Benjamin S. Bloom stated, “It is the adults in the home who serve to stimulate the child’s intellectual development, and it is the adults in the home who determine the basic preparation of the child for later learning in the school” (1981, p. 77). In 1990, Adams stated, “We are left with the conclusion that the likelihood that a child will succeed in the first grade depends, most of all, on how much she or he has already learned before getting there” (p. 8).
So, what are children doing with their parents before getting to first grade?
When I asked dozens of teachers what one message they would like to send to parents of preschoolers, they all said the same thing: Read with your child every day. Perhaps you are reading with your child, each day, because you understand that it is an important investment in your child's academic life. Great!
However, I would like to step out on thin ice and say that just reading with your child may not be enough.
Okay, so I began this blogging thing with encouragement; a list of ten simple things parents of successful readers do. Do those things, and you will experience joyful interactions with your child around books, while promoting reading success. It's true! Here's the thing...
I met a woman last evening who was crying, clearly broken, because she had read to her child every day, and yet her daughter is struggling in school. And this mom cannot afford the expensive, intensive instruction it will take to get her daughter back up to grade level expectations. *
So what went wrong, there?
I think I may have the answer. You see, it's more than the reading of the story that grows readers. It's the little things that some parents do without even knowing they're doing it. It's the noticing of the words together. It's the playing with the sounds in words. It's the rhyming games, and feeling of the musical rhythms of text. It's the discussions about "six silly snakes" all beginning with the same sound and that saying "the black back pack" has a special ring to it because all of the words end the same way. It's the writing of notes to grandma, where parents ask "What sound do you hear at the beginning of the word love?"
Educators call this Phonemic Awareness. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound produced in language (NRP, 2007). Phonemic awareness is different from Phonics in that letters are not necessarily assigned to the sounds. Phonemic Awareness comes before (and during, and even after) Phonics instruction- where letters are associated with the sounds. (Aren't we adults still drawn the sounds of language? We can become captivated when listening to people speaking another language without even understanding a word that is being said!) Researchers have stated that “Children who enter school with high phonemic awareness usually learn to read and write well, regardless of the literacy instruction method to which they are exposed” (DeBaryshe & Gorecki, 2007, p. 95). Wow. That's powerful!
*If your child needs intensive remediation, I can recommend intervention programs that utilize diagnostic evaluations and research-proven approaches to promote reading success. Of course, Book Bums strives to help in this area, but we can direct you to a more intensive intervention program than we provide, should it be needed.