Teaching Letter Names and Sounds

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So, you want to teach your child to read, but before a child can learn to read, he or she must first learn at least some of the letters in the alphabet, their names, and the sounds that they represent. To be able to read, a child must be able to recognize the letters, know the sound of the letters, and be able to recognize the letters quickly and say the sound without hesitation. There is plenty of discussion and disagreement on whether it’s better to teach children using whole language programs or using methods which incorporate phonics and phonemic awareness instructions. I think the debate on this is settled when the National Reading Panel stated from their findings of reviewing over 1,900 studies that phonics and phonemic awareness produces superior reading results than whole language programs.

There is also some debate on whether to teach your child only letter names, or only the sounds which the letters represent. However, studies have also settled this debate by finding that teaching a child alphabet names and sounds together produces the best results. In fact, studies have found that there is little value in teaching preschoolers letterforms or letter sounds separate. This was indicated by an Australian study involving 76 preschool children. The children received 6 weeks of training in either letter awareness, phonemic awareness, or control tasks, and then received another 6 weeks of training in either letter-sound correspondence or control tasks. The study found that training in either phoneme or letter awareness assisted with the learning of letter-sound correspondences and that the phonemically trained children group had an advantage on recognition tasks. The study found that there is little value in training in letter form or letter sounds separate. [1]

As you can see, there is basically no point in only teaching either the names of the alphabet letters or the sounds the letters make. A child must learn the name and the sound of the alphabet letter. When teaching your child the alphabet, instead of simply teaching them the name of the alphabet such as “this is the letter A”, teach them like so:

“This is the letter A, and the letter A makes the /A/ sound.” (note: the /A/ denote the sound “A” makes, and not its name). Similarly, you can teach your child the other alphabet letters in this way including both name and sound of the letter. This is the way I teach my children the alphabet letters. Other studies have also determined that teaching the letter names and sounds together helped children learn.

58 preschool children were randomly assigned to receive instructions in letter names and sounds, letter sound only, or numbers (control group). The results of this study are consistent with past research results in that it found children receiving letter name and sound instruction was most likely to learn the sounds of letters whose names included cues to their sounds. [2]

To be able to effectively teach your children the sounds of letters, you must first master the proper pronunciation of the letters yourself. It is critical for you as a parent to be able to first say the sounds of the letters correctly before teaching your children, and this is much tougher than it may seem.

>> Click here to learn more about our simple program that will show you step-by-step how to effectively teach your child to read

 

Notes:

1. J Exp Child Psychol. 2009 Sep;104(1):68-88. Epub 2009 Mar 5.
The genesis of reading ability: what helps children learn letter-sound correspondences?
Castles A, Coltheart M, Wilson K, Valpied J, Wedgwood J.
Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.

2. J Exp Child Psychol. 2010 Apr;105(4):324-44. Epub 2010 Jan 25.
Learning letter names and sounds: effects of instruction, letter type, and phonological processing skill.
Piasta SB, Wagner RK.
Preschool Language and Literacy Lab, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.

Phonemic Awareness Research

 

Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds which make up words. In the past few decades, large amounts of research have improved our understanding of phonemic awareness and its importance in helping children learn to read. There are hundreds of research studies conducted on all aspects of phonemic awareness, and how it affects and benefits the reading and spelling abilities of young children. The National Reading Panel of the US has stated that phonemic awareness improves children’s reading and reading comprehension and that it also helps children to learn to spell. Based on the research and reviews done by the National Reading Panel, they have concluded that teaching phonics and phonemic awareness produces better reading results than whole language programs.

When teaching phonemic awareness, children are taught the smallest units of sound, or phonemes. During the teaching process, children are taught to focus on the phonemes, and learn to manipulate the phonemes in words. Studies have identified phonemic awareness and letter knowledge as the two best school-entry predictors of how well children will learn to read during the first 2 years of instruction. In a review of phonemic awareness research, the National Reading Panel (NRP) identified 1,962 citations, and the results of their meta-analysis were impressive as stated in the NRP publication:

Overall, the findings showed that teaching children to manipulate phonemes in words was highly effective under a variety of teaching conditions with a variety of learners across a range of grade and age levels and that teaching phonemic awareness to children significantly improves their reading more than instruction that lacks any attention to phonemic awareness (PA).

Specifically, the results of the experimental studies led the Panel to conclude that PA training was the cause of improvement in students’ phonemic awareness, reading, and spelling following training. The findings were replicated repeatedly across multiple experiments and thus provide converging evidence for causal claims. [1]

As can be clearly seen, teaching children phonemic awareness early on significantly improves their reading and spelling abilities. Furthermore, the NRP research stated that these beneficial effects of phonemic awareness teaching go well beyond the end of the training period. The NRP phonemic awareness research also found that the most effective teaching method was to systematically teach children to manipulate phonemes with letters and teaching children in small groups.

Phonemic awareness (PA) teaching provides children with an essential foundation of the alphabet system, and a foundation in reading and spelling. The NRP has stated that PA instructions are a necessary instructional component within a complete reading program.

Below are two other studies were done on phonemic awareness and its effects on reading abilities. In a study involving children aged 6 to 7 years old, researchers found that the few readers at the beginning of grade one exhibited high phonemic awareness scored at least close to perfect in the vowel substitution task, compared to none in children of the same age group who could not read when they entered school. The research also stated that phonemic awareness differences before instruction predicted the accuracy of alphabetic reading and spelling at the end of grade one independent from IQ. Children with high phonemic awareness at the start of grade one had the high reading and spelling achievements at the end of grade one; however, some of the children with low phonemic awareness had difficulties learning to read and spell. The study suggested that phonemic awareness is the critical variable for the progress in learning to read. [2]

Another study looked at phonemic awareness and emergent literacy skills of 42 children with an average age of 5 years and 7 months. The researchers indicated that relations between phonemic awareness and spelling skills are bidirectional where phonemic awareness improved spelling skills, and spelling influenced the growth in phonemic skills. [3]

It is clear that with the conclusions made by the National Reading Panel and other research studies on the benefits of phonemic awareness, children should be taught PA at a young age before entering school. This helps them build a strong foundation for learning to read and spell.

>> Help your child develop phonemic awareness and teach your child to read today

 

 

 

Notes:

1. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

2. Cognition. 1991 Sep;40(3):219-49.
The relationship of phonemic awareness to reading acquisition: more consequence than precondition but still important.
Wimmer H, Landerl K, Linortner R, Hummer P.
University of Salzburg, Austria.

3. Exp Child Psychol. 2002 Jun;82(2):93-115.
Emergent literacy skills and training time uniquely predict variability in responses to phonemic awareness training in disadvantaged kindergartners.
Hecht SA, Close L.

Teaching Phonics to Children

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Phonics is a necessary part of any good method of teaching children to read. Teaching Children phonics and helping them develop phonemic awareness is the key to mastering words, which is the first key step toward successful reading. Children need to develop a knowledge of the letters, the sounds represented by the letters, and the connection between sounds created by combining the letters where words are formed. This is an essential part of mastering reading and enabling children to become independent readers. By learning phonics and phonemic awareness, children gain the ability to pronounce new words, develop clear articulation, improve spelling, and develop self-confidence.

When it comes to teaching your children to read, it must include three basic principles:

1) Reading for the child, whether it’s a word, sentence, or story, must appeal to your child’s interests.

2) Never pressure or force your child into reading, turning it into a negative “event” in their life. It should be a fun, enjoyable, and rewarding experience. This will take ample amounts of patience on the part of the parents, and some creativity.

3) Teaching your child to read must begin with the mastery of the phonemes – the individual sounds which make up the words.

The basic process of teaching phonics and phonemic awareness to children includes teaching them the letters and letter sounds; then you teach the child to combine (or blend) various letter sounds together to form words; which is then followed by reading sentences and simple stories. This is a logical progression for children to learn reading, where they develop accuracy in decoding words and pronouncing words. This method of teaching also helps the child to spell correctly. Gradually, the different elements of phonics are combined to produce new words, and leads to the discovery of new words by the child using this process which becomes an “automatic reflex”.

Teaching phonics to children should take 10 to 15 minutes each day, and these “lessons” should take place in several small sessions each day – such as 4 or 5 sessions lasting 3 to 5 minutes each. For older pre-school children, lessons can be slightly longer; however, several minutes each session is all that’s needed.

One way to start teaching phonics to children with ear training – by helping them develop the understanding that words are made up of smaller units of sounds, or known as phonemes, and when you combine these sounds, a word is formed. You can start this with very short sessions, as already mentioned. A few minutes a day is all that you need. The key, however, is consistency and patience.

During these short sessions, sound out words slowly and distinctly. You can do this without even making the child aware that you are trying to teach them. Simply take words from your everyday speaking to your child and include oral blending sounds into your sentences. For example, if you wanted to ask your child to drink his milk, you could say: “Joe, d-r-i-n-k your m-ilk.” The words drink and milk are sounded out slowly and distinctly. The level of sound separation can be set by you to increase or lower the difficulty. Thus, if Joe has a tough time figuring out that d-r-i-n-k means drink, you can lower the difficulty by blending the word as dr-ink instead.

Alternatively, you could simply pick different words and play blending sounds games with your child. You simply say the sounds of the word slowly, and ask the child try to guess what you are saying.

This concept of individual sounds forming words may take some time for your child to grasp. Some children will pick it up quickly, while other children may take longer, but one thing that’s certain is that if you keep it up, your child will catch on. Below are some sample words which you can use to play blending sounds activities with your child.

J-u-m-p   J-ump
R-u-n   R-un
S-i-t   S-it
S-t-a-n-d   St-and
M-i-l-k   M-ilk
S-t-o-p   St-op

The first word is more segmented than the second word and will be more difficult to sound out. Please note that hyphens are used to indicate the letter sounds instead of slashes.

ie: J-u-m-p  /J/ /u/ /m/ /p/

This is done to make things easier to read; however, when you read it, you should not read the names of the letters, but instead, say the sounds of the letters. This type of ear training for phonics and phonemic awareness should continue throughout the teaching process, even well after your child have grasped this concept. It can be applied to words with increasing difficulty. Again, please always keep in mind that not all children can readily blend the sounds to hear the word, so you must be patient, and drill this for days, weeks, or even months if needed. Consistency and frequency is the key to success here and not sporadic binge sessions.

If you would like to learn about a simple step-by-step program designed to easily teach your children how to read, please click here.

How to Help Your Child Learn to Read

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The ability to read is vital for success. It helps your child succeed in school, helps them build self-confidence, and helps to motivate your child. Being able to read will help your child learn more about the world, understand directions on signs and posters, allow them to find reading as an entertainment, and help them gather information.

Learning to read is very different from learning to speak, and it does not happen all at once. There is a steady progression in the development of reading ability over time. The best time for children to start learning to read is at a very young age – even before they enter pre-school. Once a child is able to speak, they can begin developing basic reading skills. Very young children have a natural curiosity to learn about everything, and they are naturally intrigued by the printed texts they see and are eager to learn about the sounds made by those letters. You will likely notice that your young child likes to look at books and thoroughly enjoys being read to. They will even pretend to behave like a reader by holding books and pretend to read them.

As parents, you’re the most important first step in your children’s journey into the wonderful world of reading. It is up to you to create the most supportive environment that turns your child on to reading – such as reading aloud to them often during the day and before bedtime, and placing age-appropriate books for children around the house so that the child will have access to plenty of books. Reading often to your child will help develop their interest in books and stories, and soon they will want to read stories on their own.

With the help of parents, children can learn how to read. Make reading into a family activity, and spend time playing words games and reading story books. This will not only help your child learn to read, but it’ll also help them build a rich vocabulary, teach them language patterns, and help them fall in love with books and reading.

Below are some tips to help you teach your child to read.

Talk to your child – before a child can learn to read, he or she must first learn to speak. Talk to your child about everything and anything – whatever interests them. Tell them stories, ask your child lots of questions, play rhyme games, and sing songs with them.

Read to your child consistently every day – we’re all creatures of habit and enjoy having a daily routine. Set time aside each day to read to your child. Read to your child every night. Make this their “cool down” period before they go to sleep. This not only helps your child develop an interest in books and reading, but it also helps the parent bond with the child, and develop a healthy relationship.

Help your child develop reading comprehension – typically, parents will take the time to read for their children; however, many parents do not put much emphasis or thought on whether their children understand what they’ve just been read to. Instead, occasionally, make an effort to question your child on what you’ve just read. For example, you read to your child:

“Jack and Jill went up the hill…”

You pause briefly and ask your child:

“So where did Jack and Jill go?” Or alternatively, “Who went up the hill?”

Young children may not catch on right away initially, and it may take a little practice, but they’ll eventually catch on and begin to develop a deeper understanding of what they are reading. This is a very important step in helping your child develop reading comprehension. Of course, don’t do this every single time you read, or your child will quickly get bored and lose interest. Do it at random times, and do not overdo it.

Help your child to read with a wide variety of books and keep reading fun – There is no shortage of children books, and you should always have a wide variety of children books, stories, and rhymes available. Reading is a lot of fun, for both parents and children. Read to your child using drama and excitement, and use different voices. Give your child the option of choosing what book they want you to read, instead of picking the book you want to read to your child.

When reading to your child, read slowly, and point to the words that you are reading to help the child make a connection between the word you are saying and the word you are reading. Always remember that reading should be a fun and enjoyable activity for your children, and it should never feel like a “chore” for them.

>> Click here to help your child learn to read

3 Tips to Teach Your child How to Read

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Teaching children to love reading

Learning to read at a young age is important for the development of the child. It helps them develop a better understanding of their surroundings, allows them to gather information from printed materials, and provides them with a wonderful source of entertainment when they read stories and rhymes. Children develop at different rates, and some children will develop reading skills quicker than other children; however, what’s important is that as the parent, you are keenly aware of your child’s maturity and reading level to provide them with appropriate books and activities to help them improve.

As parents, you are the most important teacher for your children. You will introduce your child to books and reading. Below we have some tips to help you teach your child to read.

Teach Your Child How to Read Tip #1

Teach your child alphabet letters and sounds at the same time. Studies have shown that children learn best when they are taught the letter names and letter sounds at the same time. In one study, 58 preschool children were randomly assigned to receive instructions in letter names and sounds, letter sound only, or numbers (control group). The results of this study are consistent with past research results in that it found children receiving letter name and sound instruction was most likely to learn the sounds of letters whose names included cues to their sounds. [1]

When teaching your child the letter sounds, have them slowly trace the letter, while saying the sound of the letter at the same time. For example, if you were teaching your child the letter “A”, you would say:

“The letter A makes the /A/ (ah) sound.”

Then have your child say the /A/ sound while tracing the letter with his or her index finger.

Teaching a Child How to Read Tip #2

When teaching your child to read, always emphasize with them that the proper reading order should be from left to right, and top to bottom. To adults, this may seem so basic that anyone should know it. However, our children are not born with the knowledge that printed text should be read from left to right and top to bottom, and this is why you’ll sometimes see children reading from right to left instead – because they were never explicitly taught to read from left to right. When teaching your child how to read, always emphasize this point with them.

Teach Your Child How to Read Tip #3

Teach final consonant blends first. Teaching words such “at” and “and” can lead your child directly to learning words that rhyme with these. For example, for “at”, you can have:

Lat
Pat
Mat
Cat
Sat
Bat
Spat
Chat

For “and”, you can have these rhyming words:

Sand
Band
Land
Hand
Stand
Bland
Brand
Grand
and so on…

You can start teaching blends once your child has learned the sounds of some consonants and short vowel sounds. You don’t need to wait until your child has mastered the sounds of all the letters before teaching blends.

Learning to read is a long process, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Broken down into intuitive and logical steps, a child as young as two years old can learn to read, and older children can accomplish even more.

>> Click here to for a simple, step-by-step program that can help your child learn to read and watch a video of a 2-year-old child reading

Notes:

1. J Exp Child Psychol. 2010 Apr;105(4):324-44. Epub 2010 Jan 25.
Learning letter names and sounds: effects of instruction, letter type, and phonological processing skill.
Piasta SB, Wagner RK.
Preschool Language and Literacy Lab, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.