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Look Mom - I Can Read!


By: Theresa Simons
educator/co-author of the Multicultural Teaching Kit for Parents

Some of the most exciting words to come from your child’s mouth can also be the most frustrating to some parents. Many parents are alarmed to find their child has memorized a book and is “simply” retelling the story exactly as heard. When your child claims to know how to read, and then can’t identify a particular word, you may feel that the educational system is at fault. Knowing the steps children go through will help you identify your child’s efforts to learn. Educators use activities that help children make those sound-letter relationships. Most parents remember Phonics. We learned letters, worked up to word families (like at, cat, sat or an, man, can) and whole words and then finally, sentences. Kids are now exposed to exciting phrases or stories to get them interested in reading, and then the child is brought back to specifics like beginning sounds, vowels, blends and word families.

STEP 1: ENVIRONMENTAL PRINT

Environmental print is a fancy term that refers to text that we see all around us. This includes food
packaging (like cereal boxes), signs, billboards, flyers, graffiti, etc. Nicholas knows where McDonald’s is as he recognizes the form and colour of the arches. Petra recognizes a new cereal in a store from ads she’s seen on TV. This is the first stage of reading — recognizing differences in form and colour!

STEP 2: LEARNING TO RECOGNIZE THEIR NAME

Children learn the basic form of the letters in their name. If you write their name in capitals or with lower case letters, your child will recognize that particular form. Your child will recognize their name in different colours as well as different shapes when you expose them to these differences. Through exposure and printing their name, children become more familiar with the form of each letter.

STEP 3: BEGINNING SOUNDS

Children begin to understand that the beginning letter of their name has a special sound that can be heard in other words. They begin to discriminate between different sounds and will point out words that have the same sound as their name. Play this game: think of all the words that have the same beginning sound as your child’s name (or another family member or friend). Another game: while unpacking groceries, ask your child to take out the food that begins with a specific sound (e.g. “T” sound — the child finds a tuna can, a “P” sound — the child finds potatoes, etc.).

Between Steps 3 and 4 you will see children memorizing text of their favourite books. Don’t worry, your child isn’t cheating! The process where children memorize stories, rhymes or poetry is very beneficial and should not be discouraged. Children who have memorized a book, have accomplished a great deal. These children are learning the power of words and are on their way to making the connection between the spoken and written word. They WILL learn the structure of the words (so they can “decode” the text without help). Choosing appropriate materials is important as you don’t want your child to become frustrated. Simple text that is familiar is best. Read a book and then let your child read it after.

Every child wants to learn: every child has a special interest. Parents are the ones who know their child’s passions and can combine their child’s interests with the necessary skills of reading.

(Part 1)

This is the first of a two part series which reveal six steps children master when learning to read. Look for the last steps in Part 2 in the next issue of REAL KIDS! of Oxford County.

......Watch for Part 2 in next issue.
(copyright 1997, Theresa Simons)

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