Understanding and Teaching Foundational Reading Skills

May 1, 2020

Understanding and Teaching Foundational Reading Skills

Reading well and reading at an early age are both tied to greater educational success in children. As such, many parents want to get a jumpstart on teaching their children how to read. But, unless these parents are professional teachers, they’re often at a loss as to how to make that happen. Thankfully, though, you don’t have to be an educational expert to help a child build reading skills. You simply have to know and understand what the most important foundational reading skills are and then put them into practice.

Know What Sounds Each Letter Makes

Learning to read isn’t about learning words, at least not at first. At first, it’s about understanding the different sounds that each letter can make. Once children have a firm grasp on that, they can then start to string sounds together to form and understand words.

So, make that your starting point. Teach your child the sounds of each letter. Once they’ve learned the alphabet, you can start drilling them on the sounds of each letter. 

Once they understand the sounds each letter can make, show them different words that use these sounds differently. The K in “kite,” for example, sounds much different than the K in “kangaroo.”  Teach your children to identify patterns in the different phonetic sounds they encounter. Often, a letter’s “sound” or pronounciation changes based on what comes after and whether it’s a vowel or a consonant and on how that letter is used within the framework. 

The more practice your child has with understanding the sounds of letters and, eventually, words, and how they can change, the greater their understanding of reading will be.

Focus on Proper Spelling

Many parents make the mistake of not putting much emphasis on proper spelling. Their thinking is that if a child can read and pronounce a word correctly, that’s the most important thing.

And, while correct pronunciation is a good thing, it needs to go hand-in-hand with proper spelling. A child who can spell, not just say, a word correctly is a child with a deeper understanding of language and phonetics. 

This is not to say that you have to drill your child on tough spelling rules like “I before E except after C . . ,.” but you should take care to show them why certain words are spelled the way they are. Why, for example, isn’t “Colonel” pronounced the way it’s spelled? Well, it’s because it has French origins.

Understanding and Teaching Foundational Reading Skills

While your child might be a long way off from understanding word origins and how they affect pronunciation, you could still teach them that this is a “special case” word. Other “special case” words might change based on how the letters are strung together, the vowel structure, or various other factors.

When you teach and emphasize correct spelling, you engrain in your child those unique oddities of the English language that can help them to become more proficient readers and spellers. And, when children learn how to spell even tough words properly, they learn how spelling, language, and reading are all connected, giving them a deeper understanding of this skill.

Anytime your child makes a spelling mistake, take it as an opportunity to dissect the word, discuss why it’s spelled differently than they thought, and other circumstances in which the same rule may apply. It will make a world of difference.

Read Out Loud Often

In addition to enforcing and encouraging these skills, do not underestimate the vast importance of reading with your child. Allow your child to pick out age and reading level appropriate books that they want to read. While you might not love every story they choose, allowing a little choice is a wonderful way to make reading something that is fun and enjoyable, rather than something that feels like a chore.

With books on hand, set aside time to read together each day. Read aloud, stopping every so often to ask your child to repeat a new word or to talk about how it is spelled and/or how it sounds and why.

And, in addition to you reading out loud, ask your child to read a book to you each day. This is the perfect opportunity to see what specific things your child is doing well, where your child is struggling, and what you need to focus on to see improvement.

Keep at It

Now that you understand a bit more about the foundational reading skills, the main thing is to keep at it. Keep enforcing your lessons. Keep reading. Find and take every opportunity possible to talk about words and language. Work with your child, and encourage your child, and the payoff should be major for both of you.

Utilize Available Resources

If you’re finding all of these tasks a bit overwhelming, don’t panic! You don’t have to teach your child to read all on your own. Eventually, your little one will go off to school, if they haven’t already, and will have the support and help of teachers.

And, for even more support, there are great reading programs available. Readability Tutor is a prime example of just such a resource. With this great reading program, your child will learn and benefit from advanced speech recognition, artificial intelligence capabilities that provide real-time guidance as your child reads, and a carefully-selected library of engaging, interactive reading material.

To learn more about Readability and how it can benefit you and your child, contact us today or download our app. You won’t be disappointed!