Teaching Letters and Sounds

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Teaching Letters and Sounds

Ever wonder why so many toys and books for young children have the letters of the alphabet somehow included in them?  ‘A’ is for ‘Apple’, ‘B’ is for ‘Bee’, ‘C’ for cat and so on.

Turns out, there’s a very good developmental reason behind this.

Children's knowledge of letter names and recognition of letters is a strong predictor of their success in learning to read. Not knowing letter names is related to children's difficulty in learning letter sounds and in recognizing words.

Put simply, if children don’t know the alphabet letters and sounds, they can’t begin to read.

Here is a summary of what you should know when teaching a child:

  • First, children learn letter names (e.g. by singing songs including the “alphabet song”).
  • Then, children learn to ‘recognize’ letters which is what is happening when you say ‘point to A’.
  • Next, they can ‘recall’ letters on their own, by picking up a letter and naming it.
  • Last, children learn letter sounds (i.e. ‘letter-sound correspondence’ so that the letter ‘S’ is the sound “sss”).

Order of Teaching Sounds

Research and experience shows children learn letter-sound relationships at different rates. An easier pace to keep is to teach your child 2-4 letter-sound relationships a week. Another thing to consider is to focus on teaching the sounds that are more frequent in english first, including s, p, m, h, a, and t.

Try not to teach sounds together that are easy to mix up visually (e.g. b and d), or ones that sound alike such as  ‘i’ and ‘e’.

What are you waiting for? Pull out those alphabet books, blocks, and games, or visit your local library for some fun. Subscribe for information straight to your inbox (bi-weekly).

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What on Earth is Print Awareness and Why Does it Matter to Me?

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What on Earth is Print Awareness and Why Does it Matter to Me?

To us, ‘print awareness’ comes naturally and we often take it for granted. But, to the 2-4 year old child you care for, print awareness is a new concept. It’s as new to them as self driving cars are to you.

Print awareness is the second step in my pre-kindergarten Reading Readiness System. It is the understanding that print is read from left to right and top to bottom. It is knowing that words consist of letters and that there are spaces between words. Those of us with fully developed print awareness understand that print has different functions depending on the context - signs, books, menus, labels on food products, etc. It’s surprising how much we use print, isn’t it?

Print awareness is an early and critical step in literacy and it doesn’t just magically appear in a child’s life. Your child’s performance on print awareness tasks is actually a very reliable predictor of his/her future reading achievement.

Here are easy tips that parents and educators can use to help children develop this crucial skill:

You can point out letters and words to your child when you come across it in your day to day activities.

When children participate in interactive reading with you, they learn about book handling, how to turn pages, and how to identify the front and back cover of the book. They also learn that a word on a page represents a spoken word. - That meaning is conveyed through written words.

The beauty of print awareness is that it is never too early to introduce it to the children you care for. Starting now means planting seeds for the future success of your child. Talk about good karma!

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How Do I Motivate My Child to Read?

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How Do I Motivate My Child to Read?

Well, why does anyone do anything? Why do you get out of bed in the morning, go to work, or tend to your family responsibilities? The question, "How do I motivate my child to read?" is often asked by parents once the child is expected to read in school. 

Instead, the first step in my pre-kindergarten Reading Readiness System is all about motivation. It is the child’s interest in reading that sets the stage for his or her success as a reader for a lifetime. In order to understand how motivation influences behaviour, it’s worth touching on the different types of motivation and how they work.

Cue lights, cue projector, ahem.

Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to complete a task to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Like when you study hard because you want to bring home a great report card and receive praise from your parents.

Intrinsic motivation occurs when we perform the activity for its own sake, because the act alone is personally enjoyable or rewarding; an example would be solving a crossword puzzle because you find the challenge fun and exciting.

So, which one is better?

Well, some studies have shown that offering excessive rewards for something that’s already internally motivating can lead to a reduction in intrinsic motivation (called the ‘overjustification effect’). For instance, if children are rewarded for playing with a toy they are already interested in, they will become less interested in the toy after they are externally rewarded.

While intrinsic motivation is often seen as the ideal, both extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation are important ways of driving behavior.

My advice for a DIY takeaway is to observe and discover what approach is right to take with your child based on his/her unique self when it comes to reading. Discovering the right motivations and rewarding the right behaviours is instilling within your child a true interest in reading. And this, of course, should be the first step to reading readiness. 

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Think About This the Next Time You Read to Your Child

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Think About This the Next Time You Read to Your Child

This Easter, you’re probably looking forward to hunting for eggs, spending time with family, watching the kids run around for chocolate, and - well, dealing with the sugar high that follows. Tired at the end of the day, you’ll likely find yourself trying to put your kids to sleep using toys, bedtimes stories, or whatever else might work, including bribes from the Easter Bunny.

Whichever method works best for your family, there is a little known but very important impact bedtime stories have on a child’s development.  And so, every time you read to your child, I want you to think of this.

Once upon a time, there was a prominent study that looked at why children enter school with different levels of skill in language and learning - even before any formal education.

Well it turns out, not only are language skills foundational to children being ready to learn (aka ‘school readiness’), but it also affects language growth, cognitive development, literacy, and academic achievement down the road.

So, what is the crucial part of parenting that is critical to a child’s early language and learning?

One of the most important aspects of parenting that influences a young child’s language and learning skills is early and consistent learning activities, including:

  • Shared book reading
  • Storytelling
  • Teaching the letters of the alphabet

There you have it. The next time you read that bedtime story with your child, know that you are doing more than just trying to settle her down to sleep after a whole day of eating chocolate. Think about how you are actually setting the stage for her growth, her achievement, and ultimately her success and opportunities in life. And knowing that you are doing a fabulous job, go ahead and indulge in your own fair share of chocolate this weekend. You deserve it!

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What Parents Are Often Surprised to Learn

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What Parents Are Often Surprised to Learn

Parents often come to me with a problem, sometimes it’s the #1 thing on their mind. Their 8 year old can’t say the ‘r’ sound, they’re not sure if their 2 year old is speaking enough, or they’re biting nails over whether their 4 year old will be ready for kindergarten. So, they come to me to help their kids talk.

But did you know that children with a history of preschool speech/language problems are also more likely to have difficulty with reading/writing as they grow up? In fact, research has shown a correlation between low speech and language scores of 4 ½ year olds and poor reading test scores as they get older.

Check out the article here: Preschool speech, language skills, and reading at 7, 9, and 10 years: etiology of the relationship.

The parents I work with often recognize the challenges their child is having with reading & writing early on. This becomes more apparent throughout the primary school years and sometimes it’s hard to know where to turn for help outside of the school system and its resources. So, who can they turn to?

The answer is one parents are often surprised to learn. Reading skills are closely linked to a child’s ability to recognize sounds, understand language, and use language effectively. Meanwhile, writing skills are closely linked to a child’s ability to understand words, and thoughtfully use language to express themselves. So, if speech & language are at the root of developing reading & writing skills, it makes perfect sense that SLPs are uniquely suited to help with all of it. In fact, it’s what we do best.

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