Developing a Foundation for Reading

By Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D
Modified from Overcoming Dyslexia

Early good practices enrich learning and develop a foundation for later reading. Try these reading-readiness steps to engage your child. Have fun with them. Make them into a game! Activities should be short and enjoyable so your child stays involved. When your child is paying attention, learning is happening.

  • Speak directly to your child. Speak slowly and clearly, pronouncing each sound very carefully; you want him to notice each word or word part you say.
  • Exaggerate sounds—for example, mmmman—and have him do the same when he repeats back to you.
  • Read to your child daily. Choose high-interest books. Click here for some book suggestions.
  • Don’t shy away from speaking with a rich vocabulary and even making learning new words a game. It will help your child build her vocabulary, and word recognition, too.
  • Play rhyming games. Example: Have her pick objects that rhyme with a common word, such as selecting a shoe for a word that rhymes with “two.”
  • Make up your own jingles, rhymes, or silly stories to highlight a particular sound, or even sing a song together. Funny and visually absurd rhymes and alliterations often work best in making a sound more salient to the child. To highlight the “ssss” sound, for example, sing with her, “Sally sells seashells at the seashore.”
  • Use concrete objects (blocks or coins) to represent the sounds in words. Your child should indicate how many sounds he hears in a word by the number of coins (or blocks) he places on the table. For example, for the two-phoneme word zoo, he would say each sound (“zzzz” “oo”) as he lays out first one and then a second coin.
    (See illustration below.)

    Illustration (c) Overcoming Dyslexia. Shaywitz, S.E. 2003

    Helping Your Child Count Phonemes in Words
    As your child pronounces each sound in a word, such as “zoo,” he puts coins in the center of the table.

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