Seeing a child sit down with a book is always such an empowering sight. Whether it be a 2 year old analyzing the pictures in a book, or a 13 year old deeply engrossed in a novel, literacy education happens through all ages.
Oftentimes parents ask, “How do you even begin to teach reading?” The most important tool is to read to your child at home. Not only is it his or her first exposure to books, but it begins to open the door to literacy and fosters a love of reading at a very early age. It also helps children develop language and listening skills and prepares them to eventually understand written
language. Lastly, reading aloud to children – whether it is a simple picture book or a classic novel- stimulates their imagination and expands their vocabulary and understanding of the world. Children model behavior, so the more you read at home, the more likely they will love books and want to learn how to read.
Schools build upon this foundation and add the instructional approach. A great foundational reading program is not only one that teaches the necessary skills, but also includes authentic practice using these skills. Although worksheets are how most of us were taught, hands-on practice and being able to physically manipulate words through repetition makes more connections than simply filling in the blank . It’s also important to have a program that reaches all levels of learning. Many programs teach “to the middle” and leave out learners who might be excelling or needing additional assistance.
At The Parish School at St. Edward, starting in Kindergarten, the learners utilize a unique program entitled Wilson Fundations. This is a systematic program designed for foundational reading and spelling skills which emphasizes phonemic awareness, phonics-word study, high frequency word study, fluency, vocabulary, handwriting, and spelling. When children are exposed to foundations of reading in a systematic approach their base knowledge for literacy strengthens. Wilson Fundations also instructs through a systematic exposure to chants, hands-on practice using white boards to label words and magnetic boards to manipulate words. As children continue to acquire literacy skills and layer on additional knowledge onto an already solid foundation, learners are able to more readily accept those skills while continuing to challenge themselves and show great progress in their reading ability as a life-long reader.
Wilson Fundations is an extensive research-based program. Often times there are programs that have what appears to be great strategies, fun activities, and visually appealing. These types of programs could be great for home use as a supplement to the classroom instruction, however, as a school, it is important to implement a program that has years of use and backed by research. In a program review conducted by Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR), all aspects of foundational reading such as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension were taught and practiced with using Wilson Fundations and no weaknesses in the program were noted.
Research and foundational skills aside, the true moment of a successful reading program is watching it being used in the classroom and observing how the children are retaining the information. When one steps into an English Language Arts classroom at The Parish School at St. Edward, the amount of engagement and passion for learning are very evident. In speaking with the learners about what they are currently reading, the vocabulary they use to explain their book and the connections they are able to make to their life or to our Catholic faith are always astonishing.