How Kids Really Learn To Read

Can a computer app teach your kid to read? Nope, sorry, write Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine in Slate:

“Most of the top-selling reading apps appear to teach only the most basic of literacy skills. They lean toward easy-to-teach tasks, such as identifying the ABCs, but don’t address higher-level competencies that young children also need to become strong readers, such as developing vocabulary and understanding words in a narrative.

A snapshot of the iTunes App Store’s most popular paid literacy apps showed that 45 percent targeted letters and sounds and half focused on phonics. Only 5 percent covered vocabulary, and none addressed comprehension or the ability to tell stories. Many ‘reading’ apps are essentially flashy flashcards: Click on a set of letters and the audio kicks on, uttering the letter’s sounds. Move to the next set and repeat.

This imbalance comes as research shows that knowing the ABCs and other basic literacy skills, while important, are not enough to help children become strong readers. Children need background knowledge and vocabulary, too, as made clear last week in the release of vocabulary scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The scores, which are distressingly low for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, showed an integral link between vocabulary and reading comprehension. Until comprehension is addressed, American kids will continue to lag compared to children from nations such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Finland.” (Read more here.)

And how do children develop background knowledge and vocabulary? By being read to a lot; by being engaged in conversation a lot; by having rich real-world experiences; and, ultimately, by reading a lot themselves. It’s a slow, incremental process, and an app isn’t a quick fix.

One Response to “How Kids Really Learn To Read”

  1. Amy says:

    You may have mentioned this already but I really liked Daniel Willingham’s commentary on orthography and why English is really hard to learn!

    http://www.danielwillingham.com/1/post/2012/12/the-pirls-reading-result-better-than-you-may-realize.html

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