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Practice Sounding Out Words

By: Colorín Colorado (2007)

A big step in learning how to read is being able to figure out new words. This is hard work. Kids need a lot of practice. They also need a lot of encouragement from you!

Here are some ways to help your child practice reading:

Ask your child to read aloud

Ask your child to read aloud to you at bedtime or anytime. Bring a children's book or magazine any time you'll have to wait, such as at a doctor's office or on a bus. Give your child lots of practice reading.

Pick books that are not too hard

Help your child choose books that are not too difficult. Your child should be able to figure out most of the words on the page. You want your child to have lots of success with reading. That way, he or she will want to read more. Books that rhyme, that repeat phrases, and that have predictable stories are good for new readers.

Encourage your child to "sound out" words

If your child is having trouble figuring out a word, use your finger to point to the first letter in the word. Ask him or her what the letter usually sounds like. This won't always work because some letters have more than one sound. In the long run, though, being able to sound out words is more valuable than being able to use other types of clues to figure out a word (like looking at the pictures or guessing).

Gently correct your child

When your child makes a mistake when reading aloud, gently point out the letters he or she overlooked or read incorrectly. Ask questions such as, "Do you remember what sound this letter stands for?" Many beginning readers will guess wildly at a word based on its first letter. Encourage your child to pay attention to all the letters in a word.

Be patient

Figuring out new words is hard work! When your child is trying to sound out a new word, give him or her time to do so. It might take a couple of tries.

Have your child re-read sentences

When your child has figured out a new word, ask him or her to re-read the sentence the word is in. Often, children are so busy figuring out a word that they'll forget what they've just read.

Read, read, and read some more

Encourage your child to re-read favorite books. He or she will probably be able to read the story more quickly and successfully the second or third time. Make reading together a warm and loving time. See Fun and Effective Ways to Read with Children for ideas.