning to read should thus be supported by a caring and supportive individual.
Reading readiness skills
- Age-appropriate oral language development and vocabulary
- Appreciation of stories and books
- Phonemic awareness (ability to distinguish and manipulate individual sounds of language)
- Understanding of basic print concepts (for example, printed text represents spoken words; spaces between words are meaningful; pages written in English are read left to right starting at the top of the page; books have a title and an author, and so on).
- Understanding of the alphabetic principle (letters represent the sounds of language)
- Ability to distinguish shapes (visual discrimination)
- Ability to identify at least some letters of the alphabet.
Instructional programs for reading
Whole Language: With this model, language is kept whole rather than segmented into fragments or skills. Within this philosophy, children are expected to learn to read and write in the same manner that they learn to talk. Reading, writing and oral language are considered to be intertwined. Some strategies according to the whole language model include encouraging the child to learn to read by "reading," and making up stories that they think go along with the pictures in the book. This model also believes that adults should allow the child to witness reading behaviors, such as holding a book properly. It is also important for adults to model these behaviors in an environment that is free from criticism (Matthews, Klassen and Walter, 1999). An early proponent of whole language reading instruction called reading a "psycholinguistic guessing game," and thus children are taught to guess words that they don't know by using context clues. Skipping unknown words is encouraged, and "inventive" spelling is also acceptable.
Phonics: This popular method focuses on the relationship between what is SEEN and HEARD. Students learn rules for using alphabet letters (graphemes). "Sounding-out letters" can often be confusing because many words do not follow the rules -- the rules are inconsistent and unreliable. However, the phonics approach is measurably MORE effective than having made NO attempt to teach language structure.
Other reading tips
It is suggested that by providing the children with the knowledge of spelling patterns (that is, the combination of letters that are likely to occur within the English language) that spelling and reading will become much easier for the child. It is thought that once we (as adults) really look at the rules to the English language we use everyday and have internalized within ourselves, that it will become clear that there is some order and regular patterns that we follow. Once we are aware of these patterns, we can help children begin to understand these rules that we follow on a daily basis.
Some suggestions for reading skills
- Read to the child.
- Have the child "read" to you. Allow the child to create their own story based on the pictures they see within the book.
- Reread stories multiple times.
- Omit words of a familiar story and allow the child to fill in the blank.
- Allow the child to experiment with words.
- Point to the words on the page as you read out loud to the child. This enables the child to understand that sentences consist of separate words.
The two most influential perspectives are the growth-readiness view and the environmentalist view. The growth-readiness view focuses on the internal workings of the child in order to determine readiness, while environmentalists focus on the external environment. Both internal factors such as genetics and environmental aspects such as school atmosphere can influence a child’s readiness for reading.
The following is a list of books that are great for young readers. They contain vital elements such as repetition and bright colors. Many of these books also encourage the child to use their imagination by filling in the blank and taking an active role in the story.
- Allan, Nicholas. (2000). You’re All Animals. London: Random House Children’s Books
- Benchley, Nathaniel. Ill. By Arnold Lobel. (1964). Red Fox and His Canoe. New York, NY: Scholastic Books Services
- Berry, Joy. Ill. By John Costanza. (1982). Let’s Talk About Being Selfish. Danbury, CT: Grolier Enterprises Inc.
- Berry, Joy. Ill. By John Costanza. (1982). Let’s Talk About Disobeying. Danbury, CT:Grolier Enterprises Inc.
- Berry, Joy. Ill. By John Costanza. (1982). Let’s Talk About Teasing. Danbury, CT: Grolier Enterprises Inc.
- Bertrand, Cecile. (1993). NONI Sees. New York, NY: Western Publishing Inc.
- Boynton, Sandra. (1982). But Not the Hippopotamus. NY: Little Simon Books
- Bridwell, Norman. (1984). Clifford’s Kitten. New York: Scholastic Inc.
- Bruna, Dick. (1986). I Am a Clown. NY: Methuen Children’s Books
- Bruna, Dick, (1986). When I’m Big. NY: Methuen Children’s Books
- Caple, Kathy. (2000). Well Done, Worm! Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press
- Carle, Eric. (1994). The Very Hungry Caterpillar. NY: Philomel Books
- Coats, Laura Jane. (1993). Alphabet Garden. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company
- Coats, Lucy. (1992). One Hungry Baby. New York, NY: Crown Publishers Inc.
- Cole, Joanna & Calmenson, Stephanie. Ill. By Alan Tiegreen. (1996). Bug in a Rug. New York, NY: William Morrow & Company Inc.
- Crews, Donald. (1999). Cloudy Day, Sunny Day. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Inc.
- Crump, Fred. (1970). Ringo the Raccoon. US: Ideals Publishing Corporation
- Cushman, Jean. (1980). We Help Mommy. Wisconsin: Western Publishing Company, Inc.
- Emberely, Ed. (1993). Go Away Big Green Monster. Toronto: Little Brown and Company
- Fox, Christyan and Diane. (2002). What Shape Is That Piggy Wiggy? NY: Handprint
- Galdone, Paul. (1968). Henny Penny. NY: Clarion Books
- Horban, Tana. (1983). I Read Signs. NY: Greenwillow
- Horban, Tana. (1974). Where Is It? NY: MacMillan Publishing Co. Inc.
- Isadora, Rachel. (1985). I See. NY: Greenwillow Books
- Jonas, A. (1986). Now We Can Go. NY: Greenwillow Books
- Karlin, Nurit. (1997). I See, You Saw. USA: Harper Trophy
- Katz, Bobbi. (1985). The Runaway Ball. Mexico: Intervisual Communications, Inc.
- Lee, Dennis. Ill by Marie-Louise Gay. (1985). Lizzy’s Lion. NY: Stoddart Kids
- Martin, Bill. (1967). Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? NY: Henry Holt and Company
- Miller, Margaret. (1990). Who Uses This? New York: Greenwillow Books
- Murray, W. Illustrated by: Martin Aitchison. (1977). I Like To Write. Maine: Ladybird Books
- Numeroff, Laura Joffe. Ill by: Joe Mathieu. (1993). Dogs Don’t Wear Sneakers. NY: Simon & Schuster Books for young readers
- Numeroff, Laura Joffe. Ill by: Felicia Bond. (1991). If You Give a Moose a Muffin. NY: A Laura Geringer Book
- Numeroff, Laura Joffe. Illustrated by: Felicia Bond. (1985). If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? Toronto: Harper Collin Canada
- Numeroff, Laura Joffe. Ill by Lynn Munsinger. (1998). What Mommies Do Best
- Raschka, Chris. (1993). Yo Yes? New York: Orchard Books
- Resnick, Jane and Susan Postcanser. A Sunshine Storybook: Fun Time. New York: Modern Publishing
- Ryder, Stephanie. Illustrated by: Stephanie Ryder (1992). Bath Time. England: Brimax Books
- Staw, Jenny. (1992). The House That Jack Built. NY: Dial books for young readers
- Smith, Mavis. (1997). Mind Your Manners, Ben Bunny. Toronto: Scholastic Inc.
- Walsh, Ellen. Illustrated by: Ellen Walsh. (1989). Mouse Paint. New York: Harcourt Brace Children’s Book
- Werner, Jane. (1980). Alice in Wonderland Meets the White Rabbit Wisconsin: Western Publishing Company, Inc.
- Wong, Janet S. Illustrated by: John Wallace. (2001). Grump. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
- Yanase, Takashi. (1982). The World of Fairy Tales: Thumbelina. Tokyo: Froebel-kan co., Ltd
- Zemach, Kaethe. (1998). The Character in the Book. US: Harper Collins Publisher
- Ontario (2003). Early Reading Strategy: The Report of the Expert Panel on Early Reading in Ontario 2003. Retrieved October 22, 2004 from 
- Matthews, Klassen & Walter(1999). What is Reading Readiness? Retrieved November 4, 2004 from 
- Washington University in St. Louis (2003). Spelling Patterns Key to Helping Children Spell and Read. Retrieved October 28, 2004 from 
- Bower, D., (2001). Putting Knowledge to Work. Tips for Parents: Creating Reading Readiness. Retrieved October 24, 2004 from 
- Weininger O., (1972). Ready or Not: Some Psychological Aspects of Readiness in Relation to Learning Effectiveness. Education (93) 2, 141-147. Retrieved October 30th, 2004