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Beginning To Read: Kindergarten And Primary Grades

Formal reading instruction begins when a child is introduced to the letters in the alphabet. This typically occurs in kindergarten or the primary grades of elementary school. Children must learn that the written word is made up of letters that are symbols for the sounds they hear. Children must match those known sounds with letters. To help children match the sounds that they hear to letters, they need opportunities to use different literacy tools such as writing lists, making signs in block building, writing notes, and using icons and words when exploring computer games.

Children's writing experiences should allow the flexibility to use nonconventional forms of writing at first, what is called inventive spelling. These spelling attempts show where they are developmentally in their reading. Children go from hearing the beginning sound, then the ending sound, before they begin to look at letters in the middle of a word. If they attempt to spell the word "jump" with a "j," they are looking at the beginning letter of a word when they read. If they spell "jump" with "jp," that would indicate that they are looking at both the beginning and ending letters of words when they read. When children look at both the beginning and ending sounds, they are then ready to look at the letters in the middle of the word. At this point children would spell "jump" either "jup" or "jop." To help children look at the entire word, they should be encouraged to stretch out the sounds they hear: "j-u-m-p."

In this beginning stage of reading, children "read" from matching what they hear to letters in the word. Having the children stretch out the word "jump" to hear the individual sounds will help them realize that there are four different sounds. When they can hear and identify those four different sounds they will be able to read and write "jump" with conventional spelling. Once children understand this letter sound match, they should be encouraged to write on their own as the next step in their literacy development.

In addition to being read to, children need to be encouraged to read independently. In the early stages of learning, children depend on illustrations to help them read a story. Before having a child read, have him look at and discuss what he sees in the pictures. This process, known as a picture walk, helps the child gather words he needs to read the story and is also an opportunity to teach any unfamiliar vocabulary found in the book. For example, while doing a picture walk the child tells you he sees a crocodile but the word on the page is "alligator." A parent would tell the child, "yes that does look like a crocodile, but it is really an alligator." When the child is reading the book and he comes to the word "alligator," he will be able to read the word successfully because of the discussion during the picture walk.

As children master high frequency words, they begin to look at words in chunks or parts (st-amp, float, gl-ad). They will start to recognize common blends (st, pl, br) and digraphs (ew, ar, ou). To become independent readers, children need to know several strategies to help them decode an unknown word. These strategies include: using the picture, sounding out the word, looking for sound chunks in a word, rereading the sentence, skipping the word, and thinking about the story.

During this early reading stage, it is very important that children continue to be read to. They need to be read meaningful stories and informational stories daily to continue to build vocabulary meanings of unknown words.

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 6Reading - The Emergent Reader: The Infant And Toddler Years, Precursors To Reading: The Preschool Years