Part 2: The Making of a Good Reader!

In Part 1 we talked about from birth to age 4. Now we are focusing on 3 years of age to seven. Remember, phonemic awareness is the foundation of reading. It is our understanding of sound structures. These structures are present in the words we say when reading sentences or talking to the individual sounds we read to form those words.

There are “expected” age ranges for each step of the phonemic learning processes. Remember, every child is different, so some may jump through the stages with ease and others may need a boost. If you believe your child may be “stuck” on a stage or needs a boost, we are here for you. We are ready to talk about your child and help address those concerns.

Step 4: 3 to 5 years

At this age, your child’s awareness of wordplay is so keen so they may misunderstand your explanations. For example, saying, “That’s good” when they shut a door for you could mean “stop” to you, but they may take it as words of encouragement. Don’t worry, they are trying to find reasons and meanings of words on their own. Ways to continue developing word meanings and language is to have your child tell someone else the explanations you give; or play out a scenario with them.

At about 4 years old your child is starting to split words into syllables, the rhythmic beat of the word. Counting spoken syllables is easy because it is organized around the vowel sounds and your jaw naturally drops when saying vowels. Place your hand on your jaw. Now say “dog”. Did you feel your jaw drop once? That was one syllable. Children love clapping out the syllables or stretching their hands out like they are pulling on bubble gum. If your child is really active, like my son, have them jump out the syllables like they are splashing in puddles. When you do this activity with your child, say the words at regular speed. Slowing it down can make it difficult to hear the syllables. This step is important for later reading and spelling skills.

Step 5: 4 to 5 years

Time for onset and rime! What are those and what do they even mean? These are the smaller units of sound within a syllable. The “onset” is the initial sound(s) and it is followed by the “rime”. The rime is always starting with a vowel sound and any following consonant. For instance, the onset of pig the first sound of the word, /p/, whereas the onset of stop is /st/. Knowing and recognizing rime patterns (stop, top, pop, drop) helps with decoding and spelling strategies when your child starts reading.

Step 6: 4 to 6 years

CVC word time! It’s time to start writing consonant-vowel-consonant words (cat, dog, sit, sun). Focus on the first sound. Then help your child listen and identify the last sound in a CVC word, “t” in pat. Then move to the medial sound “a” in pat.

Once your child can identify the CVC sounds, play with words through oral segmentation. I bet you are already doing this and don’t even know it. Go you! Take turns going with an initial sound, ship/shop/chef/shelf/ship, shave. Once your child is a rockstar with CVC, move to CCVC words, like the examples above.

Step 7: 5 to 7 years

Keep talking with your children and engaging them in conversations. They can’t write what they are thinking if they aren’t able to tell you able it. Now we are at phoneme substitution and deletion. Start by substituting the first sound. For instance, “say pat. Now change the /p/ to a /s/. Sat” After they master that, move to ending sound and then medial.

For deleting sounds, follow the same order, first, last, middle. “Say start, now say start without saying /s/. Tart”.

Some children need to skip to step 8 and then come back to 7. Just keep in mind that having steps 1-6 is very important to have under their belts before entering Kindergarten. The abilities in these steps are strong predictors of reading success.

How’s your child progressing through these steps? Are they stellar or are you seeing some areas of struggle?

Stay tuned for Part 3 (the last stages) and let us know your thoughts!


–Lindsey Binford, M. Ed

Educational Diagnostician


Part 3: The Making of a Good Reader!

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