Empowering Readers

One of the questions that teachers and parents ask is how to help students transition the phonetic skills they are learning to their reading skills. The most important way to ensure a student’s success with what they are reading is to model for them and teach them how to actively engage with the text. We want them to be part of what they read, to connect to it, to interact with it, and to come away understanding and the ability to apply what they read. There are a few key steps to ensure this: First, they need to preview the material. Then, knowing how to deeply study the material, they need to actively read, with focus on connections and questions, and then review and summarize while checking for understanding.

Pre-reading is one of the most important steps. Before playing a sport or engaging in other physical activity, it is important to warm up, preparing our bodies for the upcoming task. Reading is the same way. We need to warm up, preparing our minds for reading so that we can perform our best, get the most out of it, and increase our comprehension. Before reading the text, we can ask ourselves what we already know about the topic. We should try to recall as much information as we can and think of related ideas we’ve learned in the past. It may help to make brief notes about our thoughts or discuss what we remember with others.

One of the most important tools of pre-reading is to preview the selection and to look for unfamiliar words. Write down those words, decode them, and look up their definitions. This is the greatest way to transition our decoding skills to our reading skills. If we use the skills we know to decode an unfamiliar word, we may then be able recognize it once we can pronounce it correctly. If not, we can then look up the word’s meaning so that we understand the word. If we do this, reading text will be a much smoother process, and our ability to understand and retain what we read will increase.

Once we have familiarized ourselves with the text, we can then read with a vested interest in what the material is about, with a clear focus on our purpose for reading. If we set up the goal to understand, and we deal with unfamiliar words before we read, we will be better able to comprehend and read fluently. With our decoding issues out of the way as we read, we can really engage with the text, focus on the content, make connections, ask questions, and visualize to help us understand the material. Marking important text or taking notes about information we think is important will help us engage with the text and remember the important information. It is helpful to know the meaning of important Most Common Words that are signals to important information, such as: after, during, later, first, or soon for chronological sequence; but, yet, or however for comparison; and next and thus for process. All of these words, if understood, can help in deciphering text and fining the most important details. The Discover Intensive Phonics method works with all words in context, even Most Common Words, helping to build vocabulary, which will automatically transition over to all of the student’s reading.

If they understand the language of the text and are not hung up on decoding or compensating for poor decoding skills by skipping words or substituting incorrect words, they will be better able to understand the text so they can then relate the text in their own words, which helps with comprehension. Relating the text in students’ own words clears up language issues. Retelling challenges them to aim for complete retention. Summarization allows students to discriminate between main ideas and minor details.

Empowering students with proven skills for decoding and comprehension will yield amazing results. Using all of these strategies will help a reader to become an efficient reader. Becoming an efficient reader opens up doors that might otherwise have stayed closed. Words are so powerful and have the ability to change our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Powerful words have started revolutions and worldwide change. We want everyone to experience and share in this power.