When children start to learn the skills they need for reading and writing, it can be an exciting time. They often start to learn the letters/sounds of the alphabet, how to rhyme words, clap out syllables then start to sound out words. Soon they are reading and writing stories at home and at school and learning a whole new range of vocabulary too!

However, many children run into difficulties, particularly with spelling and reading, and it can be hard to know why. Because their child is struggling at school with literacy, many parents are told to see a speech pathologist for an assessment, but they often don’t know why that would help. Well, reading and writing are both forms of communication and often, the underlying cause of literacy difficulties could be in some other area of communication.

For example:

  • Speech/articulation - children who are having difficulty producing speech sounds may find it very difficult to associate sounds with the correct letters.
  • Receptive language – children who have difficulty with their understanding and retention of language/concepts may struggle to understand instructions and follow along in class.
  • Expressive language – children who have difficulty with producing language in words and sentences (e.g., with a small vocabulary) may have difficulty reading through and understanding stories.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways you can help your child if they are having trouble with their literacy skills. To build up their skills you can work on:

  • Clapping out syllables – e.g. grab some toys and objects around the house and sort them into groups depending on how many syllables they have.
  • Singing nursery rhymes – rhyming words help children to understand how sounds work together to from words.
  • Figuring out the first sound in words – e.g. when you are at the shops, help your child to find three items that start with the sound ‘b’ (like banana, bread, butter).
  • Playing games focusing on sounds – e.g. play ‘I Spy’ but instead of saying the letter name, say the sound that the word starts with, "I Spy… something beginning with the sound 'p".
  • Exposing children to written words – e.g., read picture books together, look through magazines and cut out pictures, point out signs on the street and figure out the sounds together.
  • Working on spelling together and focus on saying each sound in the word e.g., when writing ‘cat’, break it up as ‘c’ – ‘a’ – ‘t’.
  • When reading together, encourage your child to say each sound slowly to help them break down and hear the word.

You may also find it helpful to ask your child’s schoolteacher for a list of words to work on at home or for some ideas for books you can borrow from the library.

If you have any questions or would like support to develop your child’s literacy skills, please feel free to contact us at Hanrahan Health via phone (02 4862 5063) or via email (admin@hanrahanhealth.com.au).