EDITOR’S NOTE — This is the first installment in The Ardmoreite’s three-part series on literacy. Today’s article covers the prevalence of literacy struggles and the process of learning to read. Tuesday’s paper will feature information on how to encourage struggling and reluctant readers. The series concludes on Wednesday with the impact that struggles with literacy can have on adults.


According to the New Dimension/Ardmore Literacy Council director, the struggle with reading begins in early childhood.


EDITOR’S NOTE — This is the first installment in The Ardmoreite’s three-part series on literacy. Today’s article covers the prevalence of literacy struggles and the process of learning to read. Tuesday’s paper will feature information on how to encourage struggling and reluctant readers. The series concludes on Wednesday with the impact that struggles with literacy can have on adults.

 

According to the New Dimension/Ardmore Literacy Council director, the struggle with reading begins in early childhood.

 

“Kindergarten to third-grade is critical. It’s where they get their foundation, their base,” director Carolyn Pirtle said. “The older you get, the harder it is. Adults don’t have the same patience as kids.”

 

Once a child struggles with one part of the learning phase, they can fall behind forever.

 

“If a child doesn’t get the basics, they won’t get reading in the fourth-grade,” Pirtle said.

 

Elementary children then grow up to be adults who struggle with reading and create a cycle of struggles with literacy.

 

“It’s a vicious circle that keeps going around and round — mom can’t read, then kids can’t read, then they have kids who can’t read,” Pirtle said.
 

 

Learning to Read

Many skills are needed in order for a person to learn to read.

 

Sharon Veazey, who retired this year as reading specialist for Springer Public Schools, outlined the following five skills students need to master in order to read.

 

1. Phonemic Awareness
Phonemic awareness is pre-reading skills such as awareness of sounds and blending sounds into words.
“People say it could be taught in the dark because it doesn’t involve any letters,” Veazey said.
Phenomic awareness is taught beginning in preschool along with alphabetic awareness.
Alphabetic awareness includes children being able to identify letters, even when they are presented in different fonts, sizes and orders.

 

2. Phonics
Phonics covers the sounds of letters and the combination of letters as they are blended into words. This is the stage where students are introduced to words.
“It’s the beginning of decoding words for a child,” Veazey said.

 

3. Fluency
Fluency is the ability to read smoothly and at an intelligible rate.
Students begin to be tested on fluency in the middle of first grade. By third grade, students are tested only on fluency and comprehension.

 

4. Comprehension
Comprehension is the ability of students to understand what they are reading.
Fluency and comprehension go hand-in-hand when children learn to read.
“Sometimes we have students who read fluently but don’t recall anything,” Veazey said.
The expected minimum for children at the end of first grade is the ability to read 40 words per minute.
Second-graders should read 90 words per minute, and third-graders should read 110 to 120 words per minute.

 

5. Vocabulary
Vocabulary is the number of words a child understands.
Veazey said many students have struggled with expanding their vocabularies.
“Adults have to talk to their children,” Veazey said. “It is also important to read to your children and explain words they don’t know.”
While students should develop the above skills in elementary school, Veazey said there are still other skills students should develop throughout their high school years.
“In high school, students need to learn how to do skimming and scanning and summarizing. These are all reading skills,” she said.