Monday, December 12

Help Your Child Learn to Read

When it comes to reading, my biggest piece of advice as both a teacher and a mom would be this: make reading as enjoyable as possible for your child. Start at an early age and help your child to associate books with cuddles and love from a caregiver. As soon as they are old enough, allow them to start choosing reading material (yes, even the same books over and over) in addition to new titles you want to share. Trips to the library or book store can be fun outings, and conversations about stories and characters show your child the value of what they read - because you think it's important enough to talk about!

That said, the time comes for every child (and will be different for each one) when they can begin to learn to read for themselves. It might surprise you to know that there's a lot more to it than letters and sounds - and many ways to continue the fun (even orally) as your child begins to build the necessary skills.

Today, Ruth Rumack (entrepreneur, veteran educator and creator of The Alpha-Mania Adventure Series) shares insights about the different components of reading, and how you can support your children at home.


When it comes to learning to read, it’s important to identify the “Big 5” essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.

  1. Phonemic Awareness                                   

Phonemic awareness is the understanding that words can be broken apart into individual sounds (phonemes). It is important to note that phonemic awareness is an auditory skill; children do not need to know letter shapes and sounds (phonics) to develop basic phonemic awareness.
Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of future reading and spelling success. In order to develop phonemic awareness, several skills must be mastered, including rhyming, blending, alliteration, segmenting, and sound manipulation.

To help a child learn rhyming, use books and games that emphasize rhyme. For example, ask your child, “Which words sound the same at the end: sit, back, hit?” With picture cards, have your child match pictures of objects that rhyme.

Blending involves listening to a sequence of separate word parts or phonemes, and combining them to form a word. For example, stretch the sounds in the word sun. Say sss…uuu…nnn, and then have your child blend the sounds together to say the word as a whole, sun. Practicing blending helps a child develop an understanding that words are made up of individual phonemes, a crucial component in learning how to decode, or “sound out” words when reading.

Segmenting is the opposite of blending. For example, say a word aloud, bus, and ask your child to say the word back to you one sound at a time: /b/…/u/…/s/.

To practice identifying alliteration, read stories with alliterative phrases and make note of the repeated sounds. For example, ask your child, “Which words have the same beginning sound: bed, box, kite?”

Manipulating sounds within words involves deleting a sound from a word, or substituting a sound in a word. To practice deleting a sound from a word, ask your child, “What’s fish without the /f/?” Your child would then answer, “ish”. To practice substituting a sound in a word, ask your child, “Change the first sound in rake to a /l/. What’s the new word?” Your child would then answer, “lake.”

{Ruth's book series focuses on the Big 5 components discussed here}

2.                  Phonics

Phonics is the understanding that letter symbols represent sounds. It is also referred to as letter-sound correspondence. Magnetic letters and foam letters are great for identifying sounds and building words. Children must understand that specific symbols (letters) match certain sounds (“This letter is a T, it makes the sound /t/”.)

3.                  Vocabulary

Vocabulary is necessary for comprehension. It’s important to ask a reader to determine the meaning of a word as used in the context of the story. Children should be taught word-learning strategies, such as how to look up words in a dictionary, or how to determine a word’s meaning based on its roots.

4.                  Fluency

Fluency is the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. It is an essential, but often neglected, component of reading.

The most effective approach to improving a child’s fluency is repeated oral reading practice. This might include reading the same story aloud multiple times, practicing lines from a play or reader’s theater, or guided reading instruction in a classroom.

5.                  Comprehension

Comprehension refers to a rich understanding of the meaning of the reading passage. This includes being able to answer the who, what, where, when and why questions of the text, predicting what might happen next, and summarizing the main idea or message.

Following this list in order will create a confident reader. And remember, it should be fun! Use long car rides to practice blending and segmenting skills, and read Dr. Seuss for some rhyming fun. Happy Reading!

{I love how Ruth mentions Dr. Seuss - we just had a wonderful Trent University Teacher Candidate in the classroom, and he did a great series of mini-lessons on rhyme using Dr. Seuss books. The kids really enjoyed it, and have a much stronger sense of rhyme!}

Ruth Rumack is the founder of Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space and the creator of The Alpha-Mania Adventures Series, now available on Amazon,, and Ruth Rumack's Learning Space. For more information, connect with Rumack on her website and the series' site, as well as Rumack's Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.