Saturday, May 19, 2012

Getting Your Child Ready for Reading...

You are all reading this blog because you want to know how to teach your child how to read. But, first you must ask yourself, "Is my child even READY to start learning how to read?" 

He obviously must know the letters of the alphabet before he can begin to read, but reading readiness is more than just that. Phonological Awareness is necessary to a child's ability to learn how to read. Trying to teach a child, who has little to no phonological awareness, to learn how to read is like trying to teach someone, who has never sang a song or even heard a simple melody, how to play the piano.

Phonological awareness addresses the sounds of language. It does not teach the symbols that represent sounds, but rather the sounds alone. 

Teaching phonological awareness includes the following:

  • Word Awareness: Words have meaning. For example, the spoken word cat represents an obnoxious 4-legged creature that thinks it runs your household. 
  • Rhyme Awareness: Certain words sound alike, therefore contain the same sounds. (Notice, I said contain the same sounds, not letters. We aren't working on letters, yet. The words "sigh" and "try" rhyme, but represent different spelling patterns.)
  • Onset and Rime: Onset is the initial sound. Rime is the remaining sounds that follow. For example, in the word "take" the onset is the /t/ sound, and the /ake/ sound is the rime. 
  • Syllable Awareness: Words are divided into parts. A child with syllable awareness recognizes that "fart" has one syllable and "poopy" has two syllables. (Practicing with "dirty" words makes it more fun somehow. Ah, 3-year-old humor.) 
  • Phonemic Awareness: Words make up smaller units of sound. Your child needs to be able to segment, blend and manipulate these units. For example, the word "cat" has three sounds: /c/, /a/, and /t/. To segment the word would mean to break the sounds apart. To blend would mean giving your child the individual sounds and him being about to put them together and say the word fluently. 
The nice part about working on phonological awareness is that all the activities are FREE! No materials are needed (we are just working on listening and speaking skills here), so they can be played anywhere: in the car, in the bath tub, on a walk, etc. Here are some word games you can play and the skills they are reinforcing: 
  • Tell me a word that rhymes with car. (rhyme awareness)
  • What does obnoxious mean? (word awareness)
  • What is the opposite of thin? And, don't say Mommy! (word awareness)
  • What word means the same as large? (word awareness)
  • Do fly and mine rhyme? (no) Do star and far rhyme? (yes) (rhyme awareness)
  • Let's clap the number of parts in the word "sister." (2) (syllable awareness)
  • Can you tell me all the sounds you hear in the word "bat?" (/b/, /a/, /t/) What about in the word "star?" (/st/, /a/, /r/) (phonemic awareness)
We will work on these same skills with manipulatives later on, but for now just try to work these word games into your daily routine. And remember to have fun with it! Kids like being silly. And, yes. It's okay to say poopy and laugh! 


  1. Good info. When I was in school, we learned by "sight words" and I know today the big push is phonics. Statistically speaking, is the phonics method really more successful? I've been doing Hooked On Phonics with my son. Is that a good place to start?

    1. I've never used Hooked On Phonics, because it is geared more for parents to use at home rather than for teachers to use in the classroom. So, I can't speak directly to it. I do think ANY literacy program or activity you use is good (compared to nothing at all), as long as your son enjoys it and is learning.

      However, I prefer to use as much actual literature as possible and hands-on activities for teaching my son how to read. I'm not a fan of worksheets, especially for preschoolers. It's just not appropriate or at all appealing to kiddos. (There is an argument in favor of the use of worksheets, as they promote writing. But again, I prefer to encourage writing in a meaningful way. Not just because "I have to get this worksheet done!")

      Rainy, you've given me my topic for my next post (which reading approach is best?), where I'll go into more detail about how kids learn to read, and the different components that make up reading. But basically, the current best method for teaching reading is to use a balanced approach. That is, a balance between teaching phonics and whole language (the idea that if kids are exposed to enough literature and developmentally appropriate activities, then they will just learn it from being exposed to it).

      So, for now, if your son likes Hooked On Phonics and you can see the value in using it, then by all means keep using it. Also work on sight words (words that can't be sounded out, like come, want, would, etc.) Then, start to add in some of the things you learn from my blog. :o)