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Read for Meaning


Lenny Sanchez, a professor of reading methods at Indiana University's School of Education in Bloomington, Indiana, warns that reading is not only about decoding, or deciphering the letters into fluid sounds to make words. "There's a misconception that children learn to read and then read to learn," Lenny says. "Reading, for me, is always about making meaning."

A good reader also reads fluently, and to help children develop that skill, it often means refraining from jumping in when they skip a word or miss a sound. Lenny says actions like this will break children's flow and take the focus off understanding the reading and place it onto decoding, a skill they will grasp over time.

Lenny also believes it's important to ask children detailed questions while they read to help develop their comprehension abilities. Reading, he says, always involves a purpose, and pinpointing that is often as simple as asking a child what he hopes to find out. By setting up the purpose ahead of time, the child is looking for the deeper meaning of the text throughout the entire story.

Choose the Best Possible Text

As children become more comfortable with the reading process, Lenny says to be very cautious with your text selections. Ultimately, you must balance the desire to push your children toward success without setting up unrealistic expectations. "We always want to make sure we're challenging our kids and ourselves as readers, but when you're pushed beyond what you can handle, it's going to negatively affect what you can do," Lenny says. "We want to give [children] situations that are challenging to them, that have a lot of struggles, but that also have a lot of opportunities for success."

Such opportunities are likely to be found in materials of high interest to the reader. Amy and her Harry Potter–loving eighth graders are a prime example of the difference it makes when children are reading books they enjoy. If the school curriculum doesn't offer books that top your child's priority list, you have all the more reason to make reading a part of home life—for both you and your child.

Set a good example.

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