Rabbi Yehuda Adelist, MS SpEd, director of Cheder Darchai Limud, presents a series of comprehensive articles about dealing with learning difficulties.
Part 3: kriah difficulties in the frum community, part 3 of 3.
This final installment on dealing with reading difficulties discovers a not so well known yet very powerful phenomenon that reading delays may be able to be prevented, even with children born with impaired function in the reading area of the brain. Reading does not begin at age 5. There is a lot more to prereading skills than just learning the Aleph Beis. The skills we use to learn to read are developed before formal reading at age 5; even as early as birth. It should be stressed that these skills are developed better before age 5; the age of formal reading.
This part of the article is important for the mainstream population who have proven that they do not become fluent readers naturally but especially for those who are at risk for reading difficulties. Parents and educators (preschool teachers in particular) need to be aware of the steps to take towards prevention.
At risk children include:
· Children with a family history of reading challenges. Dyslexia runs in families.
· Children with speech and language delays. This population has a much higher incidence of reading failure.
· Children from backgrounds with limited exposure to reading (storybook reading or Torah learning)
· Children having a difficult time learning the shapes of the Aleph Beis
The following paragraphs will outline the skills we use when reading and how these skills can be developed before formal reading.
Skills needed for reading:
1. The child has to view reading as a tool for communication and want to learn how to read.
2. Identify the letters by recognizing their shapes with the eyes
3. Process the sound of the letter in the brain
4. Connect multiple loose sounds to create words with their eyes and brain
5. Express those sounds through the mouth
6. Use mental focus to do steps 2 until 5 using the eyes, brain and mouth.
Pre reading skills that can be developed in infants and preschoolers:
1. Print awareness
2. Visual skills – visual discrimination / tracking-eye hand coordination (amongst others)
3. Alphabetic principle – sound symbol relationship
4. Phonological awareness (a form of auditory discrimination)
5. Oral language
6. Self Regulation – Ability to apply mental focus
The number for each pre reading skill is matched with the number for each reading skill.
Print awareness is the knowledge that printed words carry meaning and that reading and writing are ways to obtain ideas and information. This is prior to formal reading. The more the child is aware of the usefulness of reading the more the desire to want to know how to read.
Relevance to Reading
A strong desire to know how to read helps children with average ability become faster and children with reading challenges work harder to overcome them. Studies have shown that developing print awareness affects future reading achievement.
Everyone wants to read but high print awareness is intrinsic and much stronger vs an external reward or wanting to impress the teacher.
Print awareness is developed through repeated exposure to print. Story book reading, observing the adult learning Torah, and pointing out to labels in the child’s environment (e.g the toy Torah says, ‘Torah’ on it) are the most common means of developing print awareness.
· Read storybooks and point to the text at least 50% of the time.
· Parent learn or daven from a siddur in front of child
· Label some toys in aleph beis letters and reference to the labels when talking about the toy. (it is not necessary to teach the child how to read the label)
Vision and reading
Visual discrimination is identifying the letters through their shapes. Visual tracking is for the eyes to follow movement which in reading is to quickly move along from letter to letter and word to word. Eye hand coordination is a form of a visual tracking skill where the eyes guide the hands and can thus also affect reading development.
Relevance to Reading
Functional reading requires not just knowing the aleph beis but rapid processing of the names and sounds of the aleph beis. Children must have good visual discrimination skills.
Visual skills can be developed using the suggestions below and are best wired for reading during normal time of development in the brain as opposed to later on as a form of remediation and therapy.
The American Optometric Association, advocates the necessity for every parent to have their child go through a thorough visual screening (more thorough than a regular eye exam for glasses) which usually takes an hour at age 3 and at age 5 before they begin school.
1) Discriminating shapes:
· Worksheets with finding the object exercises
2) Discriminating the aleph beis
· Worksheets with finding the aleph beis embedded in pictures
· Worksheets cutting and pasting the shapes of the aleph beis
3) Visual Tracking/Eye Hand Coordination:
· Writing activities – Coloring papers, scribble writing, shape drawing, tracing
· Cutting and pasting activities
Alphabetic Principle – Sound Symbol Relationship
Alphabetic principle is the understanding that the shapes that are called names for letters are really symbols for sounds that can be used to build words.
Being that learning the sounds of the letters during preschool is controversial if it fits in with our mesorah, this skill has been included in print awareness, i.e awareness that the letters on the page make sounds that communicate a message rather than simply teaching the sounds of the letters.
Phonological awareness is the awareness that spoken speech is made up of individual sounds and syllables. This can be expressed by being able to identify the individual sounds and syllables of speech and being able to manipulate them by changing them to create new words.
The following is the phonological awareness ladder:
1. Rhyming (Noach and Moshiach) and alliteration (Mikdash and Mishkan) – from age 2
2. Blending syllables into words and segmenting words into syllables (e.g Sha-bbos= Shabbos and Tzedakah = Tze-da-kah)
3. Identifying sounds at the beginning, middle or end of words (e.g ‘Shabbos’ starts with ‘sh’ and ‘oi’ is in the middle of ‘toiv’ (not until age 5)
4. Manipulating sounds within words to create new words (e.g finding the sound to change ‘Av’ to ‘Ach’)
Relevance to Reading
Phonological awareness is a critical reading skill. The awareness of how individual sounds are parts of words on an oral level is the prerequisite step to viewing individual letters creating words on the written level. Research has shown that phonological awareness is highly related to reading success and improvement in phonological awareness leads to reading improvement.
· Most important! SPEAK SLOWLY, CLEARLY and AR-TIC-U-LATE-LY to your child
For preschool teachers:
· Clap the syllables
· I spy games. I spy something beginning with “Puh” (sound of Pey). “A pushka!”
· When asking questions, prompt the answer with the first part of the word (“what yom tov is next week? Sha —-vuos or Shavu—-os”)
Oral language is the child’s ability to communicate effectively as a prerequisite to making sense of the written form of language. Oral language includes receptive and expressive language.
Relevance to Reading
The better the children understand how to communicate in their oral language, the more they will understand the function of reading as another form of communication. It has been observed in much research that children with speech and language delays beginning in their preschool years have a higher incidence of reading failure by second grade than the regular population.
Oral language is developed through interaction with peers, parents, and teachers.
· Repetition of child’s speech validates their expression (Child – “I go park”, Adult – “You go park”)
· Expansions of child’s speech validates and emulates expression (Child – “I go park”, Adult – “You want to go to the park?”)
Mental Focus – Self Regulation
Definition and Relevance to Reading
Despite all other areas of development being in order, a child still needs to apply mental focus when learning how to read and when reading throughout life. In the scientific literature, this skill is called self regulation. This is different from visual focus which is the physical aspect of focus whereas self regulation is the mental aspect of focus.
Self regulation is developed when the child learns to regulate their own behavior and is aware of how they learn. Children plan their own activities and make themselves aware of the way they learned something. A teacher will get the children to plan the order and structure of that day’s activities. The children produce ideas for successful techniques to be used to succeed in each activity. They feel autonomy of their activities and self regulate themselves to focus on each activity.
Doing this in preschool, sets the stage for reading which is a complex task and needs enormous mental focus.
· Have the children help plan the activities for the day or the week
· Prior to any form of learning, have the children try to produce ideas what they think is the learning process needed to in order to master a particular skill. E.g “What tricks do you think we could use to solve the puzzle”?
This concludes our discussion on kriah/reading difficulties. It is my hope that with a better awareness and understanding of how to treat kriah/reading difficulties, the incidence will improve in our community.
Read the rest of this series:
+ Part 1: Addressing Learning Difficulties
Rabbi Adelist MS SpEd has been working with children with learning difficulties for over 10 years and is the Director of Cheder Darchai Limud, a program for boys age 6 and up that teaches children to learn how to learn. For an evaluation and consultation contact 347 743 6132.