If you have read my previous blogs about what comprises literacy and how you can focus on them at home, this will be the last blog in the series! I will go over the rest of literacy elements and provide you with some easy, practical strategies that you can start implementing at the end of the blog!
A recent study was conducted in Canada and revealed:
“…that 40% of adults have a hard time reading a newspaper, filling out a work- application form or understanding a lease; 49 % struggle to calculate a tip, create a budget, calculate sales tax, or understand credit card interest rates”The BC Ministry of Advanced Education
Amazing, right? Did you know that early literacy skills can prevent these statistics from skyrocketing even further? We need adequate literacy skills in order to function and be productive members of society so working on these elements at an early age, will not only help us as individuals, but as a societal group!
What in the world is that? We start teaching this skill in preschool and kindergarten. It’s the ability of a child to know that each word is made up of several different sounds. Phonemic awareness is important for three reasons:
- If a child has difficulty with this area, they will have difficulty with reading and writing.
- Phonemic awareness teaches children to identify, understand and change words they encounter daily.
- Allows for great word recognition (their ability to know the word “dog” is “dog”).
According to Begintoread.com, phonemic awareness instruction is most effective when:
- Students are taught to manipulate phonemes by using alphabet letters.
- Instruction focuses on only one or two rather than several types of phoneme manipulation.
- Phonemic instruction is taught in Kindergarten or First Grade (sometimes earlier).
Ways to Address Phonemic Awareness
Now that we understand what phonemic awareness is, we need to learn how to work on it.
- Have your child isolate a specific sound. For example, “Tell me the first sound in the word fish.”
- “Tell me the same sound in the words, car, cat and cough.” Your child should be able to tell you the /k/ sound.
- You could have your child categorize words. For instance, “Tell me the word that does not belong – rug, rough, sit.”
- Breaking up words is another way to work on phonemic awareness. You could have your child tell you what sounds are in the word “car.”
I LOVE this image from LogicofEnglish.com – so much so, that I have it laminated and hanging in my speech therapy room for my students to see (yes, I work on these skills at the high school level). Start with step 1 and build your way up once your child is consistently performing the level that you are on!
Once your child has mastered phonemic awareness, they will be ready for phonics instruction. The teacher in your child’s life will most likely begin to target these skills in First grade, but some programs may begin earlier than that. Phonics can be defined as the relationship between sounds and letters. This skill needs to be developed in order to prevent deficits in reading and writing at the elementary level.
You can see this skill starting to develop if you read the same stories to your child every night. Eventually, they will start to point to certain words and say them outloud – this is called concept of text. Concept of text means that they can understand certain words have certain sounds (e.g., the /b/ in Batman, makes the same sound as /b/ in Basketball).
According to data-works.ed, phonics instruction helps children decode (understand) words by recognizing the sounds that accompany letters and letter patterns.
- Phonics instruction increases fluency by helping children read more accurately and with ease.
- Phonics instruction helps with reading comprehension. When a word is pronounced correctly, it improves the understanding of the word.
- Phonics instruction helps children increase their everyday vocabulary. If children feel comfortable in the correctness of the words that they are saying, they will use it more often.
The Last Literacy Component – Fluency
We are on our last literacy component – fluency. What is fluency? It’s the ability of a child to read quickly, accurately and with expression. This skill is important because it creates a bridge between comprehension and word recognition.
Readers who have not developed adequate fluency skills read slowly, very deliberately and they sound choppy.
Fluent readers already know what the sounds mean and how they piece together, which means they can focus more on what the text is actually saying, as opposed to trying to figure out what each sound means. This is where kids start to fall behind their peers in school. The teacher is asking, “What does that all mean,” and the kid who just read with disfluency has no idea because they are still processing what each word was.
All children go through a period of disfluency…
Don’t panic! When children are learning sounds and how to read, they will sound choppy, focused and slow. That is typical of learning. It becomes a problem when the issue continues into late elementary school and beyond. I have students at the high school level whose reading fluency is first grade. That means they sound just like a first grader would who is beginning to learn to read.
What Can I do to Enhance Fluency?
There are two main ways to work on fluency at home: guided reading and independent reading. Guided reading is where you sit with your child and have them read aloud to you. Any words that come out as disfluent, make them repeat it. If they can’t decode or determine what a word is, don’t tell them right away! Have them break down the word into its’ specific sounds and put everything all together. If they still can’t get it, then you can help them.
Independent reading, is just what it sounds like – your child reads alone. They can read silently or out loud. This does not need to be a book from school – it can be a magazine or even an article from a website. In order to determine that you child is reading fluently and comprehending everything independently, I recommend you ask them about their book/article/magazine when they are done. Just a simple, “Hey, I noticed you were reading about sports cars. Did you learn anything cool?” Hopefully, they will want to communicate something fun they learned and won’t even realize they are working on literacy skills!
Well – that’s it everyone! All the different literacy components and some strategies to work on at home have been provided in an Early Literacy blog series: How to encourage early literacy and 5 Strategies to Assist your Child with Reading Development!
As always, download the Speech Blubs app to boost your child’s speech development.
Stacie Bennett has been practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist for the past ten years. Currently, she works full-time at a vocational high school in New Jersey and have her own private practice. Feel free to contact Stacie if you have any questions!