Yes. According to Prof. Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, the two best predictors of later reading achievement are
- an awareness of separate sounds (42 in English) and
- the ability to rapidly name objects.
Today we’ll discuss sound awareness.
When I was a high school student studying French, I used to lie in bed listening to a Montreal radio station. I would try to figure out where one word ended and the next word began. This same skill is what babies do when they listen to adults talk to them although they don’t realize it. Luckily for most babies, their mothers or caretakers speak slowly and distinctly and repeat words over and over.
With time toddlers begin to hear parts of words and realize that some words have one part (for example, Mom) while other words have more than one part (for example, Grandma).
Still later, usually around age four, children learn their ABC’s, not understanding what they are all about. But with instruction, they learn that each sound in English corresponds to a letter or a pair of letters in the ABC’s.
How can you enhance your child’s success in reading?
Make your child aware of words, syllables and individual sounds.
- Encourage prereaders to write using invented spelling, advises Dr. Wolf. When the child writes, he sounds out a word and uses the letter symbols which seem appropriate. The “words” might not conform to proper spelling, but that is not the point. The child is working to figure out sounds, a skill he will need in order to read.
- Encourage the child to listen to someone reading nursery rhymes. Then encourage the child to say the rhymes herself, advises Dr. Wolf. Take “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” for example.
The itsy bitsy spider
Climbed up the waterspout.
Down came the rain
And washed the spider out.
Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain.
So the itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again!
- Notice how “itsy bitsy,” “waterspout” and “out,” and “rain” and “again” rhyme. Notice the repetition of the word “rain” and the emphasis on the words “down” and “out.” Other nursery rhymes show alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds) and assonance (repetition of vowel sounds). When children listen to these sounds they learn to discriminate among similar sounds, figuring out what sounds the same and what sounds different.
- Research shows that exposure to rhymes and alliteration helps children to figure out sounds and later, to read.
In our next blog we will discuss the other predictor of reading achievement, the ability to name.
Posted in ABC's, how to make learning fun, letter sounds, methods of teaching reading, reading readiness., reading research
Tagged educational activity, how to encourage more reading, learning through games, learning through song, nursery rhymes, vowel sounds
I have followed a low tech system somewhat similar to teaching consonant sounds, but a system that is a little different too. This phonetic approach works well with ESL students, young native English speakers getting ready to read and even adults because it makes learning fun.
To enlarge, click on the picture.
- I make a set of a dozen or more picture cards for ă: apple, astronaut, alligator and ax (which begin with ă sound), and other CVC words using ă such as hat, man, dad and bag.
- I also make one card with ă written on it.
- At the same time, I make picture (flash) cards with pictures for the other short vowels, and I take some of those cards and temporarily add them to the ă deck.
- Knowing that discerning vowel sounds is hard, I put the apple card next to the ă card and say the word apple many times, focusing on the vowel sound. Slowly I help the child say the words in the deck of cards and place the cards near the ă card or in a discard area.
- When the ă sound is learned (usually this takes several sessions), I take ĕ, ĭ, ŏ and ŭ words, and one short vowel at a time, go through the process with each sound. Because ĕ and ĭ are hard to distinguish, I do them after ă, ŏ and ŭ, and spend more time on them.
- Then I start mixing up two of the sounds, such as ă and ŏ. I put both the ă and ŏ cards on the table, and take the picture cards for only those two sounds, shuffle them, and go through them with the child. Once the child can distinguish those sounds, I gradually add ŭ to the mix and have the child sort ă, ŏ and ŭ.
- I leave ĕ and ĭ to last and do those two letters together before I include them with the other short vowel sounds. It takes many weeks of practice to distinguish ĕ and ĭ sounds. When the child has mastered them, I add the other three vowels to the deck and the child sorts all five short vowel sounds.
- When the child has mastered all five short vowel sounds, I go through the same process with ā, ē, ī, ō and ū. The process for the long vowels goes quicker than for the short vowels.
- As I move on teaching the child other sounds, I review the vowel sounds if I notice the child is forgetting some of the sounds or mixing up any of them. This happens with every child I have taught.
Preschoolers and primary school children like this method of learning because they are learning through a game. They like the control they have—holding the cards and placing them. They like working one on one with an adult tutor who is paying special attention to them. Sometimes I do one card and the child does one card to emphasize the fun of learning. No worksheets, no writing—just fun. Yet children learn their letter sounds.
BREAKING NEWS—Mrs. K and Mrs. A published our first children’s book on May 23. Called Not a Lot on Top, it concerns the attempts of a little girl to hide her father’s bald head. The pictures are silly, the words easy and the cost low–$1.99 for the book and ten easy yet educational activity pages relating to the book.
Right now the book is available on all Apple products but we hope eventually it will be available on android products as well. Go to http://goo.gl/ClVyM to read more information or to order.
More books are in the works. We hope to publish two in June and one a month after that—all targeted for the beginning reader in English.
Mrs. K and Mrs. A would like to thank Patrick Powers who suggested publishing our books as apps, and who did the technical work to make it possible. We would also like to thank Bill Powers who has done all the technical work which makes this blog possible.