Ok, let’s talk about how we can help our little offspring with reading. The English language is one of the most complex languages in the world. We have words that are spelt the same but with different meanings, spelt differently but sound the same and rules that don’t apply most of the time (yes I’m referring to the “i before e except after c – lie” think ‘weird, leisure, either’). We also have a variety of complex sounds that we need to learn so we can move on from the simple CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant words e.g. cat, dog, pop).
First things first (and most important of all):
Early reading and engaging children in reading is one of the most important factors in getting children to read. Having the child sat with you while you read and pointing to the words is an easy way to start. Having a bedtime story routine will build their love of story telling and imagination. There is not real ‘time scale’ for children learning and each year will build upon previous learning. Imagine building blocks. If they don’t know the basic sounds they cannot learn the more complex sounds. Children need to learn fairy tales for a reason. The most popular ones make up most other stories and film in today’s society. The premise of these fairy tales have a beginning, characters, setting, a problem, action, a resolution and an ending. If they know these key fairy tales they will be able to comprehend and understand a range of text as their reading progresses. Love reading, get them to love it too!
How can I help? Be aware of phonics!
Right, things I would recommend. Invest yourself in some good quality phonic sound cards . I’ve linked a few below. When supporting children with reading the sounds, don’t refer to them by their names, refer to them by their sound. This is hard to write on a blog but you need to try and remove any excess sounds so for A instead of “a-y” we just say “a” it’s a shorter sound that isn’t elongated by any extra noises. So for B “b-uh” becomes “b“. You might think I’ve gone mad. If you want to hear what I’m talking about head to my highlights on Instagram. Once these initial sounds are secure you can start putting them together to make a range of simple words. Learning 31 initial sounds takes time, don’t get frustrated if they don’t remember them instantly (Yes, 31 is all the alphabet sounds plus ch, th, ng, nk, sh). Remember, like I said, avoid referring to them as their alphabet name – this only confuses things and it is much better for them to know their sound. The sound cards I’ve linked are nice and fun. One side has the sound the other has a picture representation with a little rhyme to help with letter formation (this is more for writing). I love these and I use them with Evelyn.
They then progress to the next ‘set’ of sounds. These are sounds that are together to make new sounds. Think of the word tree – this word has 3 sounds t – r – ee – “ee” is a new sound. It’s a fun sound. Make it sound like you are whizzing down a slide. This “ee” sound can then be shown is words such as “see“, “bee“, “green” as they are all words they can sound out, break down almost. These all come with a little saying that helps the children to remember them: ay – may I play? oo – poo at the zoo (kids favourite) and many more. I will point out that this is a certain scheme that some school use, there are other versions of phonics schemes that may mean it’s taught slightly differently. I’ve found this to be the most effective.
Once they have leant these sound groups and individual sounds they can start putting it all together to read! E.g R-ai-n will blend together nicely!
There are always exceptions to this lovely phonic friendly rule. These are what some people call Red Words – these words cannot be broken down and must be learnt by sight and memory. e.g. My, said, are, your.
Books Books Books
Lots of people have asked me which books to start with and what age to start. Babies – read to them, tone of voice and they rhythm of reading is something they will come to thrive on and calm to. Invest in vocabulary books so they are exposed to text.
Toddlers – invest in story books that become longer to increase their stamina to listen to stories. Discuss the stories with them to check they understand. Good books to start with include repetition or rhyme. This encourages children to participate in the reading process and they feel part of the story. Ask the children what kind of books they enjoy – dinosaurs, fairies, books about nature – whatever sparks their interest.
When children reach school age they will begin to read within the schools book band scheme. These are specifially designed to increase in difficulty with the child’s knowledge. The more they read the more their confidence with reading will grow. As a teacher myself the biggest tip I’d give is to read with your child as much as you can. If they don’t feel like reading to you, then read to them.
The video below is Evelyn when she was 18 months old. She made us read The Tiger who came to tea every night for about 6 months! She can’t read but she enjoyed listening to it so much that she has learnt the story, including voices and the pattern at which I read it. It also has a HUGE impact on their verbal vocabulary – they hear a wide range of words that they can then use within their own speech.
I really hope this has helped in some way. My final tip is to trust your child’s school. They might teach them through a different scheme and have their own little rules but know that phonics is an important part of children’s reading development. You might be sitting their with a tiny baby on your lap but know that they love the sound of your voice… why not read to them. They learn rhythms from such an early age. Enjoy every second of it.