Learning to read proficiently

Learning to read proficiently

Is it always possible to read printed matter aloud? Not at all. We read in libraries, trains, buses, planes and on park benches, surrounded by people, and silent reading becomes necessary to survive.  Silent reading enables us to gather speed over time and keep abreast with knowledge.

Speed coupled with comprehension mark proficient reading. Children can be taught this, when they are young. One effective way of doing this is by training them to read silently.

It requires the effort, concentration and patience of both students and teachers.

Rashmi, a three-and-a-half-year-old, would pick up books and flip through, pretending to read even when the book had absolutely no pictures. Her parents had never pushed her to read and were amazed at her patience in looking through printed pages which made no sense to her.

Her mother would call her and give books with a lot of pictures and tell her, “Look through these. It will be more interesting.” She would refuse to do so and say, “I can read.” Likewise, she would pick up old diaries and scribble and scribble. When asked, she would say, “A book.”

When she really learnt reading, it was amazing! She could read faster than any other child of her age. Her pretensions of childhood had boosted her self-image as a reader.

Children who are familiar with printed matter start reading earlier. It is good to let children  flip through books, newspapers, magazines, etc. even when they have not learnt to read.

Silence to speed

Another way to improve children’s reading is to teach them the art of silent reading. Children should be weaned from loud reading by the time they reach the 5th grade. When children read aloud, they pay more attention to their voice and style of reading than to the comprehension of the matter. Some parents encourage their children to read aloud so that they can correct them. And some others ask children to read aloud to make sure whether they are really studying. If children are monitored and corrected too often, their self-confidence and self-esteem are largely undermined.

Policing of children regarding their reading method does not do any good to them.The more they are left to themselves, the better it is for them.

Rapid reading has become increasingly important in modern days and the younger the children taught the skill, the better (and easier) it is for both the children and the teachers. The fact is that our world has become increasingly dependent on the printed page as a medium for mass communication. There is more material in print today than there ever was, and more and more people, including children, need to read them to enhance their knowledge. The flood of knowledge threatens to drown us unless we find the secret of faster and better reading.

This kind of reading has many advantages. By the ‘eye-swing’ from left to right and back, concentration on the line is accentuated. When a child does not hear its own voice aloud, the ‘eye-mind’ relationship gets reinforced. To make children better readers, teach them the art of silent reading. All it needs is a patient teacher or parent. This technique not only enables readers to concentrate on the material to be read, it also helps in total comprehension.

 Dos and Don’ts

-Do not whisper as you read
- Do not move your lips
- Do not look into your neighbor’s book
- Move only your eye-balls, not head/neck
- Concentrate on what you are reading
- Mark words you cannot understand
- Reread what you cannot comprehend
- Ignore what you cannot understand despite repeated readings
- Go through the content till the end


When children are wary of their pronunciation, they become hesitant to read if someone is overhearing. If they practice silent reading they can overcome this hesitation. They can concentrate on their reading for understanding. Comprehension increases as vocabulary, fluency and motivation increase. Each person, child or adult read books at their own level and pace. During silent reading they are able to visualise and interpret words in their own way.

In a multicultural country like India people have various accents. Students of all cultures study together in schools and when one child is asked to read aloud in class the other children tend to get distracted listening to a different accent.  Silent reading is therefore most appropriate in such cases as all the students are encouraged to read at their own pace and feel comfortable. The only snag could be that some students could be pretending to read even when they are not reading!

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