Reading is the skill which is at the heart of all of our children’s school experiences. It helps explain the world around us and allows for a deep understanding of the emotions and challenges which shape how we view our life endeavors.
Reading started early in life is the necessary ingredient for a rich childhood. At the beginning, reading to the child sets the stage for a thrist for knowledge and discovery. Here at Oak Hill Academy, an independent school located in Monmouth County, New Jersey, we place reading instruction at the top of our early childhood program. We use various venues to place the reading experience at the center of our entire program. Our approaches vary across the literacy spectrum. In our lower grades, children are read to daily in the classroom and phonics start as soon as the child has a good grasp of letter sounds and vocabulary. Amulti-sensory approach is used to tap into the natural thinking processes of a young child. The brain is stimulated to make connection. The curriculum includes a varied number of resources which brings the joy of reading to the child’s world. “Land of the Letter People” carries with it hand puppets which allow animation and creativity to enter the classroom. The Core Knowledge series provides real world adventures to enter the classroom. These are highly stimulating while adding to the child’s background knowledge which is required for further reading growth. The Oak Hill children visit the school library weekly allowing them to take ownership of making selections for their own reading habits. Tying this all together is the highly acclaimed reading series by McMillan Publishing “Wonders” which brings in the writing component which helps build fluency and understanding.
Oak Hill believes that great readers must engage five basic tactics for connecting big ideas. As follows, these critical tactics form the core of instruction:
- Start with the imagination! Children can take the spoken word and envision stories in their mind’s eye. These mental pictures helps them see the action which the words are trying to relate.
- Childhood is the time for the young to hear and see new words. As they use the context of the word in a sentence, they start to make connections of meaning.
- Stories are always about a big idea that includes a setting, what is taking place and what is the author trying to tell us. Big ideas are long lasting and help create the main storyline.
- Visiting the title of the story helps reinforce where the characters are and how they are connected. The title also permits the memory to recall the details of the plot.
- The reading process for young children can be more supportive and developmental if we take notice of interesting language which is included in the author’s craft. By using word choice and imagery, the reader develops context and depth.
On top of all this we at Oak Hill Academy believe strong reading is enhanced by a school-wide culture of reading which emphasizes independent reading and group discussion. Individual reading permits the child to form his or her own opinions and the group experience is the place where he or she can solidify listening and questioning skills.
Yes, reading is the basis for not only academic success, but also a platform for a life-time of enriched learning.