Tag Archives: learning through song

Is there any way to know ahead of time if my child will do well in reading?

Yes. According to Prof. Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, the two best predictors of later reading achievement are

  • an awareness of separate sounds (42 in English) and
  • the ability to rapidly name objects.

Today we’ll discuss sound awareness.

When I was a high school student studying French, I used to lie in bed listening to a Montreal radio station. I would try to figure out where one word ended and the next word began.  This same skill is what babies do when they listen to adults talk to them although they don’t realize it. Luckily for most babies, their mothers or caretakers speak slowly and distinctly and repeat words over and over.

With time toddlers begin to hear parts of words and realize that some words have one part (for example, Mom) while other words have more than one part (for example, Grandma).

Still later, usually around age four, children learn their ABC’s, not understanding what they are all about. But with instruction, they learn that each sound in English corresponds to a letter or a pair of letters in the ABC’s.

How can you enhance your child’s success in reading?

Make your child aware of words, syllables and individual sounds.

  • Encourage prereaders to write using invented spelling, advises Dr. Wolf. When the child writes, he sounds out a word and uses the letter symbols which seem appropriate. The “words” might not conform to proper spelling, but that is not the point. The child is working to figure out sounds, a skill he will need in order to read.Girl reading "inventive" writing of younger sister.
  • Encourage the child to listen to someone reading nursery rhymes. Then encourage the child to say the rhymes herself, advises Dr. Wolf.  Take “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” for example.

The itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the waterspout.

Down came the rain
And washed the spider out.

Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain.

So the itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again!

  • Notice how “itsy bitsy,” “waterspout” and “out,” and “rain” and “again” rhyme. Notice the repetition of the word “rain” and the emphasis on the words “down” and “out.” Other nursery rhymes show alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds) and assonance (repetition of vowel sounds). When children listen to these sounds they learn to discriminate among similar sounds, figuring out what sounds the same and what sounds different.
  • Research shows that exposure to rhymes and alliteration helps children to figure out sounds and later, to read.

In our next blog we will discuss the other predictor of reading achievement, the ability to name.

Are there any tricks to help my child with reading comprehension?

One proven tactic to learn almost anything factual is music.  According to Annie Murphy Paul, author of the blog, The Brilliant Report, and an expert on human intelligence, music has been used for thousands of years to help us remember facts.  You used this technique when you were a child.  How did you learn your ABC’s?  By singing them, of course.

Ways to improve the likelihood of facts being remembered through song are to write lyrics that use concrete actions and powerful visual images.  Literary devices such as alliteration (words beginning with the same letter), assonance (words with the same vowel sounds), repetition and especially rhyme make a song more memorable, according to Paul.

Young girl reading a bookResearch shows that there are certain steps to increase reading comprehension as well.  Those steps are to read the title and try to understand what it means; then to read subtitles and boldfaced words and to ask yourself what they mean; then to interpret the drawings, photos, graphs, tables, political cartoons and charts to see what information you can glean from them; and last, to read the text.  If you follow the first three steps before you read the text, you should have a good idea what the text will be about.  You will have created a context into which the text makes sense.

This is true for picture books and early reading books as well as a high school chemistry text.  First the title, then the subtitles, then the illustrations and last the words themselves.

I have “translated” this information into a song about reading comprehension that you and your preschooler can remember.  Sing the following verses to the melody of “London Bridges Falling Down.”

Reading Skills Rhyme

To enlarge or print an 11″ x 8.5″ version, click on the picture.

Using this pattern when reading books with your child should improve her reading comprehension.  And after your child memorizes the song, she should have a sequence of strategies to use even when you are not there.

Let me know if this song helps by responding to our blog.  And if you are interested in practical research on how the brain works, go to www.anniemurphypaul.com and subscribe to her weekly newsletter as I do.