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Assessing Children's Literacy Skills at Home

Reading is a skill that stays with us our whole lives, helping us to learn, develop, and improve as individuals. For children especially, it can have a marked effect on their success at school and even at play. It can open up entirely new worlds to them. Moreover, reading can grow children’s imaginations and advance their communication skills. To turn children into avid readers, parents need to start instilling the habit as early as possible. It is vital to make sure that children view reading as a fun and enjoyable activity. This can be done by reading aloud to children, asking them to read out loud themselves, or even acting out a story. Younger children or infants can get hooked on books that feature pull-out tabs, textures, and more, and can be a wonderful introduction to reading for little ones. To further encourage your children to read, take them along on trips to the library and encourage them to point out books that they would like to read. This can help to keep them more interested during reading time.

How to Assess Your Child's Reading Abilities

There are five main areas to keep in mind when assessing your child’s reading abilities: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and oral reading. Phonemic awareness measures how well a child can identify and manipulate words or parts of words that are spoken aloud. For example, they should be able to break down the word 'cat' into the phonemes, “kuh” “ah” “tuh”, make rhyming words, and so on. Parents can test this by asking the child simple questions to help them manipulate words.

Phonics relates to how well a child can correspond a written word with the sound of the word when it is spoken aloud. By checking how well a child can read aloud on his own and understand the meanings of the words he is reading, parents can get an idea of this aspect of their child's reading level.

In terms of vocabulary, as they grow older, children should increase not only the number of words they know, but also the quality of words. As they read stories, a very simple way to assess their vocabulary is by asking if they know how to describe a sentence or event in a different way. Pick out new words in the story and check to see whether the child understands their meanings, and also if they can use the word properly in a sentence of their own.

When assessing reading comprehension abilities, try to determine how well the child understands the story. On one level, they should be able to understand what they have just read, while on a higher level, they should be able to discuss the implications of events in the story or guess what might happen next. A fun method is to ask the child to retell the story at a later time.

Finally, oral reading is an evaluation of the child’s fluency in reading. It assesses their speed and accuracy in reading aloud. Instead of always reading aloud to the child, encourage them to do so instead. When they stumble on words that they do not know, let them slowly sound it out or break down the word and try to guess the meaning by its context, rather than giving them the answer right away. In this way, children are much more likely to remember what they have learned.

What to do if Your Child is a Struggling Reader

It is common for children to have difficulties with reading at some point, and it can be for a variety of reasons. They may simply not understand the subject matter, become frustrated, lose their motivation, or need extra help with some aspects of reading. The key to overcoming this is patience and support, on the part of the parents. Instead of limiting reading to a formal reading hour, encourage the child to read wherever they go. Reading off labels or the bill at the grocery store, or road signs while in the car, are just a couple of ways to extend their reading time. Apart from this, try to pinpoint the reason why your child is having trouble reading. Other reasons why the child might be struggling might be due to learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, or a physical problem affecting their eyesight or hearing. In this case, it is best to discuss it with you child's pediatrician so that they can take steps to correct the problem if possible, or offer guidance in overcoming it. With struggling readers or even non-readers, parents have to adopt different strategies to make sure that their child is constantly interested and motivated.

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