Steps your child will take to learn to read

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reading_homework_morneaushepell_socialmediaby  Houda Nasreddine

Literacy acquisition can be quite the challenge given the multitude of skills a child must first develop in order to learn how to read. The average child needs to first acquire phonological awareness, that is, learn the sounds that make up language. They need to be able to play with sound structures so as to become flexible enough to arrange and rearrange these so they become fluent and easy to retrieve from memory. Other skills that children need to learn include:

  • Letter-sound association; The acquisition of simple and complex sound structures;
  • Enriching vocabulary (understanding of words and their definitions);
  • Fluency (reading rate per minute) and Reading comprehension (understanding).

Steps your child will take to learn to read

Learning specialist Houda Nasreddine shares steps that your child will take to learn to read and acquire phonological awareness.

Reading is an especially important academic area, in that it is related to all educational subjects (writing, math, science, etc.), and prolonged delay in this area may lead children to reading delays which could affect other academic subjects. If reading delays are left untreated they lead to a diagnosis of reading disability. The significance of self-esteem levels and academic success become especially important when considering children with these difficulties. The problem is especially exacerbated when it is amalgamated with the factors related to living. This is particularly true given the academic difficulty and failure these children face on a day to day basis. This is also relevant because as soon as these children develop negative perceptions of themselves and low self-esteem these perceptions can be exceptionally hard to change, even if a child later achieves success. As such, it is increasingly important to find appropriate interventions which would help all children who have reading difficulties with their reading development and on the consequent impact it has on their level of self-esteem.

Phonological Awareness

One approach which has been shown to increase children’s literacy development is phonological awareness.  Phonological awareness is a pre-reading skill that young children acquire through social interactions. Weak early social stimulation is one of the most salient factors leading to poor phonological awareness outcome for children. This can be understood through the quantity and quality of verbal interactions. The quality of these interactions which might contribute towards weaker phonological awareness include: low levels of parental vocabulary, maternal or parental education, less open-ended question and more reprimands from parents. The quantity of verbal stimulation has been attributed to low level of maternal education and to low verbal stimulation (parents talk less to children). In fact, social deprivation has been shown to delay children’s development of both language and literacy.

These phonological awareness skills refer to one’s explicit knowledge of sound segments (phonemes) which comprise words. These factors relate to syllables, onset of sound, rhyme, and phoneme segmentation, letter sound, and letter name.


Three to five hours of phonics related tasks and exposure per week would create the most beneficial results. These tasks include:

  • Isolation (recognizing individual sound within words),
  • Identity (picking out the common sounds in different words),
  • Categorization (picking out the different sound in a group of words,
  • Blending (combining a sequence of separately pronounced sounds to make a known word),
  • Segmentation (breaking a word into its individual component sounds, often using tapping, counting, or positioning blocks or markers for each sound),
  • Deletion (recognizing the word that is left after removing a specific phoneme,
  • Onset rime manipulation (isolating, identifying, blending, or deleting the first sound that precedes the vowel of a syllable or rime).

What’s learned next?

After a child has mastered phonological awareness tasks they need to be introduced to:

  • Alphabetic knowledge (know the 26 different sounds that are associated with specific symbols),
  • Alphabetic principal (letter-sound association), and
  • Print knowledge (learning about book titles, authors, illustrators and all things related to print)

One can then introduce:

  • consonants (M, N, T, S, P) first;
  • short vowels (A, O, I ,U,E) second,
  • short and long blends third (Consonant/Vowel words & Consonant Vowel Consonant words);
  • Diagraphs (th, sh, ph) fourth; and,
  • inflectional endings (-ed, -es) prefixes (pre-,in-, un), and
  • suffixes (-fly, -ly) last

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