One common question we often receive is if we should correct a child’s errors while he/she is reading aloud? Our short answer is: YES! But our long answer is much more nuanced (along with lots of love and gentleness).
Just Say No to ‘Silent Reading’
First of all, it is imperative that we encourage our beginning readers to read aloud, preferably to us or another adult. Silent reading is not helpful during this stage in the reading process. This is because reading is a phonological process not a visual process (read more about this in our article “How Our Brains Learn to Read”). A child uses their eyes to see the words on the page, but that word immediately gets converted into a spoken word in the brain. Until a child becomes a proficient reader (and sometimes even after), he/she needs to read aloud in order to solidity those sound/spelling correspondences in the brain.
Silent reading is shown to be inferior to reading aloud in children’s reading and spelling development. In order to get sight words in memory, children need to pronounce the words aloud so that the spellings map onto the pronunciations. Beginning readers need to be reading text aloud in order to aid in the mapping process and receive constructive feedback regarding errors of those pronunciations.A summary of Dr. Linnea Ehri in her interview with Teaching, Reading & Learning: The Podcast.
An interesting side-note: Researchers have found that adults, when reading silently, actually generate low levels of motor activity in their throats, speaking the words they are reading below the perception of sound (source). There you have it: ‘Silent reading’ is a myth! 🙂
The Importance of Decodable Text
Secondly, it is vital that you prepare your child for the decoding demands of a book before you place that book in his/her hands. This means that we will provide decodable books with only the phonics skills that your child has learned up to that point. This will set your child for success. Even if she has to decode every single word on a page and doesn’t read it fluently yet, you can be sure that you have properly prepared her. The process of decoding those words will eventually help the word to become orthographically mapped. This means it will be stored in long-term memory for immediate and effortless retrieval in future encounters with that word. This process typically takes 1-4 exposures for most children, but could take far more (20+) for children with dyslexia or other reading difficulties.
There are so many options for excellent decodable books and material. We have our decodable books from our Basic Foundational Reading Program (Kindergarten-equivalent). We also have our Dive Into Reading book that includes decodable words, sentences, and paragraphs. This resource is perfect for a gradual release of responsibility. Have your child focus on decoding individual words first, next sentences, then paragraphs, and finally a book.
Beyond our program, you can find wonderful decodable books from a variety of sources. The Reading League has a running list of decodable books that have been vetted and the Measured Mom also has great recommendations. Just be sure to align the books to the skills your child has already learned.
Why We Must Respond to Reading Errors
Finally, our kids need us to respond to their decoding errors. This might be difficult, as some children are more sensitive to correction than others, but it is the most loving thing we can do for our children as they are learning to read.
Since reading is a phonological process, our brains need to hear the word spoken aloud and match the pronunciation with the written word. If a child misreads a word, we are simply exacerbating the problem by not giving the proper pronunciation for the word.
If you have ensured your child is reading a book appropriate for their current decoding ability, there should be a manageable number of errors that you can gently correct without too much frustration. However, if your child is making multiple errors on a page, this is an indication that the text is too difficult for their current ability of phonic decoding.
Question and Correct with Gentleness
Be gentle, loving, and positive with your correction. Ask questions to help your child correct his/her own mistakes. In our Flip & Assist resource (as part of our Foundational Reading Programs), we provide you with the most common errors and how you can respond to the errors to help your child move towards becoming an independent decoder. This will involve varying degrees of correction. You might just have to say, “What is that word again?” and he/she will self-correct? Or you may need to ask a series of more specific questions to help your child notice the phonics pattern/rule in the word. For high-frequency words that your child has not yet learned, we suggest that you simply provide the word for your child.
Shaywitz, S. & Shaywitz, J. (2020). Overcoming Dyslexia, 2nd edition. Alfred A. Knopf: New York.
Stewart, L. (Host). (2021, July 6). Interview w/ Linnea Ehri. (No. 11) [Audio podcast episode]. In Teaching, Reading, and Learning: The Reading League Podcast. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/teaching-reading-and-learning-the-reading-league-podcast/id1537471085?i=1000527965271
Leave a Reply