What are levelled readers and why are they important?
Levelled books are specially designed to increase very gradually in difficulty. They are used by teachers everywhere to teach reading in a highly controlled and standardized way. You don’t have to be a teacher, parents can use them, too.
Picture books are terrific books to read to your child but levelled books are best when it comes to teaching your child how to read.
Teachers also use levelled readers to test your child and determine your child’s reading level. The right level will be “just right” – not too hard and not too easy for your child. Your child will think and learn.
I wrote these Super Hammy books to be levelled books. That means I carefully controlled the vocabulary, the sight words – words such as “the”, “it”, “me”, the sentence structures, the way the letters are formed, the punctuation, and even the lay-out of the words on the page. All this is done to optimize the teaching and learning of reading which means more success for your child.
I’ve designed the lesson plans for teachers to use but parents can use them at home, too.
Super Hammy – My First Reading Series is a set of 15 books I’ve written that can be used by parents and teachers for children who are just beginning to read, or parents can read them to children who are not yet readers. The books can be purchased individually or as a set through DC Canada Education Publishing.
Your child is reading along and gets one of the words wrong. It doesn’t fit. It’s the wrong part of speech. Do you ask him to try again and sound it out? No. You can teach him something more useful. You can ask: Does that sound right? Do we talk that way?
This is the reading strategy I discussed in a previous post. Your child will be using her knowledge of her oral language, of how language “works” to figure out a word while reading a story.
The word she ultimately choses has to, not only make sense given what the story is about, but it also must sound right. As adults, we do this without thinking when we’re reading, but when a child is learning to read, it must be taught.
How do you do that? Basically, you’ll be asking your child if her choice of word sounds right? Is that how we talk? Can we say it like that?
Does it sound right? This is another very important reading strategy that piggy-backs on a child’s knowledge of oral language – of how language works.
For example, when a child is reading a sentence and comes to a word he or she doesn’t know, the brain is searching for suitable possibilities. We ask not only what word would make sense here, as discussed in my previous post, but also what word would fit here? What word would sound right?
Reading has to make sense to your child. When choosing books to use as you begin to teach reading, make sure there are complete sentences – one simple sentence per page. And that there is a very simple story line. This helps make the reading meaningful.
There isn’t much meaning in a bunch of letters and sounds so if you’re teaching your child to read only through phonics, that is, by sounding out the letters, the reading will not be meaningful. And you’ll be severely limiting your child’s reading tool box.
Phonics is just one of the tools, but the “mega-power tool” is the meaning strategy. Reading for meaning is the most powerful reading strategy that we use. When your child is attempting to read a sentence and comes to a word she doesn’t know, the most powerful thing you can ask is: What word would make sense here? You can also add: Look at the picture.
If your child says a word that doesn’t fit, you can say: You said________. That doesn’t make sense. You could add: What would make sense? Look at the picture. Or, think about the story.
With all of these prompts, you’re appealing to meaning. You’re teaching your child to think for herself. You’re not asking your child to “sound it out”. When a child tries to only say the sounds, meaning is lost.
So, how do you teach your child to use this strategy while reading a book? It’s really quite simple and flows naturally.
One of the most obvious ways to teach the meaning strategy is through the use of pictures.
It’s a good idea to use flashcards to help your child learn sight words which are the building blocks of reading (and writing). However –
Use flashcards in addition to teaching sight words by using books you’re already reading with your child. Why?
We want the words to be meaningful to your child. When you point out a sight word such as “I” in a story you’re reading, your child sees how the word is used. It’s part of a story and has more meaning than if it’s isolated on a card.
When your child is about 4 years old, you can start introducing sight words, but it really depends on the child. Some children might be ready at 3 years, some at 5.