Literacy support: beyond the classroom.
Photo by Jairo Gonzalez on Unsplash
To be ‘literate’ is to be able to read and write using the language that you speak. But being literate doesn’t only matter in the classroom – it is deeply connected to our daily tasks and the way that we interact with our friends and the community every day. Literacy skills allow us to message our friends, search the internet, make a choice from a menu, read books, follow signs, and understand important information.
If a child is struggling with literacy skills during their early years at school, it is important to seek support right away. Some children find it difficult to learn literacy skills in a group setting and might require one-on-one support outside of the classroom. At Care Speech Pathology, we are specially trained to provide remedial literacy intervention to children who are struggling with reading and writing at school.
How do children learn to read?
There are a number of separate skills that are required to be able to read and write successfully. These include:
- Phonological awareness – hearing and being aware of the sounds in words;
- Sound-letter knowledge – recognizing and remembering letters and the sounds that they make;
- Grammar – understanding how words are organized to create meaning (e.g., past tense -ed); ● Syntax – arrangement of how sentences are built to convey messages;
- Vocabulary – understanding and knowing how to use a variety of words; and
- Social (pragmatic) awareness – understanding WHY people read and write and how we use these skills to communicate with others.
If a child is struggling to read, is there something else going on?
A comprehensive language and literacy assessment is often the first recommendation if a child struggles with reading and writing. This assessment will look at skills such as:
- Expressive and receptive language skills – how well the child can understand and use spoken language;
- Speech sounds – how well the child can recognize and produce spoken sounds, as this will also affect their literacy awareness; and
- Reading and writing skills – this will involve looking at each of the literacy sub-skills listed above.
At the end of this process, it is much easier to understand what is going on for the child. Sometimes, the child will have difficulty with reading and writing only. Sometimes, the child may be struggling with other areas of learning as well. Once the assessment has been completed, a tailored therapy approach can commence.
How do you improve a child’s literacy skills?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach, however, there are several high-quality, evidence-based programs that are proven to effectively improve a student’s literacy skills. The best approach to literacy intervention for a school-aged child will vary depending on how much support they require and how well they respond to intervention.
Of course, it is important to equip the student with real-life literacy skills so that they are making improvements not only in the clinic but also at school, at home, and out in the community. To do this, the child might benefit from a combination of the following three approaches:
- Intervention – intervention sessions with a trained professional such as a Speech Pathologist will target the child’s greatest area of support. These sessions typically take place weekly or fortnightly, teaching the child all the skills they need to read and write successfully.
- Homework – to see real improvement, literacy skills need to be practiced as often as possible (ideally, at least 5 days a week!). Whole-class homework can be helpful, but for best results, it is important for children to practice tasks that are tailored to them and the areas they find the most difficult.
- Consultation – a collaboration between parents, teachers, and any external education providers is vitally important for ensuring classroom programs are adequately supporting a child’s literacy skills. This is done by providing advice and support to teachers about the literacy aspects of their curriculum and classroom instruction.
With a comprehensive assessment and the correct support, most children can make significant progress in their reading and writing – not only in the classroom but also beyond!