In k-3, kids should learn to decode. If your child is falling behind, be sure to find an early intervention program through school or on your own. After 3rd grade, decoding lessons are over and kids are expected to be able to read independently. The phrase goes, “In k-3, kids learn to read. In 4th and up, they read to learn.” Here are some literacy tips for parents and educators:
Read aloud to your child early and often, but don’t expect this activity to help your child with decoding.
When you read aloud to your child, you are expanding their vocabulary, exposing them to complex language, and teaching them concepts in a wide range of fields. These are all good things. However, don’t expect this activity to teach your child to decode. To learn to decode, kids need systematic phonics instruction, now called structured literacy. So reading aloud to your student, while critical, will not help him crack the code (unless he’s in the minority of hyperlexic children, about 1% of kids).
Teach your child the most common phonics sounds.
There are about 44 English phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. For example, /ee/ as in tree is a phoneme, /e_/ as in met, /ai/ as in sail, /oa/ as in boat, /igh/ and in bright…etc. Teach your student one sound at a time. Allow her to master the new sound before introducing another. In this gradual way, your child can learn all the 44 English phonemes. Our step-by-step printable phonics books gradually help kids master the most common phonics sounds.
Play sound games to help your child build phonemic awareness.
Phonemic awareness is the best predictor of reading success. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. Phonemic awareness is an awareness of sound or the ability to blend, segment and manipulate sounds. Play sound games with your child to help her build phonemic awareness. For example, ask her to “rip the sounds apart” in hat: h-aaaa-t. Have her drop the first sound: -at. You can ask your child for a word that rhymes with hat: mat. Or you can ask her to get rid of the last sound in hat: ha-. All of these activities do not require text.
Teach your child letter sounds, not letter names.
Letter sounds unlock a lot of the code. Letter names do not. In fact, letter names can hinder decoding. For example, if your child has been taught to say letter names, the fact that we call the symbol h “aych,” a “ay” and t “tee” will not help him read “hat.” He might try to read “hat” as “aychaytee.” Struggling readers often try to elicit letter names to decode and this causes reading errors and frustration.
Use decodable books.
In many schools, still, kids are given repetitive, guessable books wherein the pictures serve as a crutch. These whole language books cause kids to think reading involves memorizing, guessing, and looking at pictures. Many of these kids (and their parents) are shocked when all these crutches are taken away and the the children can’t read. To avoid this, use decodable books. Decodable books allow children to gradually master the most common phonics sounds, decode words sound-by-sound, and build real, transferable reading skills.
Reading Elephant systematic printable phonics books are written methodically to help kids build a solid decoding foundation.
Create a reading nook.
Pick a corner in your home for reading. Set up a comfortable chair and whatever else your child likes… flowers, pillows, a view… etc.
As a parent, read yourself. Kids will not believe that reading can be enjoyable, unless they see you do it.
Learning to read is hard. K-2 students may begin to believe they dislike reading because they’re in the early stages of decoding. However, if they see you read magazines and books, they will likely acknowledge that reading can be an enjoyable activity. If mom, dad and teacher read on their own accord, it must be fun sometimes. Kids just need to push through the sound-by-sound reading stage before they can read fluidly and with ease.
Have your child spell words sound-by-sound.
Kids should not memorize spelling lists each week. Spelling lists often contain phonetic words that the child should spell sound-by-sound, not through memorization. Frequently, kids quickly forget how to spell memorized words. Instead, they should learn how to spell phonetic words sound-by-sound. Thus, teach your child to say the sounds in order and find the symbol that correlates with each sound. For example, boat is: b-oa-t, tree is tr-ee, when is wh-eeee-n. You must know elementary phonics sounds to guide kids in sound-by-sound spelling.
Reading Elephant printable phonics books can help kids practice the most common phonics sounds.