Where are we heading when we embark on the journey of reading instruction? Do we have more in mind than just teaching our children to decode words? There are several factors that make up what one would consider to be a good reader, and I wanted to share them today from a Charlotte Mason perspective.
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This goal of becoming a "good reader" is multifaceted. We can reach one part of the goal early on and take months or even years to reach the rest. Slow progress is okay, even celebrated.
This is the third post in the Charlotte Mason Reading series. Hop on back to the first post here, if you'd like!
Fluency is probably the first thing most of us think of when we hear the term "good reader." This is the ability to read words (decode) smoothly and quickly.
Decoding is what we start to teach as soon as our children learn their ABC's. They are learning the symbols so that they can crack the code. A child who struggles to make sense of letters will not be able to decode words, and the struggle to decode words means that they'll have trouble comprehending them, too. Once decoding is secured, a child starts to read more smoothly and with less effort. This will allow the cognitive parts of reading to fall into place more easily.
Ability to Remember
In a Charlotte Mason home, we skip the comprehension questions and worksheets and instead use narration as a comprehension tool. We can assess what a child remembers by asking them to narrate after each reading. If a child can't tell back, there are several different possibilities as to why. Maybe they aren't paying attention, they didn't understand the book, or they are disinterested. Eventually, through repeating the act of narration, our children will learn to pay attention and be able to remember what they read.
I highly recommend Karen Glass' book, Know And Tell, to help develop a better understanding of narration.
Thinking About Thinking- Metacognition
I first learned about metacognition as a young language arts teacher in an intermediate school, before test scores became the leading lady in education. Metacognition is a fancy way of saying, "Thinking about thinking." This is important while reading because it allows us to monitor what we understand and don't understand while reading. It allows us to predict what might happen next, recognize that we haven't been paying attention, and make inferences that the author didn't state outright. What does metacognition look like in a Charlotte Mason home?
Talking about books. After our children narrate, it's great to ask questions that get to the ideas behind what we read. We aren't asking surface level questions, but those that dig deep into what the child thinks about the book, like "What do you think this idea means? Do you think that this idea is right?" They are going to think more deeply about what they've read through questions like these.
This is perhaps the most important and most misunderstood aspect of becoming a "good reader." People often confuse a struggling reader with a disinterested one. If a child does not enjoy reading, it may result in lagging reading skills. But, very often, a disinterested reader can read quite well, and just doesn't want to. On the other hand, a struggling reader might love to read, and just lack the skills (at the moment) to read productively.
But, with more practice comes better reading skills, so whether a child is disinterested or struggling, the more time spent reading, the better.
Charlotte Mason said that one of the most important habits that we can give to children throughout their education is the habit of reading.
So, maybe the habit of reading spurs an interest in reading, and that interest will carry the child through both their academic and non-academic reading through childhood, adolescence, and beyond.
I've created a PDF for you full of Charlotte Mason reading pointers, and nursery rhyme cards so you can easily teach a reading lesson. Sign up below to have it sent to you ASAP!