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Making Sense of the Signal
Making Sense of the Signal
Kim Papastavridis, Director of Language and Literacy

How Does The Howard School Help My Child to Read?

The simple view of reading: Reading = Decoding + Understanding

Decoding is the process that eventually leads to effortless word recognition. Beginning readers must sound out each word, recognizing and remembering letters and letter patterns and connecting them with the sounds that they make. Gradually, the readers rarely need to deliberately sound out (decode) words.

For reasons that are becoming clear with research, some readers take longer to become automatic. They continue to struggle to sound out words and do not easily remember words and word patterns they have encountered.

In the classroom, the demands for competent reading grow. By third grade most schools no longer teach students how to read. Instead, they expect students to read in order to learn. Students who are taking longer to learn to read are left in the dust as others race ahead to acquire new knowledge through reading.

This does not have to be the case! Remember, Decoding +Understanding = Reading. Most students who don't decode quickly can still understand the information that they hear. At The Howard School, students are able to listen to written material. They also can follow along with the print as they listen. They do this through the use of Assistive Technology software that reads to them.

At the same time, the struggling decoder gets help to become a more fluent independent reader. This is done through small group and individual lessons with a literacy specialist. At The Howard School, literacy specialists work with students for as long as it takes to develop reading fluency, even into high school.

What about students who have difficulty with the understanding part of reading? There are lots of reasons students might not understand: new vocabulary, long and complex sentences, forgetting, unfamiliarity with the topic, or trouble making inferences, to name a few. At The Howard School, teachers and speech language pathologists work with students to maximize their understanding of material in print. They do this through a variety of techniques that help students to dissect and analyze the reading material and their understanding of it.

At Howard, all students are engaged in reading for understanding. They are learning to read and reading to learn!

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