Sometimes the hardest part of teaching a child to read is determining if they’re even ready. We don’t want them left behind, but we don’t want to create frustration by pushing reading too soon. What to do?
The most crucial skill for reading readiness is “phonemic awareness,” the ability to hear the separate sounds that make up a word. Reading instruction connects the sounds of spoken language to symbols, and that can be difficult or impossible if your child doesn’t recognize those sounds to begin with. A child with poor phonemic awareness will mix up letter sounds while trying to read, and this will be frustrating for everyone involved.
Here’s an easy diagnostic to evaluate your child’s phonemic awareness:
Can your child:
- Hear rhyming words? When listening to a group of words, can your child pick out the words that rhyme?
- Make up rhyming words? (e.g., “Tell me a word that rhymes with hat.”)
- Separate a word into sounds? (e.g., “The three sounds in cat are /c/ /a/ /t/. What are the three sounds in Sam?)”
- Listen to a group of words and recognize words that begin or end with a certain sound? (e.g., “Tell me two words that begin with /s/”)
- Blend two sounds together.
If these tasks are difficult, work on developing phonemic awareness.
5 Ways to Focus on Phonemic Awareness:
1. Emphasize the sounds of the letters rather than the names of the letters. This approach is used by Montessori schools, and it produces superior results with young children who are beginning to read. For example, if you are doing a writing exercise, just say the sound and ask your child to write the letter. Avoid naming the letter until after they attempt the task. Then say the name of the letter and immediately pair it with the sound. To make the writing exercise fun, fill a shallow tray with shaving cream or a combination of glitter and sand.
Reading By Design>Methods>Multisensory Activities
2. Combine phonics practice with active games such as the Stuffed Animal Game and Toy Car Game.
Incorporate one of your child’s toys into a game. ReadingbyDesign.net>Methods>WordGames2
Materials: letter cards, stuffed animal
Directions: Spread several letter cards apart on the floor, facing the same way. Start with just a couple cards and gradually add more.
Instructions: When I point to a card, say the sound with me. Then throw your toy to the letter. The sound is