Sounding out smaller words. Like most other behaviors, how we read reflects the habits we develop through instruction and practice. You can play an important role in ensuring that your child develops good reading habits by encouraging certain behaviors. One of the most important is to learn to sound out words and to do so early. Whenever your child comes across a word he is unsure of, encourage him to try to sound it out. You can begin by asking him about the first sound. For example, if the word is mat, you can say with some exaggeration, "The first letter is mmm. What is the sound of mmm?" Repeat the process with the last sound, "t," and then the middle sound, "aaaa." Once he is able to articulate "mmmm," "aaaa," "t," ask him to blend the sounds together rapidly and say mat. Ask him if this sounds right to him. Does it make sense in the story? Here he is practicing good reading habits by, first, decoding an unknown word, and then verifying that his pronunciation is accurate. By teaching him to ask himself these questions automatically, you are also fostering his independence as a reader and building his confidence. Speak to your child's teacher and ask what sounds and strategies your child is working on and what you can do to help him practice. If she isn't able to provide any suggestions, you can ask her about some of the activities listed below. These simple and useful strategies are relatively easy for you to practice with him and will help him pull apart literally hundreds of words that he might otherwise give up on. They are also helpful when you are reading with your child. If he stumbles on a word that is dependent on one of these strategies for its pronunciation, after you finish a page or story you can use the troublesome word as an opportunity to review the rule.
These strategies will allow your child to pronounce the following correctly:
Words following the silent e rule so that he knows the difference between words like mate and mat.
Words containing the letter c and to determine when a c is said softly, as in cereal and cinder, or makes a hard sound, as in camel and clock; I refer to this as the saying c's rule.
How Parents Can Nurture Reading Comprehension (pages 233)
Just as parents can have a positive effect on fluency and vocabulary, they can have a similar effect on reading comprehension. A recent study carried out with seven- and eight-year-olds determined that home reading habits were strong predictors of a child's later performance in reading. Skilled readers were read to more often by their parents and were more likely to read with their parents and talk about books and stories with them.
The basic idea is to encourage your child to be an active listener, the forerunner of an active reader. All the steps you take to accomplish this are directed toward capturing his attention and pulling him into the reading. The goal is for the words and the ideas they represent to take on meaning. And so you are continually looking for ways to connect what is happening in the pages of the book to what is familiar or meaningful to your child.