Category Archives: prereading skills

Children learn sounds from big to small

children pronouncing elephantLittle children who are learning about sounds in words move from larger units of sound—phrases and words—to smaller units of sound—sounds within words and syllables.  Adults hear “On your mark, get set, go,” but a two-year-old hears “Onyourmark, getset, go.”  Children need to hear distinct sounds within words and to reproduce those sounds properly before they start pairing sounds with letters.

For this reason, most two-year-olds are too young to learn to read.  Even some five-year-olds might not be able to distinguish sounds within words.  In some countries, children don’t learn to read until they are seven. 

A good example of this is when children learn the ABC song.  Most three-year-olds can start the song with A-B-C-D. . .E-F-G-. . .H-I-J-K .  But when they get to L-M-N-O-P they sing L-um-men-oh-P or M-uh-let-O-P.  They don’t hear L-M-N-O as distinct sounds.

I still remember the day when I was in first grade when  my teacher taught my class the words of and the.  I thought, wow, those are two different words.  I didn’t know that.  I thought ofthe was a single sound.

Most two-year-olds are too young to learn to read.  Even some five-year-olds might not be able to distinguish sounds within words.  For this reason, in some countries, children don’t learn to read until they are seven. 

What can you do to help your child hear sounds more clearly?  Speak distinctly.  Slow down.  Face your child and let her watch your mouth when you talk.  When you hear her slurring sounds together which should be pronounced separately, don’t correct her but instead repeat the sounds properly.

While we’re on the subject of hearing words correctly, children will subconsciously learn the rules of grammar without instruction.  A four-year-old might say, “Mommy goed to the store,” properly making the verb past tense by adding the d sound to the end of the word without realizing go does not follow the rules.  Or he might say, “I amn’t done yet.”  He is learning contractions, not realizing that am can’t be contracted in the negative form.  Or a child might say, “Her said so.”  Objective pronouns are learned before subject pronouns.

To correct these mistakes, repeat what the child says correctly without comment on the error.  When the child hears words said properly enough times, he or she will say words that way too.

 

Check your child’s prereading skills before teaching her to read

The place to start teaching reading is by assessing her prereading skills.  This is easy.  Hand your child a picture book upside down with the back cover facing up.  Watch what happens.

Does the child turn the book over so the cover is right side up?

Does the child open the book with the bulk of the pages near her right hand?

When the child turns the pages, does she turn them from front to back?

Ask the child to point which way the words are read.  Does she point top to bottom?  Left to right?

Ask the child where the cover and back page are.  Where is the title?

If your child can answer these questions correctly, she knows basic pre-reading skills for the English language.  If she cannot answer these questions correctly, teach her. 

How?  Read often to your child and point out these basics.  You could also play games by holding the book upside down, or by beginning to read from the last page, or by looking at the back cover and saying, “Is this where we begin?”  If your child corrects you, she has absorbed these pre-reading skills. 

If you read to your child in two languages such as Chinese and English, or Arabic and English, make sure your child understands these skills as they apply to English.  Some languages do not follow the English language pattern.  You might want to stop lessons in the other language for a few months until the English pattern is established.