A Step at a Time
Many children struggle with their literacy skills - an estimated 25%. Some children will find both reading and spelling difficult, whilst others may only struggle with spelling.
Children struggle for different reasons. It is important to firstly rule out any obvious medical problems, for example poor eyesight or hearing. In particular, do check to see if your child is getting headaches, if they are complaining of text moving, if they are covering one eye to read or anything that makes you suspicious about how well their eyes are working.
In most schools around the world children are taught to read by mixed methods, although England changed their policy in 2007 to teach all children by synthetic phonics. The mixed method approach is a mixture of whole language and phonics (for more information about the types of phonics used please visit our 'The Different Types of Phonics' link).
You might decide to help your child using 'more of the same' or try a completely different approach like synthetic phonics. This choice is yours and if you are unsure at any stage of what to do, contact us for more advice.
Children Struggling with Reading and Spelling
The first step you might like to do is test your child and find out what their reading and spelling levels are. A free reading test (with instructions) can be found through the Reading Reform. The Schonell spelling test can also be downloaded through the Reading Reform.
The next step is to decide on the best method to help your child. This will depend on your financial position, time available and even your relationship with your child. Not every parent and child work well together!
If you do not have the money available for a tutor or it is your preference to teach your own child, you could:
* Purchase a remedial programme. Please see our 'Literacy Curriculums' page for a list of programmes.
* Or lastly, use your own or source resources to re-teach your child yourself as you see fit. This isn't as difficult as it might sound - we can provide you with ongoing support.
Firstly test your child's sound knowledge. Find out what sounds they do know and what sounds they don't. Then introduce the child to a new sound as often as they can cope with, but also revise their known sounds. Remember that it is better to do five or ten minutes a day, everyday than half an half once a week. A little and often will work better for both of you (and your relationship!).
Once you have introduced a new sound give the child practice at reading and/or spelling words containing that sound. For more information on teaching your child to segment to spell see our 'Learning to Spell' page. You will find information about teaching a child to blend to read to the left.
You can either use our worksheets, find a suitable free online game or even make up your own word lists containing their new sound (this website will help you make word lists). Remember only give the child words that contain sounds that they do know. Don't surprise them with words which contain alphabetic code knowledge which they simply don't have. You only want to introduce one sound at a time. You want it to be easy and rewarding.
Once the child knows most of the sounds and spellings of our language start finding some suitable books for them to read. If they come to a word which contains a sound/spelling that they have not yet covered simply explain the new sound and allow them to read the word as normal.
Remember to keep on revising the sounds even if you revise for years! It may sound silly, but there is no use in the child forgetting what you have explicitly taught them. It will take time for the knowledge to be locked in forever.
If you get stuck at any stage do contact us for support.
Children Reading Well, but Struggling with Spelling
For children who are having difficulty with spelling, the main problem is generally their lack of code knowledge. They haven't quite figured out how the language works. So they may remember that the word 'like' contains an 'l', an 'i' a 'k' and an 'e', but spell it jumbled up: lkie. Or alternatively, their spelling is just plain creative!
If you would like to, you can test them as directed above to give you a better idea of what they already know.
Your next mission will be finding the right resources to help teach your child the sounds and rules of the English language. No, really it won't be that bad! You just need to find the approach which works best for you and your child.
Have a look at our 'Literacy and Curriculums' page for suitable programmes, but you could also use the approach detailed above.
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If you are concerned about your child's literacy skills don't wait. The earlier the child is helped the better the outcome.
For a child that cannot seem to stop the urge to guess, trial a 'cursor'. A cursor is a small piece of cardboard that has its left hand corner cut out.
This cursor allows the teacher/parent to control how much of a word the child can see, therefore stopping the impulse to guess.
The adult should simply cover the word with the cardboard, leaving only the first sound in view. Once the child has voiced that sound the adult can move the cursor to the right to reveal the next sound and so on and so on until the word has been fully revealed.
What the kids say:
Learning To Blend to Read
When a child blends to read they are not relying on recognising the word by its shape, they will not be guessing. Instead the child will use their knowledge about the sounds of our language to work out the word.
To teach a child to blend can take some time. It pays to give the child lots of practice and lots and lots of support.
Teaching a Child
When the child comes to the word, say: 'cat' they should say each sound e.g. c-a-t and then blend the sounds together to form the word 'cat'. If they cannot hear the word get them to say the sounds again and again getting faster and faster until they blend.
It is important to remember to step in before they become frustrated. If they cannot hear the word after blending the sounds together a few times. Help them, say the sounds for them and get them to say the word.
There is no rush to perfect this skill.
A range of different games to help teach a child to blend will soon be uploaded onto our website. Keep a look out for them.