Learning to read

Reading is one of the complex tasks accomplished by students. Paradoxically one can learn to read by reading. Reading is an interesting past time or hobby for those who like it. It broadens one’s knowledge. Letter’s in the books talk to the reader. Reading teaches a child many things. It may be good or it may be bad. It should be guided learning.
Reading is a subtle and complex process that involves sensation, perception, comprehension, application, and integration. Reading is the magic key to the world of enlightenment and enjoyment. It is the basic tool for learning in all the subject areas. Reading is the process of making and getting from printed word symbols.
Efficient reading is an active dialogue between author and reader. Reading can be one of man’s deepest pleasures. It enables man to ponder the mysteries of the world, explore accumulated knowledge, and contemplate the unknown.

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One significant point of learning to read is to understand how written language and oral language correspond. The English writing system is based on the alphabetic principle that written words are made up of letters that have approximate matches with the sounds heard in the words we speak. Therefore, to understand the alphabetic principle, one must recognize that spoken words consist of a sequence of sounds and this understanding is called phonemic awareness (McCormick, 1999).
Phonemic awareness is not reading. It does not deal with alphabetical letters. It does not phonics. It does not replace the school’s reading program and it is not an all-out cure for reading problems (Kang, 19997). Phonemic awareness is recognizing sounds within words. It is the ability of the child to focus on sounds of words. It is an understanding that speech is composed of individual sounds called phonemes. Phoneme is the smallest unit of speech that carries a definite meaning when put together.
The phonemic awareness task requires children to analyze, manipulate the units of speech rather than focus on meaning; and the reader’s task is to understand the relationship of the letter in the writing system to the phonemes in the language. Readers should also recognize that speech could be segmented into smaller units-the readers to become phonemically aware (Yopp, 1992). This gives children functional practice in phonemic segmentation or breaking a word down into component sounds.
The four basic skills of Phonemic Awareness are rhyming sounds, blending sounds, matching sounds, and segmenting sounds. Such skills are the building blocks for reading. Therefore, in order to benefit from formal reading instruction, children must have a certain level of phonemic awareness. Phonemic Awareness could be taught as early as kindergarten throughout kindergarten and into Grade I; to continue in Grades II and III and with those children who remain weak in reading.
Kang (1997) suggests the following key points to keep in mind:
1. Skills should be taught in specific lessons.
2. Try to practice phonemic awareness about 10-15 minutes a day, three to four times a week.
3. The more consistent the lesson structure is, the more improvement you will observe in            your young learners.
4. Regroup children upon getting to know their skills. Place in one group those who are successful in phonemic awareness and sustain their skills with lessons once a week.
Phonemic awareness is a possible reason why many children struggle in reading (Rasinski & Padak, 2000). It is a fact that when we speak we only rarely pay conscious attention to the sound we make, rather we are simply concerned with getting our messages across. Therefore, the concept that words are made up of sounds is not necessarily an easy one for students to grasp. Phonemic awareness is not really critical to our purposes in spoken language but rather central in learning to read.
A large body of research conducted in the U.S. and other countries indicate that one of the most significant coordinators between good and poor readers is poor readers’ lack of phonemic awareness (McCormick, 1999). This holds true regardless of the intelligence level of socioeconomic status of the students. On the strength of this research, there is little doubt that lack of phonemic awareness is a cause of reading disabilities in a large portion of students whose difficulties lie with word recognition.
Research studies indicate that one aid to the development of adequate phonemic awareness occurs when young children listen to storybooks read aloud by their parents, an advantage enjoyed by some children, but not all. Others suggest that good or poor phonemic awareness may have a genetic origin. Direct evidence indicates that lack of phonemic awareness is a major cause of word identification difficulties. Likewise, phonemic awareness permits students to use letter-sound correspondences, employ phonemic strategies and identify unknown words more quickly. It also may have a bearing on whole word learning. In addition, it is a prerequisite to spelling and writing, which also require hearing (McCormick, 1999).
Further research has shown that phonemic awareness is a more powerful determiner than intelligence in predicting whether students will succeed in reading and also a stronger predictor of “general” language proficiency (McCormick, 1999) and a very powerful predictor of later reading achievement (Griffith, et al., 1992).
Phonemic awareness is now viewed as a critical variable in emergent literacy and beginning reading acquisition (McCormick, 1999). Recognizing that, words can be broken down into phonemes and syllables, and being able to manipulate these, has a high correlation with reading achievement. Thus, it is a central factor in learning to read and a prerequisite in learning to read.
Irregularities of English demand careful handling to avoid confusion. Regular spelling should be presented in the early stages before teaching words with semi-irregular patterns like cake, bread, etc. and those with complete irregularities forms such as cough, bough. This may be another complete lesson for the actual reading phase after learning the letter shapes and names. Eventually, with increasing speed, the child works through the page of the teaching materials.
In the schools, reading as a subject should be given emphasis for it is the springboard in learning other areas. Learning reading is open to a lot of words for children. Early childhood cognitive development will not develop the building blocks of language for children, unless parents know the importance of good reading. Children, whose parents are not aware that reading plays a role in the child’s development, are not disposed to learn reading. Their opportunities in learning are limited.
Reading to every citizen is a new civil right. A child should be ready to read and ready to get a clear understanding of what he sees and reads in order to provide him a good early experience. Early language and early pre-learning reading activities contribute to the development of feeling of a child. Absence of this development will stifle learning and understanding sounds, letters, and language. Language in reading is the building block of speech.
Likewise, the child’s ability to grasp ideas and sounds has a linkage in learning to read letters. Knowing how to read is important in interactive learning. It affects the heart and soul of a child. A child should have a strong language and a good pre-reading education. For children to learn to read is a challenge posed to parents and educators. No matter how busy parents are, they should have time left for their children. Parents should develop good relationships with their children at their early stage of learning.
Education begins before birth. Thus, the most important word that should be learned and practiced by a child is credibility according to the First Lady of U.S. President Bush, who was once a teacher herself. High quality teachers are needed in the classroom to guide and teach children to learn. One important aim in reading is to learn to choose, analyze, and read good materials. There are teachers who change a child’s life negatively or positively. Subsequently, teachers should teach a child to be a worthy citizen in thought, in word, and in deed.
To make teaching more effective, it should be integrated with subjects like art and music education, character education, and all other subject areas in the school curriculum. Reading is the right key to spiritual, social, intellectual, esthetical, mental, moral, and academic success. It is hoped that after a thorough understanding of the various conditions leading to reading readiness through study, the reading program will be better handled.
Griffith, P., et al. (1992). “Phonemic awareness helps beginning readers break  the code”. The Reading Teacher. Vol. 56, No. 7, pp.517-523: March 1992.
Kang, H. (1997). Phonemic awareness: Listening activities to develop pre-reading skills: USA: Fearon Teachers Aid; Division of Frank Schaffer
Publications, Inc.
McCormick, S. (1999). Instructing students who have literacy problem. New Jersey:
Prentice-Hall, Inc. Simon & Schuster, A Viacom Company.
Rasinski, T., & Padak, N. (2000). Effective reading strategies: Teaching children who find reading difficult. 2nd Ed. Prentice Hall, Inc. NJ.
Yopp, H.K. (1992). “Developing phonemic awareness in young children”. The Reading Teacher. Vol. 9: May 1992.

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