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Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Learning to read, how did you do it? Chances are, until you had a child start school, the thought never crossed your mind… If your child has just started school and wants a quick read about learning to read — this is the post for you!

Learning to read is not just a good idea. It’s crucial!

Too many children slip through the net, and by end of the first year, they are ill-equipped to go on and flourish. For some, learning to read is a steep journey, while others seem to glide on towards success. Nearly all children can learn to read. It’s not an effortless task, it is hard work, but with the right instruction, it doesn’t have to be an arduous trek.

We have to get the basics right.

All children must learn how to decode. This is non-negotiable!

To decode, all children have to crack the alphabet code. Explicit teaching is the only way. Sound manipulation is the first step if a child can’t access phonics teaching. As soon as possible, add in letters to begin phonics teaching.

The end goal is meaning. Learning how to decode helps to make meaning, too. If a child can decode words, they are on their way to reading fluently and will extract meaning from the text.

Essential subskills for effective reading

1 Be able to match visual symbols to auditory symbols

We write to preserve speech or our thoughts. All writing uses visual symbols to create words. We have to decode these symbols to read fluently.

All children must learn how to decode — some will do this independently, but most need explicit, systematic instruction to achieve this. We must explicitly teach the sound-symbol correspondence so children know what to sound out when blending to read words. Teaching how to decode is the only strategy that works once pictures are removed.

To begin, it is best to work with the initial sounds the alphabet letters represent — only after we establish this can we move on to teach that sometimes two or more letters can represent a single sound — and there is an overlap in the alphabet code.

2 Be able to segment sounds in words

Segmenting sounds in words is the ability to separate sounds in words in the correct sequence. Children who learn to read without good segmenting skills are at a greater risk of struggling to decode longer, more complex words later.

The skill of segmenting needs explicit teaching. Often when children segment words, they add extra sounds. This needs correcting, as it won’t help children to blend sounds to form words.

The word bat has three sounds.

/b/ /a/ /t/ There are no extra sounds tacked on the end. Sometimes we add an /uh/ to words when isolating sounds when segmenting.

/b/uh/ /a/ /t/uh/ has two extra sounds added to /b/ and /t/.

The /uh/ sound hinders the ability to blend.

In the beginning, there is a one-to-one correspondence. After initial sounds, it falls apart, so a firm foundation is crucial for reading and spelling to take off in later years. In later years, we have to teach spelling patterns as not all sounds have a letter, and some sounds have two, three or four letters. There are silent letters too. This is why students need to be able to decode effortlessly and segment words to help with spelling instruction.

3 Be able to blend sounds to read words.

Blending is the process of pushing sounds together to read words. Some children have trouble blending sounds. If this happens to your little one, try starting with continuant consonants. We can stretch continuant consonant sounds — this gives your little one more time to hear the sounds. Try it — ssssss u n starting with sounds that stretch can have a big effect if your child struggles to blend. Now say — pan. Can you hear the difference? The /p/ sound is a stop sound; we can’t stretch this sound. So words such as sat, sit, mat, man, run, sun, and zip are all great words to use in the beginning.

If you are wondering how to help when your child gets stuck, head over to my post, If I Get Stuck, and grab the bookmarks I made.

To make things easier to get your kids off to a brilliant start — I have created a set of activity books that work through the initial code. Just perfect for intervention, home practice and after explicit instruction in the classroom.


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