First there were the letters, which combined to form words. Then came the other words and the spaces between them. Then came rules, then longer strings of words until all of a sudden there you are reading short sentences, then passages and then a book. Amazing what a little practice can do. Sadly though, it cannot all be plain sailing. There are those words which just don’t play by the rules.
Unlike some languages and just like others, letters in English do strange things depending upon the letters that come before them, those that are near them and those that come after. The /e/ in hen is not the /e/ in hear, or even heard.
Even short words can be tricky. My daughter has learned that /e/ has a phonic value in ‘egg’, but sometimes goes by its name when with another vowel as in ‘mean’ (when two vowels go walking, the first does the talking). Recently I have been weaning her onto graded readers such as the Key Words series by Ladybird and more recently the Jolly Phonics readers. We started with the ladybird 1A in England over the winter break, then this morning I asked my daughter to have a go with the first in the red series of the Jolly Phonics readers (pictured).
Both books are very accessible to a child with a basic knowledge of the rules of phonetic reading. So far, we have covered the previously mentioned two vowels rule, the silent /e/ rule, the ending sounds of /y/ and consonant blends using the Jolly Phonics series of workbooks and student’s book as our guide. ‘Mud’ was almost too simple for her.
There is a nice little picture of tricky words at the end of the book (also pictured) which foxed her. She is familiar with the fact that sometimes, English letters do crazy things for no apparent reason. She is 4 years old and it goes with the territory. With just one practice she could then read them all back to me, but that was this morning, so I decided to make a copy and make it colourful. The photo above shows it above the desk accompanied by study mascot ‘March’. The short words appear at the back of all the red series books and are slowly introduced throughout the series. A copy for colouring in is a nice way to introduce them, or like me you can use 10 minutes at work to do something simple, creative and productive for yourself and your sprog.