There are a few simple games that will guide your child down the path to becoming a confident and happy reader when he or she is first learning to read. We regularly come across very bright children who are really struggling with their reading, but only because they have learned to read in the wrong way and so have become confused and frustrated.
If a child is going down the wrong path, trying harder will just lead to more frustration. But once we show them the right direction it all seems much easier, sometimes in just days and weeks.
I can recommend five activities that will help your child avoid the blind alleys that lead to problems. But as with any struggling reader, never impose any reading exercise for more than 10-15 minutes:
1 Play “Phonic I-Spy”
The sound that make up words are called phonemes. And it is crucial that your child learns to hear them. To make that easier, you can play the classic “I Spy” game, but instead of using the letter name, use the first sound of the word, like “sh” for shoes.
2 Play “Clink Clink Clink”
This is another simple little game you can play anywhere. You think of a word. Your child then has to come up with a word that either has the same initial sound or rhymes with the word. You then do the same thing; back and forth it goes until someone is stuck. Here is an example; fish, wish, wine, whale, bail, sail, etc… To make it more difficult, one of you can tap something [“clink, clink, clink”] between the words, and the opponent has to give the next word straight after the third clink.
3 Play Build-a-Word
Get a set of plastic letters or magnets. Think of a simple word that uses the basic sounds connected to each letter (i.e. a, e, i, o, u become “ah” rather than “ay”, “eh” rather than “ee”, “ih” rather than “eye”, “aw” rather than “oh”, “uh” rather than “oo”). Examples include bad, had, wed, mud, cod etc. Then try to get your child to build the word from a small group of 6 letters that include the ones needed.
4 Nonsense Words
Using the same set of plastic letters, think of simple nonsense words like wup, pog, gub, bip, that also just use those basic alphabet sounds. Write out a nonsense word with the letters and get your child to try reading it. A lot of bright children try to short circuit the reading process by guessing. But because it is a nonsense word, this approach is hopeless.
5 Use a Structured Phonic System
As you move onto the long vowels, you will need a phonic teaching system to help. There are various book-based systems available in bookshops, or of course you can try our online Easyread System!