Reading Basics  

Phonemic Awareness, Alphabetics and Sight Words

Reading is based on the working knowledge that letters represent sounds and that groups of letters represent the sounds of words. The ability to break down words into sounds is known as Phonemic Awareness in the teaching profession. It has nothing to do with the meaning of words only the sound of words. Phonemic Awareness is more important in learning to read than any other measure of intelligence.

BatHow do you know if your child is phonemically aware? First you can see if they are able to rhyme words. Give an example like, "Cat rhymes with bat." Ask what else rhymes with cat and bat. If they need help, ask them to make a choice. For instance, "Which word rhymes with cat: cow or rat?" Just try to get a feeling for rhyming skill. Then move on to beginning sounds. Say a word like dog. Then stretch out the sounds and emphasize the sound of each letter. Ask your child to drop the first sound and say the remaining sounds of the word. In the case of dog, this would be the sound of "og." Show them how it is done and then ask them to do it. Finally, you can try the same thing with ending sounds.

If your child has difficulty with rhyming and beginning or ending sounds, the following index of activities can be helpful. These are not drills, just language play. Make it fun and make it interesting. When needed, give plenty of examples so the object of the lesson is clear.  Click on the links in the Help column for lists of books, tapes and games.


Activities that Teach Phonemic Awareness


Story Read stories that are rich in rhymes and alliteration. Nursery rhymes
and books like those written by Dr. Suess are both fun and useful.

Library books

Song Many children's songs are also rich in rhyme and alliteration like
"There was an old woman that swallowed a fly..."

Library tapes

Game Make games out of sounds. For instance, "How many words can
you make that start with the "b" sound?"

Game ideas

After learning to work with sounds, the next step is associating sounds with letter symbols. This is called Alphabetics. No one can learn to read until they are comfortable with the letters of the alphabet. A good test of letter recognition uses a sheet of paper with the letters of the alphabet written in random order.  [click for example]  Ask your child to say each letter in turn and to associate it with a word that starts with the letter. For instance, "a" is for "apple". If your child has trouble with some letters, mark them for future practice. The following index of activities will strengthen alphabetic skills.  Click the links in the Help column for all the details.


Activities that Teach Alphabetics


Story Read to your child every day. Your public library is a great place to
visit regularly to stock up on alphabet and other books.

Library books

Song Make sure your child knows the "Alphabet Song" and becomes
familiar with the names of the letters. Many good songs are on tape.

Library tapes

Card Make flash cards with a letter on one side (upper and lower case)
and a simple word that begins with the letter on the back.

Flash cards

Page Have your child make letter pages. At the top, paste a letter in
both upper and lower case. Then find magazine pictures of the
objects that start with that letter. Cut out and paste them on the
page. Pictures of friends or pets can make it even more fun.

Page letters

Some words are used over and over in everyday reading. These are structural words like "it", "the" or "and". We call these Sight Words because a good reader recognizes them on sight. It is estimated that just the most common 25 sight words make up 25% of every book. If your child can learn these few words, reading will be much easier. It is best to practice sight words by rote memory or in simple sentences. Definitions are difficult since most are so fundamental. An expanded list of common words was compliled by Edward Dolch from children's books. Dolch words are divided into 220 service words ( non-nouns ) and 95 nouns. The table below has help links to pages listing all of these sight words from the 25 most common to Dolch words not included in the most common list. After learning the alphabet and its sounds, learning to recognize sight words is your most important reading task. Start with the Most Common Words and build from there as your child becomes comfortable.


Lists of Common Sight Words


Most Common The most common 25 sight words with helping sentences.

Sight Words

Kindergarten Modified Dolch sight words for kindergarten level.

Dolch K

First Grade Modified Dolch sight words for grade level 1.

Dolch 1

Second Grade Modified Dolch sight words for grade level 2.

Dolch 2

Third Grade Modified Dolch sight words for grade level 3.

Dolch 3

Dolch Nouns List of Dolch nouns to use for practice after the words
are taught as part of the Phonics Lesson Worksheets.

Dolch Nouns

After your child has become skilled with sounds, letters and sight words, it is time for phonics. Phonics is just the set of rules that allow letter combinations to be decoded into word sounds. Unfortunately, English is a rich language built from many cultures over the centuries. So, there are a lot of rules, 103 to be exact. Don't let this number scare you. Phonics is taught over several years. And your child may already know quite a bit. That is why we have designed tests for phonics skills that allow you to pinpoint what needs work and what doesn't. Print the tests and evaluate your child. Then print worksheets for those skills that need reinforcement. Take it easy; a single sheet a night can make a big difference. If your child has significant learning problems, you may wish to review the Learning Disability pages. These pages give a general overview of learning difficulties and they discuss diet, food allergy, preservatives, vitamins, supplements, prescription drugs and helpful strategies. If you find this website constructive and would like to help, consider placing a link to on your Facebook or Webpage. We welcome your comments and suggestions.

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