Learning to Read
Although understanding literature is paramount, gaining good comprehension skills can only be achieved through mastering fluency. This is why at The British School of Brasilia we endeavour to support pupils in gaining these skills as early as possible. Everyday, pupils are given opportunities to learn and practise their phonics which develops into daily guided reading sessions.
Parent’s can play a pivotal role in helping their children to read at home, but is it important to remember that they benefit from plenty of praise and encouragement whilst learning. It is recommended that you are guided by the pace at which your child wants to go. If your child loses interest or is distracted, leave the learning for a while and then come back to it later. Remember: not all children find it easy to learn and blend sounds but regular practise will lead to success and fluency in reading and writing.
Learning the letter sounds
Children should learn each letter by it’s sound, not its name. For example, the letter a should be called a (as in ant) not ai (as in aim). Similarly, the letter n should be nnn (as in net), not en. This will help in blending. The names of each letter can follow later.
At BSB, we follow a phonics scheme called Read, Write Inc. There are 44 main speech sounds (phonemes) in English, not just the 26 letters of the alphabet. Letter sounds are taught according to how frequently they occur in high frequency vocabulary and therefore they are not introduced in alphabetical order. The first group (m, a, s, d, t) has been chosen because they make more simple three-letter words than any other five letters. The letters b and d are introduced in different groups to avoid confusion.
These sounds (set 1) are taught in the following order:
m, a, s, d, t
i, n, p, g, o
c, k, u, b
f, e,l , h, sh, r
th, z, ch, qu, x, ng, nk
The children are taught to recognise whether a sound is long or short (stretchy or bouncy) For example when saying a, the children make a short sound: a-a-a-a while bouncing their hand up and down. When saying s, the sound is continuous: ssssssss and accompanied by the stretching action.
Set 2 sounds are written with two letters, such as ee and or. These are called digraphs. Some digraphs can make two different sounds, for example: oo - in book it is pronounced as a hard ‘u’ sound and moon it is different. To distinguish between these two sounds, the digraph is represented in two forms.
The sounds taught in set 2 are as follows:
ay, ee, igh, ow
oo, oo, ar, or
air, ir, ou, oy
Sounds that have more than one way of being written are initially taught in one form only. For example, the sound ai (rain) is taught first (set 2), and then alternatives a-e (gate) and ay (day) follow later (set 3).
The sounds taught in set 3 are as follows:
ea, oi, a-e, i-e, o-e, u-e
aw, are, ur, er
ow, ai, oa, ew, ire
ear, ure, cious, tion
Blending is the process of saying the individual sounds in a word and then running them together to make the word. For example, sounding out d-o-g and making dog. It is a technique every child will need to learn, and it improves with practise.
To start with you should sound out the word and see if a child can hear it, giving the answer if necessary. Some children take longer than others to hear this. The sounds must be said quickly to hear the word. It is easier if the first sound is said slightly louder. Try little and often with words like b-u-s making bus, t-o-p making top, c-a-t making cat and sh-e-d making shed.
Remember that some sounds are represented by two (digraphs) or three (trigraphs) letters, such as sh or igh. Children should sound out the digraph (sh), not the individual letters (s-h).
With practise they will be able to blend the digraph as one sound in a word. So, a word like rain should be sounded out r-ai-n, and night as n-igh-t. This is difficult to begin with and takes regular practise to master.
When children wants to read, a great way to decide if a book is too hard or too easy for them is to use the five finger rule. First take a book and turn to the second page and ask your child to read aloud. Then use the following guide to help make your decision. If they make;
0 - 1 mistake - the book is probably too easy
2 - 3 mistakes - the book is good
4 mistakes - a challenge, but why not give it a go!
5 or more mistakes - the book is too hard, at the moment.
Reading for Fun
Once your child is motivated and confident with a few letter sounds, you will notice that they are doing actions to letter sounds, singing letter sound songs, playing letter sound games, identifying letter sounds in words you say and signs and labels they see. They will be motivated and excited to demonstrate their ability to read. Encouraging them to have a go at both reading and writing will enable them to grow in confidence and become successful readers very soon.
By far, one of the most effect ways to foster a love of reading within children is for adults to model reading on a regular basis, even if you’re not reading to them. If they are still reluctant to read, try to find engaging ways to bring books to life, for example, through the use of character voices, role play or puppets.
It is recommended that you take turns in choosing a range of fiction and non-fiction material and try to have conversations about what you have read to help children form opinions. These don’t always have to be positive!
Helping a child to read is broadening their imagination and understanding of the world around them. It is their gateway to successful learning and will significantly help to develop their language and literacy skills. Furthermore, reading is a way for children to escape and relax their minds when at times life can be stressful. Teachers and parents working together better supports this process and ensure greater outcomes for individuals.