Debunking Common Reading Myths

shutterstock_240288709There are a lot of myths placed on reading, and on what reading can and cannot do. It’s time to bring the truth to the fore and settle these reading myths for good.

Myth #1: We read naturally – Reading is a learned behaviour. It needs to be taught with deliberate intention and understanding in order for someone to attain the result of reading comprehension. It is a complex process with systematic learning used in conjunction with a fluent reader as teacher.

Assigning meaning to reading is the most difficult learning of all. Leaving a child to read on their own with no assistance will not result in their ability to read or comprehend.

Myth #2: Once is enough – For fluent reading, repetition is required. When a child is learning to read they are bringing letters, sounds, and words together. They bring this together having been guided (taught) by a role model, usually a parent or teacher. They then associate words together, learn punctuation, and add tone for fluency.  The mentor helps them learn to assign meaning to the words and phrases, which needs to then be committed to memory. In early childhood development this process takes repeated effort.

Like most skills that become natural, practice makes perfect. As adults we can look back and think this is simple, forgetting how long it took us to learn as an infant.

Myth #3: Children understand if they can tell you something about the story – Engagement of any sort is a positive step forward. However, the question and answer technique can prove to be limiting. It is critical not to assume a child has full comprehension of a text because he or she can answer one or two questions. Opening a true dialogue for discussion is better than a Q&A technique to understand if they have reading comprehension.

Myth #4: Fluent reading = good comprehension – This is a definite myth. Too often a parent thinks their child has good reading comprehension when in fact what they have is the ability to read the words on the page. The hardest step of all is to assign meaning and extract information from text. Many children have learned to ‘get away with it’ because their reading sounds fabulous, if not advanced.

Myth #5: The words are too hard for my children – No they are not. The active child brain is a great problem solver. Exposing children to difficult words will add to their vocabulary in the longer term.

Myth #6: Word lists work– This old-school teaching method required that students find the definitions of a list of words and learn them. Each week a new list arrived.  However, out of context this method of learning provides limited to no value for a child. Learning and development methods today realise that words in context are required to provide association, and to move them into short and then long-term memory.

Myth #7: There is no fun in learning words – Gamification of learning is one of the best ways to help children – and adults – learn. Scrabble, Pictionary, crossword puzzles etc. all bring fun into the learning environment. The more fun a child is having, the more likely they are to remember the principles of the lesson.

Myth #8: My child is a late reader, but I don’t have to worry – Not true. Studies have found that of the children struggling with reading in Year 1, around 88% will still be struggling in Year 3. The consequential impact can be debilitating as they fall behind and poor reading performance starts to impact other areas of their life. Losing confidence or being shamed takes its toll. Early intervention is required to ensure a child has no medical reason for a learning development problem e.g. ear infection, deafness etc. Most difficulties in a child’s reading are directly linked to a lack of understanding in phonemics and phonics.

The first three years of school will be the most critical, and what has occurred at home prior to this will set the foundation for childhood reading comprehension. If a child has not had reading experience at home, good teaching in these first three years can slowly overcome the impact of this but it can be a difficult road for your child.