In the past several decades, the pendulum in education has swung from one reading approach to another, but the war between phonics and whole language is no longer waged with as much vigor as it once was. Researchers and educators are searching for a balance between the methods of the past and the present evidence about how children learn. Margaret Mooney, author of the book "Developing Lifelong Readers," writes, "The best approach to teaching reading is a combination of approaches. No single approach is sufficient for any child, nor is any predetermined combination of approaches."
Current education research supports a balanced approached to literacy, one that views reading, writing, speaking and listening as interrelated. Moreover, instruction in language arts continues across the disciplines -- in science, social studies and math. Some of the teaching components used in a balanced approach include: ongoing assessment, direct instruction of strategies and skills, independent reading and writing as well as guided reading and writing, sustained silent reading, shared reading and reading aloud.
This can apply at home, too. Listening to literature -- both fiction and non-fiction -- read aloud helps children develop an awareness of language and an appreciation of literature. Here are ways parents and caregivers can help:
Ask your child's teacher how literature is used in the classroom and how you can support the classroom literature with home activities.
When you read aloud to your child, share with him the way you respond. Do you both feel the same way? Talk about your differences.
Read material to your children that they may not be able to read independently. Their oral language may exceed their reading vocabulary to an amazing degree.
Have your child respond to a book or story from different points of view. For example, have him respond to the story "Cinderella" from the stepmother's viewpoint.
Volunteer at your child's school to read aloud to individual students or small groups.
Attend Parent Teacher Association meetings, or better yet, be an officer. Stay informed by calling The National PTA 312-670-6782 or visiting its Web site: www.pta.org.