What is Literacy?

Literacy refers to any reading or writing skills. Children with speech and language delays often have difficulty with literacy skills as well. Children who have difficulty pronouncing or understanding certain speech sounds may have difficulty with reading and writing those sounds as well. This can lead to trouble decoding and sounding out words. Children with language delays may not fully understand all parts of language, such as grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etc. This can lead to problems understanding text or putting one’s ideas into writing in a logical manner.

How can we Improve Literacy?

There are two ways to go about improving literacy in children. The first method is to improve underlying speech and language problems. For example, working on correct production and use of speech sounds will help when sounding out or spelling words. Or, working on grammar will help a child use those grammatical markers correctly in reading and writing as well.

What Is Reading Fluency?

According to the National Reading Panel, reading fluency is defined as follows :

“Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read. Fluent readers read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Their reading sounds natural, as if they are speaking. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read slowly, word by word. Their oral reading is choppy and plodding.”

How Can I Help Improve My Child’s Reading Fluency?

Word retrieval refers to a child’s ability to come up with the right word when he needs it. Have you ever gotten stuck on a word and not been able to think of what it is even though you know what it means? This happens to some children with language disorders due to inadequate organization of the language centers of the brain. Here are some activities that will help a child organize words better so they can retrieve them more quickly :

1. Model Fluent Reading

You can help improve your child’s reading fluency by showing them what it sounds like when you read fluently. Choose something to read that is fairly easy for your child (not too many words that they wouldn’t know) and read it out loud to your child. Read effortlessly and with expression. This will help your child hear what it sounds like to read fluently and will also show your child how reading fluently can provide meaning to the text. Point to each word as you read. However, make sure that you’re not putting in extra pauses because your finger needs extra time to catch up. Point to the words like this will help your child understand where natural pauses occur and which words should be emphasized.

2. Talk About Punctuation

Another way to improve your child’s reading fluency is to talk about how the punctuation changes the way you read sentences. Explain to your child that when you see a question mark, your voice should raise in pitch at the end of the sentence to indicate a question. Show your child some examples of this. Explain how your voice lowers in pitch and there is a pause when you see a period. Commas and colons indicate short pauses and exclamation marks tell you to get loud and sometimes more high pitch. You can point these out and demonstrate them before, during, and after you read something out loud to your child.

Have Your Child Read The Text Back To You

After you have read the text out loud to your child, have him read it back to you. Provide your child praise and help as they go along. Have your child continue to read the text repeatedly until he is quite fluent with it. This usually takes three or four readings. If it takes longer than that, your text is too hard and you should find something easier.

Read The Text With Your Child

Reading a text at the same time as your child (in unison) is another great way to practice reading fluency. You can start by reading the text to your child the first time. The next time you read it, encourage your child to join in and read with you whenever she feels comfortable. After three-five times reading this text, your child should be able to read the entire thing with you. If not, the text is too hard and you should try something easier.

Have Your Child Read Along with a Book On Tape

Buy some books on tape (or CD) or record yourself reading a book out loud for your child. The first time, have your child listen to the tape and point to the words as he hears them being read. The next time, encourage your child to read along. For this activity, it is best if there are no sound effects or music in the background.