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    Developing Fluency in Young Children

    By Nicole Brekelbaum     

    Fluency in reading and talking can come at different stages for different children. It is important when that milestone is reached that parents encourage their children to improve their literacy skills. Here is a step-by-step guide to developing your young child's language and reading fluency. Step 1: Does Your Child have the Ability to Link Letters and Sounds Together? We all know that letters of the alphabet form words and that learning letters and sounds is usually the predecessor to developing fluency in young children. But how can we stimulate an early interest in the alphabet? To keep a child’s mind engaged in the learning process, it is a good idea to use fun, exciting hands-on games. Many parents have had success arranging magnetic letters on their kitchen refrigerator and allowing children to touch, manipulate and sound out the letters. Another variation is to work with one letter a week starting, for instance, with the letter A. Place only the letter A on the refrigerator and then do a weeklong lesson that focuses on the letter A. At the end of the week place three more letters on the refrigerator. Ask your child to distinguish the letter A from the group, make the sound of the letter A, and pronounce two or three words that begin with the letter A. Continue this learning technique for 25 more weeks until your child begins to recognize and sound out each of the 26 letters of the alphabet easily. A home-schooling mom who has had remarkable success with developing fluency in her kids has created a useful online resource that teaches children a letter a week. This free curriculum can be found at Brightly Beaming Resources - http://www.letteroftheweek.com/.

    Step 2: Is Your Child Familiar with Words that Form Opposites? Most kids enjoy learning about opposites since it encourages sensory and motor development while at the same time developing their literacy skills. Children can recognize the difference between sweet and sour by taste, hard and soft by touch, slow and fast by adjusting their motor play, and loud and quiet by altering their voice pitch. This interactive approach is not only enjoyed by toddlers and preschoolers but also provides a great foundation for the development of literacy skills later on in life.

    Step 3: Can Your Child Build New Words from a Single Core Word? An important way to develop fluency is to provide children with a rich variety of words. One approach is to a take a familiar core word and build a web of related words around it. For example, using the word bat as a core word help children find other related words such as baseball, base, batsman, catcher and umpire. Discuss the word bat further using a completely different approach and inspire children to find new words such as nocturnal, caves, wing span and habitat. As children become familiar with related words they gain the self-confidence needed to read aloud and to decode new words.

    Step 4: Can Your Child Sound Out Rhyming Words? Rhyming words have sound appeal to kids. Listening to nursery rhymes and poems allows children to appreciate the beautiful yet comprehensive forms of the spoken language. Encourage your child to sound out rhyming words, making sure to praise him even if the words he creates may not necessarily be real words. The idea is that he has mastered the listening technique that is required to reproduce similar sounds.

    Step 5: Has Your Child Learnt about Compound Words? Learning about compound words is a great way to introduce word-building skills to children. Start off by giving your child two very familiar words and then ask him to join the words together and read the composite word out loud. There is a 50% chance that he may not create a compound word on his first try. If he is unsuccessful be patient and allow his natural hunger to learn inspire him to manipulate the words correctly. Soon he will be making some typical compound words such as batman, baseball, and bookworm.

    Step 6: Can Your Child Build Words using Ending Clusters? It is a good idea to introduce words with ending clusters to kids around first or second grade, or when you believe that they are developmentally ready for this challenge. Examining the ending clusters for a whole group of words is a big step towards fluency. This step should be approached with patience and care. Take a word, for example, like light. The ending cluster here is “ight”. Remove the letter “l” and substitute the letter “s” instead. Now you have the word sight. Continue in this manner until your child begins to recognize and pronounce words on his own such as might, fight, fright and bright. Introduce other ending clusters to him and help him become familiar with manipulating words.

    Step 7: Is Your Child Familiar with Beginning Blends? Beginning blends are great ways for children to sound out words that are unfamiliar to them. Take the beginning blend “ST” for instance. If a child understands how to pronounce the words star and start, then unfamiliar words such as stand, stop, stamp and stall become easier to pronounce with practice. Over time children begin to decode words one at a time and can soon read a whole sentence. Encouraging your child to read a familiar text can also build fluency and comprehension. An excellent easy reader is the “Dick and Jane” series. It allows children to sound out familiar three and four letter words in repetitive sentences thus giving them the self-confidence they need to master difficult pronunciations.

    Step 8: Have You Encouraged Independent Reading? Visit your local library to see what programs are available that encourages reading. Usually children can join their library’s book club, gain school credit from reading a number of library books and sometimes win small prizes after attaining reading milestones. Encourage your child to search the library bookshelves for books that are of interest to him and that are also appropriate for his age. On occasion encourage him to read aloud to you so that you can diagnose any difficulties in his phonic skills such as slow reading and poor comprehension. Oftentimes poor readers have a slow word per minute count and have difficulty decoding words, which may in turn lead to poor comprehension of the text.

    Step 9: Do You Read Books? One very important way to develop fluency in kids is to read books yourself. When children see adults reading they understand firsthand the benefits of improving their literacy skills. Discuss books that you have read together, expand on a particular lesson or theme seen in a book, and encourage your child to develop a love for reading.

    Written by Nicole BrekelbaumRate this article:

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