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Structure of Language

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How do I teach my child to read?

The English has evolved over centuries to become what it is today.  Although many words have been borrowed from other languages, its most recent derivations are from the Greek and Latin.  As a result, English follows the same rules.

In English, for young learners, it is important to start off teaching your child that we read words and the words make sounds.

They need to learn the alphabet, but not necessarily in order.  Just because they can sing the alphabet song doesn't mean they can identify the letters.

Play games like:

Alphabet concentration - write the letters of the alphabet on two sets of index cards, then flip them upside down.  Only use about ten letters at a time.  When they get two letters that match, have them say the letter.  It's ok to tell them if they get it wrong.  Don't forget to praise them when they get it right!

Hide-and-Seek - Hide letters around the house.  Have them find the letter you're look for and have them return it to you.

(Refer to Literacy Activities for more ideas)

The more you read to your child, the more they want to read to you.  Also, they want to write because they see you write.  Children always want to do what they see their parents do.  This is great! 

Let them immitate you.  As you both read, ask them to tell you certain letters. 

When they say words, start off with the first sound in a word and have them try to guess the letter (initial sound fluency).

Then have them focus on the last sound and do the same thing (final sound fluency).

Now try the middle sound in the consonant, vowel, consonant pattern (medial sound fluency)

Play games like:

Letter snacks - Choose a CVC word, have them identify the first sound (or last), then have them look in the cupboard for a snack that has the same first sound as the word you gave them.  For example, if you give them MOP, they can find M&M's and Milk Duds.

Create a Rhyme - Have them create a rhyme with a middle sound.  For example, if you give them the short "o" sound, they should think of as many words as they can with that sound.  The word doesn't necessarily have to have the letter "o", just the sound...COT, BOUGHT, ROBOT, CAUGHT, FOUGHT, NOT, etc.  Then they can make a rap out of these rhyming words.

(The rime of the rhyme is from where the last vowel sound begins to where the word ends, i.e., cot, bought, robot, caught, fought, not).

Remember, we still need to focus on the sounds within words, not just the letters.

(Refer to Literacy Activities for more ideas.)

As was stated already, some letters are borrowed and some letters don't follow the rules (site words).  Since certain consonants sounds change too, you just have to tell them what they say.  For example: the, was and is.

This takes practice and dedication, but don't give up!  It will definately pay off later!  Statistics show that children who attend preschool or who have the skills ready to enter kindergarten do well throughout their schooling.

(For each step in the literacy process, refer to Emergent Literacy Strategies.)

When teaching them the sounds that certain letters make, teach the consonants and the vowels (a,e,i,o,u,).  Long vowels say their name. 

So, the letter "a" says /a/ just like you would say it when reading the alphabet.  However, short vowels change.  For example "a" sounds like the "a" in apple, "e" sounds like Ed, "i" sounds like itch, "o" sounds like octopus (most of the time), and "u" sounds like up. 

Try not to teach the "e" and "i" together (like in the parentheses above) because the sounds are very similar.

When reading, review the short vowel sounds because most books for children their age follow a pattern of a consonant, vowel, consonant (CVC).  For example, CAT, MOP and DOG. 

Blevins, W. (1998). Phonics from A to Z: A Practical Guide (Grades K-3).  Scholastic Professional Books, New York: NY.  See also works by Hoover, M.R.