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Today, most schools use a combination of both approaches. A growing body of research suggests that contextual cues cannot replace word-recognition. Good readers do not skip words or rely on context but read virtually every word and see all letters. In fact, studies demonstrate that only poor readers rely on contextual cues for word identification. Teaching children to guess the meaning of words by context actually decreases the odds that they will learn to read well.

Children who do not understand what they read usually have poor word-recognition skills. Because these children have to devote so much attention to slowly and carefully figuring out the words, they focus less attention on what the text means. Children who recognize words more readily can focus more attention on meaning.

Many experts in education today agree that word-recognition skills as taught in phonics are the critical building blocks for reading success. Still, research also demonstrates that phonics alone is less effective than phonics combined with whole language. An average child needs to read a word four to eight times before word-recognition becomes automatic.

Therefore, the process of reading strengthens the child's ability to perceive sounds in both verbal and written language. Moreover, for practice to be most effective, children need to read stories that are at their reading level; in other words, they should be able to recognize most of the words.

Helping Your Child Learn To Read

Helping Your Child Learn To Read

When parents help their children learn to read, they help open the door to a new world. As a parent, you can begin an endless learning chain: You read to your children, they develop a love of stories and poems, they want to read on their own, they practice reading, and finally they read for their own information or pleasure. They become readers, and their world is forever expanded and enriched.

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