Reading is a code. To read we have to be able to visually look at letters, translate what those letters say in sounds and how the sounds go together to make words and sentences. Then the message of what they say gets passed through our brain so that we can say what it is that we are reading. Basically part 1 of reading is decoding letters and words. Part 2 is understanding or comprehending what we read. I am sure over the years to come I will write many posts on decoding and comprehension but right now I want to talk about the very basic level of skills that help young readers which we commonly know as phonological awareness.
Try this. Say the sentence below only using letter names not the sounds the letters make:
The cat sat on the mat.
- Did you find it tricky?
- Did it make sense?
For a lot of the words it nearly sounds like you are spelling them not reading them. The only way you can read that sentence is to know what sounds the letters make. I picked a simple sentence but to improve our reading we need to improve our knowledge of the code and we move from words where each letter makes a sound, cat, to understanding that two letters (grapheme) together can make a new sound like th in that.
There is a lot of research out there in the big wide world of google but I really like this article by Wesley A Hoover, The Important of Phonemic Awareness in Learning to Read.
Check out the little blue box 3/4 of the way down the page, “there are no instances of low skill in phonemic awareness and high skill in decoding”
So why do we teach our children the alphabet song. Think about it from day 1 we start talking to our children about letter names not the sounds letters make and yes who doesn’t remember the alphabet song. A whole song about letter names.
Wouldn’t it make sense and make it easier for our children to develop phonological awareness if from the beginning we focused on the sounds letters make not there names. I am not saying we should drill the sounds letters make into our young children. What I am saying is, when doing the simple things that we do with our children, lets start making them aware of the sounds letters make.
- I spy using sounds not letter names
- Finding objects that start with the first sound in our name
- Making sounds out of play doh
- Songs about sounds
Here are some options for sound songs to get you started but you will find lots more on You Tube.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of these products they are just a place to get you started.