Reading for Sprogs (download available)

Last year, I realised that my daughter would probably not achieve native level use of English if I didn’t try something different. I work full-time, she speaks to her mother in Japanese and we simply can’t afford an international nursery or to fly to the UK for a holiday every year.

I resolved to give her the skills she will need to develop her language ability herself. I decided to teach her to read.

To that end, I made a simple worksheet (pictured above) that at first helped her to master the alphabet, and later became the basis for learning the phonic alphabet. Click the link to view the print and feel free to download and use it. Most of the images are from microsoft’s clip art selection, and the print is intended for home use only.

This print enabled me to make the largest single leap in her language ability since the first time we spent time in England.

We started using the print last autumn when she was three and a half. We began by using it to practice the ABC song. It made a big difference to her being able to see and point to the letters as we sang. Within a week she could recite the alphabet by herself and identify all the letters. Next came the phonic chant.

You will notice that the print is made up of CVC (Consonant – Vowel – Consonant) objects where possible. More on this later. Because there are pictures, she was easily able to understand the words before she could read them. We practiced the phonic alphabet as a chant: A (ay) – A (ah) – Ant, B (bee) – B (buh) – Bag. I didn’t want the learning to come with pressure, so I put the print in a hard clear case and left it lying around in the living room. We practiced when we wanted to, and soon enough she started coming to me to show me how well she could do it by herself.

Once the phonic alphabet was mastered, we began simple reading activities. Using a set of wooden alphabet blocks, I began by setting out simple CVC words: CAT, FAT, HAT. We practiced saying the sound of each letter, then using a toy train to roll past each letter, we started slowly to say each letter in turn, increasing the speed that the train passed from one letter to the next and saying it’s sound as the train passed untill the three separate sounds began to sound like one word. We continued doing this on and off at her pace for a month untill I started using hand written words for further practice.

Simple words then turned into simple sentences. At this point I encountered a problem. She was unable to distinguish individual words in a sentence. It took time and not a little effort on both our parts to get used to reading simple sentences, but the result is that she can now read and understand sentences such as ‘Bob is a big fat cat’. I usually think of a new sentence once every week or so, and tape it onto a box near the dining table at her eye level. She knows I put them there and that they are reading practice.

That’s a digest version of the reading work we have done so far. If you have a child who you would like to teach in a low stress way, use the PDF if you wish and take your time, then let me know how it’s going. We want reading to develop into a loved activity rather than a chore.

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