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Different ways to learn to read...

(67 Posts)
allyfe Thu 03-Apr-14 10:12:59

My reception DD (5.1) is doing well with her reading (not compared to the free readers, but I'm still impressed smile). But, she must also be one of the only children in the country (based on my reading of MN anyway) who actually likes Biff & Chip. In fact, she much prefers Biff and Chip compared to phonics books at the same level. I think that partly she simply doesn't like the stories/way of writing in phonics books. She never has. She loved the Read at Home ORT, but wouldn't touch the Read, Write Inc ones. But I think it is also because she recognises a lot of words, and tends to work things out based on the form and the meaning of the text (so sometimes she will say the wrong thing because it makes sense in the context of the sentence, and it has the same first letter as the word she should be reading). She does still sound words out if she doesn't know them, but she seems to need to have the satisfaction of having a lot of the high frequency words that she already knows.

She does also read other things than Biff & Chip (she will have a go at a lot of stuff - she has tried a simple Horrid Henry Early reader, and some I can read books (which she read all of).

So, my question is, is this a problem? And, she has been moved up a level recently, and whilst she still flies through the Biff and Chip, she doesn't like the phonics books she gets and won't try with them. Typical pushy mum, I think she could easily move up another level because it takes her five minutes to read the Biff & chips we get home. And, again, as with so many children, she reads higher level books at home. We only get two school books so I'd like them to be appropriate. But I did just wonder about her lack of interest in phonics texts, and if it is something we should try to work on more, or if I should just let her read in what seems to be a ORT way!

Seeline Thu 03-Apr-14 10:19:42

Not an expert, but I don't think it matters at all. As long she is getting lots of practice and is enjoying it, I don't think the type of bool is an issue. My DD learnt to read very quickly and didn't really do phonics at all. They didn't have a reading scheme at her school - they just chose what interested them.

PastSellByDate Thu 03-Apr-14 10:31:43

Hi Allyfe

I agree with Seeline: it really doesn't matter what she's reading


It does matter that she understands when she's asked to read something for her teachers/ TAs - she does make the effort. Being picky about what you're willing to read may mean that the teachers aren't seeing your DC performing at their best. So it's important that they understand that if they're asked to read for a teacher, regardless of the book selected, they have to try their best.

My girls have very strong likes/ dislikes and there were stories sent home they both hated (or indeed I hated) but I think you have to trust that the book was chosen for a reason - to practice certain types of sounds/ decoding trickier words/ etc...

My solution to my DDs not liking to read the books sent home from school was to dangle the proverbial carrot. OK, I know you don't like X book, but if we work on this over the next few days so that you read this really well to me, then we can just focus on Sally Gardner princess Early Reader books/ Rainbow Magic Fairies/ Diary of Wimpy Kid/ etc... for the rest of the week and I'll read you X favourite story at the weekend.


columngollum Thu 03-Apr-14 16:33:08

I think it depends a lot on the temperament of the teacher and the school reading policy/how closely it's observed. If you and the teacher agree on what's required, when to do what and how to do it, then the books themselves probably don't make any difference.

If you disagree/don't or can't discuss it and she thinks your daughter is developing slower than you do and your daughter can't/won't read the school books the way that the teacher wants them read, I can forsee endless problems (which, in the long run may turn out to have bugger all to do with how well your daughter actually reads!)

Mashabell Fri 04-Apr-14 06:27:23

If your dd is making good progress with her reading and is also able to
sound words out if she doesn't know them, then there is no problem at all.

If she also
^ seems to need to have the satisfaction of having a lot of the high frequency words that she already knows^, then she has already grasped what learning to read is really all about:
being able to recognise all common words instantly, without needing to sound them out - as we all do on here - and reading with understanding, to get the meaning of a text.

Reading by sounding out or decoding is merely a stage towards this. What moving up through the levels means is no more than being able to read more and more words withouth decoding and needing to decode less and less.

columngollum Fri 04-Apr-14 08:44:20

Well, it depends, a child who has learned to read by using real books does not move up through the levels. There are no levels, although it must be admitted that some real books are more complicated than others.

Specifically levelled scheme reading books are an educational management tool. (A stupid one at that.)

nonicknameseemsavailable Fri 04-Apr-14 09:27:59

phonics books can seem a lot harder work for children because there are fewer words they will have learned to recognise already and they will have to slow down and decode the words given.

it is very important they read a wide variety of books, biff etc are very predictable with language and really are very simple to read once a child has learned the basics, the phonics books include much longer words and more varied language because if a child has learned their phonics correctly then they should be able to decode these words.

If you think she is ready to go up a level but that is purely based on biff, chip and kipper and she struggles with others then I think she needs to practice the others more. To move up she needs to be confident with a whole range of texts.

Mashabell Fri 04-Apr-14 09:44:10

I agree with u re official levelling, CG,
but however children learn to read, they become more fluent as they are able to recognise more common words by sight, without the need for decoding.

I was merely trying to explain what the levels mean.
We know that children learn to read English at very different rates: some are quite fluent by 6, while others are still behind their 'level' at 11, and i am certain that this would be reflected in the number of the most common 3,000 or so words they can read without hesitation. - This could be a nice research project for someone.

The speed of reading progress depends largely on how well children are able to deal with the spellings with more than one sound (-y-: type - typical; - -y: daddy - apply).

Children with a good visual memory tend to learn to read English faster (just as they learn to spell more easily) than those who have to rely more heavily on decoding, because the spellings with several possible sounds are inevitably bigger impediments for later.

columngollum Fri 04-Apr-14 10:12:11

But surely that's the problem with a one-size-fits-all model of anything (which is what a reading scheme is.) Of course we can suppose that some children have a better visual memory than others or are shown books earlier or are encouraged to play word games or any of the ten thousand other things which make one child a better reader than another. But (and wild generalisations are the order of the day in this post) if we already know all this, and we do already know all this, then why are some schemes sometimes so heavily restricted? I can only suppose the reason is a heavy reliance on uniformity on behalf of the person running the scheme (partly suggested by the desire to purchase a scheme in the first place.)

Isn't one of the things you talk about so often the diversity in English words part of the problem, coupled with the diversity in children?

Aren't those two things perfect candidates for the production of chaos?

And aren't reading schemes to some extent a protection against chaos? (with reading being only a secondary consideration.)

Mashabell Fri 04-Apr-14 12:02:50

Yes, yes and yes, in reply to your 3 questions CG.

If it wasn't for the fact that the 43 English sounds are spelt with 205 graphemes, 69 of which have more than one pronunciation (e.g. an - any, apron), there would be no discussions / debates / arguments /reading wars about how best to teach reading.

As i've said before, some other languages (French, Portuguese) are quite tricky to spell too, BUT ONLY ENGLISH has many graphemes with more than one sound.

I can't resist quoting the phonics guru Diane McGuinness again:

"It’s difficult for us to imagine what it’s like to have a transparent (or nearly transparent) alphabet code, like those in Italy, Spain, Germany, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Teaching a transparent alphabet is incredibly easy, because it’s transparent how the writing system works.

The sound /b/ is always spelled b, and the letter b is always decoded /b/, and so on through all the phonemes in the language. With only one spelling (or nearly) for each sound in the language, if a child can ‘sound out’ a word, he will always be able to spell it correctly. Learning this is so easy, that children start to read late (age 6 or older) and finish early, by the end of the school year. So easy, that no country with a transparent alphabet tests reading skill by decoding accuracy. Everybody can decode.

In English-speaking countries, tests of decoding accuracy (word recognition, word attack) are the major tests (often the only tests) that educators and researchers rely on to measure reading skill and to define ‘dyslexia.’"

allyfe Fri 04-Apr-14 14:55:24

Thanks all. I'm encouraged to know she seems to be doing okay as a fussy topic reader!
Pastthesellbydate we use encouragement for daily reading, but I will see if I can up the encouragement for the books she doesn't like. I'm going to go and get some of the sally gardner books from the library this weekend. They look fabulous. She would LOVE them! Thanks for the recommendation smile
nonickname I think you are right about why she finds them harder. In my (uninformed) opinion, the problem is also that they are quite unnatural. She goes from being able to read a fair bit and sounding out a few words, to having to sound out a lot. She gets bored and annoyed. I think she'd enjoy a longer phonics book that also had high frequency words so she still feels like she is 'reading'. She can read other things other than biff & chip, so I'm not so worried that she is restricted in what she can read, she just doesn't like to have to sound out every other word. She would attempt harder phonics words if she had the encouragement of a lot of high frequency words too. Nevertheless, since I'm not sure those exist, I think it would be good to try and plough through the phonics books.

Mashabell & Column I know that my DD enjoys the book more if there is a lot she can 'read'. She doesn't think sounding out is proper reading (her teachers told her to try and sound out some words in her head if she could). I'm not sure she is a natural at phonics. I was totally anti phonics before my DD started school, but I think that to a certain degree, they do help. Mind you, it would possibly help more if the school told us which sounds they are learning. I'm not sure what she is supposed to know and what she isn't. And I always get thrown when she initially sounds it out incorrectly, and then 'reads' it correctly.

I've taken the very bold foolhardy move of asking the teachers to test her reading just to see if she does need to go up a level. I also tried to tell them that she doesn't like some of the factual books (she got one called how to make a road which she really hated). So we'll see. I'm sort of guessing she'll come back with the same level, but fingers crossed. Trip to the library is planned for weekend no matter!

RiversideMum Fri 04-Apr-14 18:31:01

Which version of Biff and Chip is she reading? Is it the old ORT or Floppy's Phonics?

maizieD Fri 04-Apr-14 18:50:11

She doesn't think sounding out is proper reading (her teachers told her to try and sound out some words in her head if she could).

I'm really sorry, allyfe, but at 5y 1m she is hardly in a position to judge what is or isn't 'proper reading'. Reading isn't about 'learning' a set of words, it is about being able to easily work out waht any word that one encounters 'says' (and that includes adults, too) as the first stage in identifying it.

I'm not sure she is a natural at phonics.

Nobody is a 'natural' at reading the written word because reading is an unnatural skill and, for all but the most exceptional children, it has to be taught. Phonics works in the same way that the written word was originally constructed. Written words consist of a series of speech sounds which have each been assigned a symbol (or symbols) to enable them to be written down. To read them you have to turn the symbols back into speech sounds (decode) and blend the sounds to produce the word. It is very simple.

Once she knows the letter/sound correspondences (i.e how the individual sounds in words are spelled) thoroughly she will find decoding and blending very easy and effortless, but she has to go through the learning stage. And it takes about 2 years for most children to become expert.

There is so much confusion over 'sight words'; all they are are words which can be read automatically 'on sight' without any conscious decoding and blending. Most children only have to sound out a word a few times (sometimes just once) to have it fixed in long term memory as a 'sight word', but the initial sounding out is vital.

bauhausfan Fri 04-Apr-14 22:53:41

I would say that the library is your friend. Reading for pleasure is really important.

RiversideMum Sat 05-Apr-14 07:17:25

I had a boy start my class a couple of years ago whose parents had bought copies of the entire reading schemes (probably £400 worth) that I had in my class. These were all decodable books and he could read all the words in all the books! I tried a few sentences and words out of context and yes, he really did know them. Wow. So I did a reading age test and he couldn't even get through the first sentence, which was odd. So I stepped back a bit and found he knew all his single letter sounds but no digraphs. He was unable to read unfamiliar CVC words. A meeting with parents revealed that "we read the books through with him a couple of times and then he remembers".

So using a real example to illustrate what Maizie is saying. Some children have amazing memories. But they still need to be taught the alphabetic code, or they can never be independent readers. Interestingly, although this child could "read" quite complex books, the only thing he could write was his name.

Reading and writing do go hand in hand.

RiversideMum Sat 05-Apr-14 07:21:43

Isn't it odd that some people think reading for pleasure is different from learning to read?

mrz Sat 05-Apr-14 07:55:24

But I think it is also because she recognises a lot of words, and tends to work things out based on the form and the meaning of the text (so sometimes she will say the wrong thing because it makes sense in the context of the sentence, and it has the same first letter as the word she should be reading).

So essentially she is guessing and doesn't have an effective strategy for reading accurately?

columngollum Sat 05-Apr-14 08:22:28

OP, do you have any idea where your daughter got that business about guessing what the word means from its place in a sentence and what its first letter is, from?

columngollum Sat 05-Apr-14 08:24:37

Incidentally, I think there is another nearby thread about a little boy who does much the same thing. There is an outside chance that this behaviour is the result of not being able to do "real phonics" properly, and "having a go".

allyfe Sat 05-Apr-14 08:56:06

Riversidemum they have a mixture of the ORT books. The certainly aren't all floppy's phonics. Mostly I think they are the old version. I think she would enjoy floppy's phonics more because she likes Biff and Chip stories. They have songbirds, and basically a lot of the ORT non Biff and Chip texts too.

Bauhausfan We went to the library yesterday but sadly, the library doesn't have very many books that are at her level. We did get some to try, and she read one last night. But our local library isn't massively well stocked for the early stages. She actually generally likes to read things once (I know it would be good if she read them again).

MazieD I would actually have to disagree with you. I think she is well positioned to know what reading is. She has heard me read to her every night for longer than she can remember. She knows that reading fluently doesn't involve sounding out, and so reading like someone who can read is what she considers reading. Although I think perhaps what you meant was that she is in no position to know how to best learn to read, and there I would agree with you. Nevertheless, I can understand that it is her goal to be able to read without having to sound things out all the time. Doing so is quicker and it is easier to get meaning from that. So, I do think that for her, a combination of the Biff & Chip favorite words which she has read enough times to be able to read fluently, together with phonics words that practiced the phonics digraphs and trigraphs, would work best. Perhaps those are what Floppy's phonics are about. If so, it is just a shame her school doesn't give us those.

Mrz yes, she does just guess sometimes. Evidently it isn't an effective reading strategy. She does need to slow down sometimes and look at the words she is reading. I will normally gently prompt her to actually look at the word and sound it out. Although, I know you won't agree with this, but the school actually told us not to do this. Their view was that if the meaning was correct, comprehension was the most important thing.

Columngollum I think she guesses sometimes because she gets the meaning of the sentence. Sometimes she guesses and gets it right, which obviously reinforces the process. But she also guesses when she isn't really engaging with the reading.

mrz Sat 05-Apr-14 09:00:43

Meaning is important unfortunately meaning is lost if the text isn't read accurately.

columngollum Sat 05-Apr-14 09:04:01

Their view was that if the meaning was correct, comprehension was the most important thing.

Sorry, I don't know what you're saying here. Are you saying that the school specifically told you not to get your daughter to slow down and sound out words...

because [if she basically got the gist of the sentence] that was preferable to decoding the actual word correctly?

mrz Sat 05-Apr-14 09:06:10

The school is teaching whole word method.

meditrina Sat 05-Apr-14 09:06:18

The bottom line is that other methods and mixed ethos produce fewer competent readers than if you use the traditional phonics method which has been around for centuries.

I hope that the message from your teacher is actually that for 'reading together' (where books might contain words with bits of the code not yet learned) you simply tell the child the word (explaining they've not learned that bit yet), not that they attempt to teach by the 'look and say' rote method of barking back by whole word shape.

columngollum Sat 05-Apr-14 09:07:14

mrz, hypothetically, it is possible that a teacher is relying on parental judgement in the consideration of whether or not a child did basically understand the gist of any sentence.

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