Memorising words is a natural part of the reading journey, especially for pre-readers and early readers. However, if your kindergartener is relying solely on memorisation when reading, that can be a red flag suggesting that he or she needs more practice with sounding out unfamiliar words and understanding them in context.
Research shows that reading is a process that involves several key skills, one of which is reading comprehension – which memorisation alone cannot guarantee.
That said, when is it okay to memorise words? Let us take a look at the milestones of a child learning how to read.
Reading milestones for preschool kids
Early preschool kids (Nursery 1 and 2) often pretend to read books aloud, especially if they have been read to frequently. They are also learning to recite or sing the alphabet. Additionally, they can finish some sentences in their favourite books. Later on, they will begin to read and write their names, along with some of the letters of the alphabet. They can match some letters to their sounds.
Late preschool kids (Kindergarten 1 and 2) are learning sight words and phonics. By K2, many kids are able to read and comprehend simple storybooks, with some help (but not all) from their memory and the pictures in the story.
How to boost your child’s reading comprehension
As one study wrote, “The goal of reading is reading comprehension.” If you find that your child relies too much on memorisation when reading, consider taking him or her for a comprehensive and expert-backed literacy assessment (it’s free here) to see what can be done for immediate improvements.
Roughly 85 percent of the words in the English language are phonetic and connected to pronounciation, which can, in turn, help children with spelling.
However, even if your child has a good grasp on phonics, that is just one part of the eight essential skills in the twin arts of reading and writing, which includes Vocabulary Building, Engagement, Structural Awareness, Narrative Intelligence & Higher Order Thinking Skills, Active Understanding, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Fluency.
MindChamps Reading and Writing Programme develops these eight essential aspects, not only helping children with reading but also with establishing meaning through story sequence and dramatisation.
A fun approach to reading: The mystery bag
Said Ms Diana Thomas, who manages the curriculum and training aspects of MindChamps Reading and Writing Programme across all centres:
We do not believe in using flashcards. A typical phonics class may show children a flashcard of a letter, like S, and tell them that the letter S makes the “sss” sound. But for the child, there is no meaning to it.
Enter the “story sack” or “mystery bag,” which are filled with daily items – items that are familiar to children in their home and school environments – which they can pull out of the bag and talk about.
When learning the letter S, the items could include a toy seal, sun, sand, and sandwich.
Students may be asked, “Have you seen a seal before?” to which they may respond, “Yes, I have seen it at the zoo”.
The teacher may ask additional questions about the item to prompt more discussion (i.e. “Have you touched a seal before?”), which increases the children’s engagement.
This lively conversation carries on for all the objects. After the teacher writes down the words on the board while saying each word slowly (“sssssseal, ssssssand, ssssssun,” etc.), the children tend to naturally pick up the special sound of the letter. That is when the teacher may ask, “Who do you think is making that ssssss sound?”
This delivery approach differs vastly from the rote learning method, and is designed to help children experience reading as something that is fun and meaningful.
A reading programme that celebrates each child’s uniqueness
Research shows that there is no “one size fits all” approach for all children at all times. Opt for a literacy assessment and integrated reading enrichment programme that can address your child’s individual abilities.
“Find the uniqueness in your child because each child has strengths. For kinesthetic learners, there’s the mystery bag that lets them feel and touch the items while learning the sounds.
Auditory learners will enjoy our MindChamps ‘Say & Sing Phonics’ app. For the visual learners, some of our books are projected on a screen so the beautiful illustrations are blown up for them to enjoy,” said Ms Diana Thomas, emphasising the myriad of ways to foster a passion for reading in children.
A comprehensive enrichment programme designed to complement the MOE curriculum, MindChamps Reading and Writing Programme can boost your child’s literacy skills, reading comprehension, writing, and love for language in order to excel, not only in the most demanding English exams, but also in work and life.