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Ways to help at Home

Helpful information from readingrockets.org 

Below are two possible areas in reading children might have problems with, and a few ways to help at home:


Phonological awarenessis a broad skill that includes identifying and manipulating units of oral language – parts such as words, syllables, and onsets and rimes. Children who have phonological awareness are able to identify and make oral rhymes, can clap out the number of syllables in a word, and can recognize words with the same initial sounds like money and mother.

Phonemic awarenessrefers to the specific ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Phonemes are the smallest units comprising spoken language. Phonemes combine to form syllables and words. 

The good news is that phonemic awareness and phonological awareness can be developed through a number of activities.


Here are some clues for parents that a child may have problems with phonological or phonemic awareness:

She has difficulty thinking of rhyming words for a simple word like cat (such as rat or bat).

He doesn't show interest in language play, word games, or rhyming.


What parents can do to help at home

Check with your child's teacher or principal to make sure the school's reading program teaches phonological, phonemic awareness, and phonics skills.

If your child is past the ages at which phonemic awareness and phonological skills are taught class-wide (usually kindergarten to first or second grade), make sure he or she is receiving one-on-one or small group instruction in these skills.

Do activities to help your child build sound skills (make sure they are short and fun; avoid allowing your child to get frustrated):

Help your child think of a number of words that start with the /m/ or /ch/ sound, or other beginning sounds.

Make up silly sentences with words that begin with the same sound, such as "Nobody was nice to Nancy's neighbor".

Play simple rhyming or blending games with your child, such as taking turns coming up with words that rhyme (go – no) or blending simple words (/d/, /o/, /g/ = dog).

Read books with rhymes. Teach your child rhymes, short poems, and songs.

Practice the alphabet by pointing out letters wherever you see them and by reading alphabet books.

Consider using computer software that focuses on developing phonological and phonemic awareness skills. Many of these programs use colorful graphics and animation that keep young children engaged and motivated.


Word Decoding and Phonics

Decoding is the ability to apply your knowledge of letter-sound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns, to correctly pronounce written words. Understanding these relationships gives children the ability to recognize familiar words quickly and to figure out words they haven't seen before. Although children may sometimes figure out some of these relationships on their own, most children benefit from explicit instruction in this area. Phonics is one approach to reading instruction that teaches students the principles of letter-sound relationships, how to sound out words, and exceptions to the principles.


Your child might express their reading frustrations by saying

  • I just seem to get stuck when I try to read a lot of the words in this chapter.
  • Figuring out the words takes so much of my energy, I can't even think about what it means.
  • I don't know how to sound out these words.
  • I know my letters and sounds, but I just can't read words on a page.

What parents can do to help at home

For a younger reader, help your child learn the letters and sounds of the alphabet. Occasionally point to letters and ask your child to name them.

Help your child make connections between what he or she might see on a sign or in the newspaper and the letter and sound work he or she is doing in school.

Encourage your child to write and spell notes, e-mails, and letters using what he knows about sounds and letters.

Talk with your child about the "irregular" words that she'll often see in what she's reading. These are the words that don't follow the usual letter-sound rules. These words include said, are, and was. Students must learn to recognize them "at sight."

Consider using computer software that focuses on developing phonics and emergent literacy skills. Some software programs are designed to support children in their writing efforts. For example, some programs encourage kids to construct sentences and then cartoon characters will act out the completed sentence. Other software programs provide practice with long and short vowel sounds and creating compound words.

The two reading problems described above and a few  possible ways to address them at home are explained in detail on the readingrockets.org website. Reading struggles can be addressed and great advances made. Being aware of available resources is a helpful tool for parents. Check out our links page!