Sunday, November 6, 2011

How do we know that our efforts are becoming fruitful?

The burning question that all parents/caregivers want to know is, "How do we know that our efforts are becoming fruitful?"

Is the answer that my child can now read bigger words and longer sentences?  Or is it that now my child can read fluently and with expression? These are certainly important indicators but there are many children that can read bigger words, longer sentences fluently and with expression. These are not the only considerations because there is now a great deal of evidence that many children can do this but without clearly comprehending what they have read. Therefore, those of us who are seeking to assist children in their reading need to focus on reading for understanding.

Clearly, children who understand what they are reading should be able to answer some basic questions that go beyond the mere recall of facts from a story or passage (more about this in a later blog). Another indicator is that the child is being quite strategic when he/she reads. Being strategic means that your child should be able choose from a repertoire of reading behaviours that go beyond the mere decoding of print. They should be sampling the text, predicting, confirming, or correcting as they monitor their meaning-making while reading. What is certain is that when your child self-corrects he/she is actively demonstrating that this vital process is in operation. The fact that a reader can self-correct is an indicator that he/she is sampling the text, predicting, and correcting - as opposed to confirming.

On the other hand, an example of the confirmation process becomes obvious when your child miscues a word but the meaning does not change. In terms of comprehension, the child has sampled the text and predicted but the word may be a synonym and not the actual word in the text. This is a strong indicator that your child is processing the text at a much deeper level and has confirmed that the meaning fits the context of the passage. This is why I have suggested that the reading should not be interrupted because good readers do this naturally and quite frequently. The guiding principle is that meaning always dominates perception and that we should purposefully read for meaning.

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