If a child memorizes ten words, the child can read only ten words,

but if a child learns the sounds of ten letters,

the child will be able to read 350 three sound words,

4320 four sound words and 21,650 five sound words.

Dr Martin Kozloff (2002)

Reading is all about learning special codes and it’s not easy! Did you know that there are 44 sounds in the spoken English language from only 26 letters? Some sounds are represented by one letter, two letters or even three letters. Consider how the long ‘i’ sound in the words ‘nice/ buy and might’…

 nice  n – i -ce  i  sound – represented by one letter
 buy  b – uy  i  sound – represented by two letters
 might    m –igh-t     i  sound – represented by three letters

These codes are not easy to learn but once a child knows all the sounds, they are ready to ‘decode.’ Decodable books are a good first step because they have words where only one sound is represented by one letter. e.g.: ‘h-i-t’ is a decodable word; with three letters and three sounds. Semi-decodable and phonics books are the next step if the child has mastered all 44 sounds and their corresponding letters.

When teaching your child to read, turn off all devices and TV noise. Start with letters in your child’s name and then play with common letters such as ‘s / t / n / short ‘i‘.  Once a child knows the sounds of these letters, with your help, they can begin to learn the special codes that are needed to read. To decode, is to read. They can then read the words ‘is / it / in / tin /its /nit. Then they can add letters and read new words; ‘nit / not, in/on, tin / tins, is / his’ It is about using known letters and sounds to new letters and sounds. Find these letters in all the books you share or, go on a word and letter hunt around the house.

If your child brings home reading to do from school, allow your child to have a snack, a cuddle or play for half an hour and then go to a quiet and comfortable nook in the house (where reading is enjoyed) and spend 15 minutes hearing your child read. Make sure the book is at their level. Encourage reading other books too.

Talk about illustrations, use describing words and link books to other books. Ask: ‘Did this character and story remind you of another story or character? Have you experienced things like this?’

Kids love to read graphic novels and ‘chapter books’, check them out at your local library where eBooks can also be borrowed.

Susan Spelic

Experienced Educator | Reading Advocate | Author | Director
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