Teaching your child to read can be challenging, time-consuming but also rewarding and lots of fun. In order to get your child motivated and ready to learn to read you may need some pointers to get off to that good start. The pronunciation of English is difficult as it is not a totally phonetic language. There are phonetically spelt words and sight words which are not phonetic This pronunciation is so complex that even simple words that are common in the English language such as 'said', 'the' and 'he'. The use of simple phonics would not result in the correct reading of the word.
This is the point that children start to learn sight words. Learning common words on sight, recognising the whole word and reading it as one rather than trying to blend the sounds together from the individual phonemes. The sight words can be taught specifically and learnt through frequent use while an adult helps them. Obviously children use more than just these two methods to help them to learn to read. They need to be combined with reading cues which are similar to clues for kids. Other cues include the pictures in a book, the other words in the text and the expectation that the words themselves should make sense. For example if there is a picture of an elephant on the page and the text reads 'I can see an elephant in the jungle.' 'I', 'see' and 'the' are words which are not read like their most common individual letter sounds just blended together, and so are likely to be some of the first few words children learn to read on sight. The words 'can' and 'in' may be easily sounded out by blending the individual letter sounds. The children may not yet have the skills to blend the word 'elephant' due to its length and the 'ph' making a '/f/' sound, but looking at the picture they will see the elephant, see the first letters are 'e' and 'l' and so 'guess' that the word does actually say 'elephant'. The word 'jungle' may be guessed at even if there is no jungle in the picture, as this is where the children will expect to see an elephant rather than in the 'jam' which would be nonsensical or 'jumping' which would not make sense grammatically.
With more and more experience of reading a myriad of books and texts, children usually increase the number of sight words they recognise immediately and naturally and therefore they become more fluent in their reading as they guess fewer and fewer words and then become competent adult readers.
Dani Torres is a teacher living and working in Spain and concentrates on the teaching of bilingual children the aspects needed to learn to read English. Dani Torres collaborates on the website Teach Your Child To Read and you can sign up for more details and a free course on helping to teach your child to read here