Families are a child’s first and forever teachers, and your support has been more critical than ever amid this pandemic, with so much learning taking place at kitchen tables, on living room sofas and inside vehicles parked at the library.
Now it’s our turn to support families by sharing some important tips and strategies to help you help your child master those reading and writing skills.
The New Mexico Public Education Department in partnership with The New Teacher Project, widely known by the acronym TNTP, is offering a three-part virtual workshop called the Family Literacy Academy. The goal in this New Mexico Year of Literacy is to give family members and caretakers the information, tools and strategies they need to help children in prekindergarten through fifth grade develop literacy skills at home. Attend these workshops and you’ll come away with strategies that can be woven seamlessly into your daily routines and home life.
There’s a type of science dedicated to understanding how kids learn to read, and it resulted in what we now call “structured literacy” programs. These programs help kids build skills sequentially and logically – starting with foundational skills like decoding symbols into words and building into spelling, expanded vocabulary, comprehension and writing.
Every N.M. teacher will be trained in structured literacy, so the skills you’ll learn at the Family Literacy Academy will complement the skills your child’s teacher is using at school.
The structured literacy approach helps every child learn to read, but it’s essential for kids with dyslexia, a learning disability that can make learning to read especially hard. Luckily, the difficulties these students face can be overcome with effective reading instruction.
By some estimates, 15% to 20% of the population displays signs of dyslexia, so the numbers reflected in our classrooms are not insignificant. That’s why New Mexico is now screening every first-grade student for signs of dyslexia. The screening is not a diagnosis, but it helps educators intervene early on if a child needs it before those challenges become ingrained in the upper grades.
Of course, all families of future and current readers can take advantage of these workshops. Every participant will discover the benefits of structured literacy and then learn a little about its key components with fancy names like “phonemes” – distinct units of sound, “semantics” – the meaning of words and sentences and “syntax” – the grammatical order of words. Don’t worry, we just want to give you enough to understand what mastery looks like at your child’s grade level. And ultimately, the workshops will provide you with the strategies to practice at home that will help children strengthen these skills and become eager readers.
Hope to see you there!
The Journal is publishing this monthly column by New Mexico Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus as part of its ongoing “The Literacy Project,” which shines a light on the issue in partnership with KOAT-TV and KKOB Radio.