Reading is arguably one of the most important skills a child develops. It improves focus and concentration, improves imagination and memory, increases knowledge, and helps a child discover themselves. At Norbeck Montessori we believe that developing a reader at an early age is our most important goal. We understand that children are the most cogitative during the preschool years, and we capitalize on this by making language a central focus for our students. We teach our students how to love to read so that they will benefit for the rest of their lives.
We introduce reading to the classroom immediately, from having lessons on the practical life shelves organized so to promote them reading left to right. Examples include transferring lessons, spooning lessons, and tong lessons (which also helps them with their fine motor skills). One of the benefits of Montessori is the abundance of tools that we can use to build a child’s confidence with learning how to read; from learning the sounds of each letter by using our sound baskets to building words using moveable alphabets, to having phonetic books that the children read at school with their teacher and then bring home to read to their parents.
Creating a dedicated space for reading is essential. In each classroom we have a library corner where our students are able to go and pick out a book to read. A Montessori foundation is modeling, our younger students learn from our older students. For the youngsters who have not begun to read on their own, they see the older children sitting in the corner with a book and become curious.
A key ingredient to producing a lifelong reader is to make reading fun. We introduce the concepts to each child as they become ready, encouraging children to progress at their own pace. We celebrate successes, for example making a big deal when our children learn the sounds in each sound basket (they usually get a super star sticker) and when they read their first book. Our children are so excited when they learn their sounds that they are eager to start learning how to read 2 to 3 letter words.
Working in steps helps our students focus on each phase, starting with learning the sound a letter makes, then tracing sandpaper letters with their fingers, then putting the sounds together to make a word, and then focusing on phonetic books, and finally reading sentences.
Including the families in the learning process is important. Studies have shown that children who continue to read at home maintain a much higher aptitude for reading throughout their lives. Norbeck students check out books to bring home and read with their parents. They include notes to the parents, and we encourage feedback from the students to encourage them to think about what they read, not just focus on the words.
We have developed a reputation for producing above average readers, children who graduate from Norbeck Montessori are generally at a higher reading level among their peers. Our feeder schools move our students into the higher reading level groups in their classrooms.