What is the best method for learning to read, based on research?
- primarily using phonics
- figuring out words from their context or from pictures
- memorizing words (sight words, whole language)
What two printed letters are the hardest for children to distinguish?
- p and q
- q and g
- b and d
- m and n
Which two short vowel sounds are hardest for children to distinguish?
- a and e
- e and i
- o and u
- a and o
In order to learn to read, do children need to recite and/or recognize the ABC’s in alphabetical order?
Which comes first?
- recognizing a letter
- recognizing a sound?
How many letter sounds does a child need to hear and speak in order to speak standard American English?
Primarily using phonics is the best method for learning to read. The US government did a comprehensive study of hundreds of research studies on how children learn to read and discovered that using a phonics-based approach produces the best results.
Lower case “b” and “d” are the hardest letter shapes for children to distinguish. Most children are confused at first. Sometimes this confusion lasts into third grade, but with time, all children figure it out.
Short “e” and “i” are the hardest letter sounds to distinguish. Most reading series start by teaching short “a” followed by short “o” because these two sounds are the easiest to distinguish. Expect lots of errors when “e” and “i” words are learned, and expect learning them will take more time. Short “u” is harder than “a” and “o,” but since there are far fewer such words, learning “u” is not so hard as learning “e” and “i.
Beginning readers do not need to know their ABC’s in order. Alphabetic order is a second or third grade skill, so it doesn’t need to be learned immediately.
Recognizing a sound is more important than recognizing a letter at first. Beginning readers need to be able to hear sounds and to pronounce them aloud. They do not need an alphabet in front of them to do that. Toddlers can learn to recognize sounds long before they are ready to read letters.
American standard English has 42 sounds. Some of the 26 letters duplicate sounds such as “c” and “k,” “c” and “s,” “s” and “z,” and “qu” and “kw.” Many vowel sounds can be written multiple ways (ugly, Hannah, other). Some sounds take two letters to make (th, ch, sh). Regional dialects can add or subtract a sound or two, but in general there are 42 separate sounds in American English.