“The cat is big. The dog is big. The man is big.” Would you only want to read books that boring? Well, many prep students have been sent home with books containing dull, repetitive and predictable text like this. Speech pathologist Alison Clarke points out the problem: “There’s often an impression that a child is reading when they are actually just memorising words.”
So, what should we give children to build early literacy (reading and writing) skills? You may have heard the words ‘phonics’ and ‘decodable’. Pay attention because phonics is fundamental to classroom success. A phonics approach (such as Letterland) teaches children the relationship between letters (what we read and write) and sounds (what we say and hear). For example, the letter ‘c’ makes the “sss” sound and the “k” sound (circus) and the letter ‘x’ makes the “ks” sound.
A decodable book (such as a Fitzroy Reader) focusses on a small number of sounds and spelling patterns (eg. ‘-ip’ word endings, as in ‘dip’ and ‘pip’). Learning to recognise patterns of letters and sounds empowers children to read fluently and spell words logically. That’s why it’s crucial to read rhyming books and sing rhyming songs to your children – when you read Dr Seuss’ ‘The Cat in the Hat’ together and point out that ‘cat’ and ‘hat’ rhyme and “They sound almost the same!”, you draw your child’s attention to the identical word ending. When your child comes across ‘sat’ and ‘mat’, she will be able to decode them as ‘s-at’ and ‘m-at’, rather than having to sound out each letter (‘s-a-t’). She will also have an idea of how to say the words correctly. A Victorian dyslexia advocacy group says that decodable books help all students, not just those with dyslexia.
However, phonics is only part of the picture. Children need you to read them children’s literature to expose them to engaging stories, new vocabulary and ideas, a range of sentence structures and different styles of storytelling. Try award-winning books from Speech Pathology Australia’s Book of the Year 2018!
When to Seek Help
Seek help early, don’t wait and see! Well-meaning family and friends may tell you not to worry but you are the expert on your child. If you have any concerns at all about your child’s speech and language development, call us on 9899 5494!