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Phonics and Reading for Toddlers

What is Phonics?

Before we can discuss why it is important for toddlers to learn about phonics, we need to learn what exactly phonics is. Phonics is understanding that audios and also letters have a collaboration; also known as it is the link in between what we say as well as what we can read and create. Phonics is the initial strategy that young readers will certainly need to sound out words.

In preschool or nursery school, children start to develop their paying attention abilities so that they can listen to the different sounds that words make, laying the structure to discover the names of things and how they sound.

The next phase occurs in primary school, where kids find out the letters of the alphabet in an established order, and the sound of each letter. As soon as they learn this, kids can start to sound out and read simple, basic words.

For example, kids find out that the letter C has the sound of a “c” as in “cat” and also will then discover how to blend the following letters and their sounds, as in “c-a-t”, to articulate the word.

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. After working with short and simple words and sounds, your kids’ confidence will grow. They’ll soon be able to make the connection of letter sounds to more complex words.  They’ll actually gain a love for reading without them even realizing it. Below is a list of “buzzwords” to help you on your way to teach your little ones to read.

Phonics: using the sound made by a letter and groups of letters to read words.

Decoding: using the knowledge of phonics to sound out and read words.

Grapheme: a written single letter or group of letters, like “s”, “a”, or “she”.

Diagraph: two letters that make one sound together, for example, “sh”.

Phoneme: the sound a letter or group of letters makes. An example is the word “mat”, which has 3 phonemes, “m”, “a”, and “t”.

Sounding Out: using your phonic knowledge to help you say the sounds within a word; e.g., “r-e-d”, pronouncing each phoneme.

Blending: reading the sounds in the word altogether to read the whole word; e.g., “r-e-d, red” or “m-o-m, mom”.

High-Frequency Words: also known as “common exception words”, we use these common words often but aren’t always decodable using phonics. Examples of high-frequency words are, “the”, “one”, and “where”; children are taught to recognize these words on sight.

In school, teachers give their children plenty of time and practice when working with phonics. Working with phonics in the classroom, children will read short, easy books, containing a particular letter sound or words they are working on, allowing them to build knowledge and confidence towards learning phonics.

As parents, however, it can be a bit of a challenge trying to work out the best ways to support your kids in their early stages of learning to read, especially since teaching methods are always changing, and are sure to have changed since we were in school!

Learning with phonics does not have to be within the confines of a classroom. As a teacher, I have come up with several ways to work on phonics with your child from the comfort of your own home. Some of those ways are:

  • Form a partnership with the teacher- Ask your child’s teacher how you can highlight reading and phonics inside the home and feel free to express any concerns you may have.
  • Listen to your child read- If you notice when reading with your child that they stumble on a word, encourage them to use phonics to sound it out. If they are still unsure after sounding the word out, don’t be discouraged, provide the word and some encouragement to your child to get the next one right!
  • Boost comprehension- When reading with your child, take breaks from the story to ask questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” or “Can you make up a different ending to the story?”
  • Reread familiar books- If you notice your child wants to reread their favorite book, that’s okay! In fact, it’s beneficial as it shows a desire to read, builds fluency, and builds confidence in your child as they can demonstrate reading on their own with little to no assistance.
  • Read aloud- When choosing a book to read, choose a book that excites your child and their interests, and if you can, use different voices for each character!
  • Spread the joy of reading- Keeping plenty of books and/or magazines around the home will show your child how valuable reading is while cultivating a lifelong love of reading.

Once your child has learned to read words with the most common letter-sound combinations, they will move on to learn other, harder combinations. With daily practice, your child will be well on their way to reading pretty much any familiar word in the English language!

Teaching children is not a simple task, and if after reading these steps you’re left feeling a little overwhelmed, no need to worry, I have a solution for that too! Click the link below to see how Sarah Shepard, a fellow teacher who has taught over 35,000 children (and counting) how to read with her home program called Reading Head Start!

Best Techniques to Teach Reading in 2021

When it comes to teaching your child how to read, it is important to remember that no two children will learn the same way, so remaining flexible in your approach is key to achieving success. Motivation and patience are also key to avoid introducing any negative associations with school and learning.

Before your child reaches the age of 10, one of the most important things they will accomplish is learning how to read; in fact, children begin acquiring the skills they need to master reading from birth. An infant as young as 6 months old can already distinguish between the sound of their mother tongue and a foreign language, and by the age of 2, they have mastered enough word sounds in their native language to produce over 50 words. Singing the alphabet song and reciting nursery rhymes is the next step as fine motor skills advance, and the ability to write, draw, and copy shapes follow, which eventually lead to forming letters. As a parent, you can encourage these early skills in your child by pointing out letters in daily life, visiting your local library and bookstore to foster an interest in books, and asking them about their day to assist with the development of narrative skills. As an elementary school teacher, everything from vocabulary growth to high performance across all subjects is linked to a child’s reading ability. When teaching children to read, there are 3 main techniques I have used with amazing results. Those 3 techniques are the Phonics Method, the Whole-Word Approach, and the Language Experience Method, which will be explained in detail below.

  • The Language Experience

The language experience method of teaching children to read is rooted in personalization, where the words being taught are different for every child. The idea of this technique is children will learn words that they are already familiar with to build confidence and eagerness towards reading. As a teacher, I have used this technique to create unique stories for each student using their preferred list of words, while they draw pictures to correspond with the story, therefore creating their own storybook. As a parent, don’t be afraid to try this technique at home to further strengthen your child’s reading comprehension and build their confidence in reading!

  • The Phonics Method

The phonics method is one of the most popular and commonly used methods for teaching reading to children, as it teaches children to pair sounds with the letters, and blend them together to pronounce the word. This method is focused on helping a child learn how to break down words into sounds, translate those sounds into letters, and combining them to form words, leading to the foundation of their reading ability. Using this method over time will train the cognitive process to automatically translate between letters and sounds, allowing the child to become more fluent and read with ease.

  • The Whole-Word Approach

This method teaches children to read by sight and relies on memorization and repeated exposure to the written form a word pair with an image and audio. How the whole-word approach differs from the phonics method is that they learn to say the word by recognizing its’ written form as opposed to sounding it out. Putting words into context and providing images can help, and eventually familiar words can be presented on their own, then in short sentences, and eventually longer sentences. When children begin reading via this method, it becomes an automatic process that will have them reading the majority of the vocabulary they encounter, only sounding out words that are unfamiliar to them.

The more children read with their parents, teacher, and caregivers, the more books become a favorite and exciting pastime and activity. Instead of solely using one of these techniques, it can sometimes be beneficial to combine aspects from each to create your own customized technique for your child. Teaching children is not a simple task, and if after reading these steps you’re left feeling a little overwhelmed, no need to worry, I have a solution for that too! Click the link below to see how Sarah Shepard, a fellow teacher, has taught over 35,000 children how to read with her program Reading Head Start!

 

7 Easy Head Start Steps To Teach Your Children To Read

Homeschooling on the Rise During COVID-19 Pandemic

I never thought I will be homeschooling my 4-year-old daughter, but then again no one really expects a pandemic to happen. I’m sure most parents don’t think about the process of learning to read until they have children of their own. As someone who homeschools my child, I cannot tell you how many times parents have come up to me asking questions about how they can teach their children to read at home. My response to each of them is always the same: learning to read is a process composed of various skills and strategies, and luckily, I have broken it down into simple and tested strategies to try in your own home.

  • Make Reading Fun!

Don’t be afraid to have fun while teaching your children to read. Simply asking questions like, “What sound does the word ___ start with?”, or “What word rhymes with ___?”, will have your children listening, identifying, and manipulating the sounds in words, building confidence and excitement towards learning how to read. Another tool that can be used is letter magnets. Sometimes sounding out vowels can be tricky for children, which is why magnets can be super helpful. Place magnets on your fridge, and place all the vowels (a, e, i, o, u) to one side. Say out loud a CVC word (consonant-vowel-consonant), such as “cat”, and ask your child to spell it using the magnets. To help them along, say each vowel sound aloud while pointing to the corresponding letter, and ask your child which one makes the sound similar to the letter in the word.

  • Sing a Song! Makeup Songs or Use Nursery Rhymes

Songs and nursery rhymes aren’t just fun sounding to kids but are filled with rhymes and rhythms which help them hear sounds and syllables, which in turn help them with their reading. One of the most important skills needed when learning to read is phonetic awareness. Phonetic awareness is the ability to focus on the sound each letter makes within a word. For example, the word “mat” is made up of the sounds the letters /m/ /a/ /t/ make. To help your children build phonemic awareness using songs and nursery rhymes, clap to the rhythm and sing the songs together, and watch them become successful with reading.

  • Reading Everything – Print Environments Are Best

If children see printed words daily, like on posters, books, and labels, they will able to make connections between the letter sounds and the letter symbol. When out with your children, stop to point out letters on billboards and signs to encourage them to work on making letter sounds and eventually, sounding out the word.

  • Use Flashcards or Create Homemade Word Cards

Quick and easy, simply cut out cards (any size) from paper, and write one word with three sounds on each (e.g., Sat, cat, sun, pot, pig). Have your child select a card and read the word together, holding up three fingers. Once done, ask them to say the first sound they hear in the word they chose, then the second, and then the third. This activity requires very little prep time, and builds phonics skills, and helps them sound out words. If your child is just starting out, you can do the same exercise, except use letters of the alphabet instead of words.

  • See the Word, Say the Word

See the word, say the word, is the common expression used to describe “sight words”. Sight words are words that cannot easily be sounded out and need to be recognized on sight (for example, you, I, am, they, where, does). Learning to identify and read sight words is essential when young children are learning how to read, and the best way to teach them is by using flashcards with these sight words on them, and get them to “see the word, say the word”.

  • Learn Together

Reading to your child daily is one of the most effective ways to get your child to pick up the skills necessary for learning how to read. You are showing your child how to sound out words, building comprehension skills, growing their vocabulary, and letting them hear what a fluent reader sounds like; all needed for your child to be successful readers. While reading to your child, engage them by asking questions about the pictures they see (e.g., “What color is the dog? Do you see the stars?”), and if your children are older, ask them a question about what you just read (e.g., “Why do you think Sam was frustrated?”).

  • Build The Foundation

Remember, learning how to read involves multiple skills. Children need all of these skills, listed below, in order to successfully learn how to read.

  • Phonemic Awareness: the ability to hear the different sounds in words
  • Phonics: recognizing the connection between letters and the sounds they make
  • Vocabulary: understanding the meaning of words and their context
  • Reading Comprehension: understanding the meaning of texts in information and storybooks
  • Fluency: ability to read aloud with speed, understanding, and accuracy

Remember, every child learns at their own pace, so it’s best to make this process encouraging and enjoyable. By reading daily, having fun with activities, and even having your child pick their own books as their skills grow, will instill a love of reading and set them up for the ultimate reading success. Teaching children is not a simple task, and if after reading these steps you’re left feeling a little overwhelmed, no need to worry, I have a solution for that too! Click the link below to see how Sarah Shepard, a fellow teacher, has taught over 35,000 children how to read with her program Reading Head Start!