reading and writing skills

Before children can read and spell they must learn to listen

Most of us live in a noisy and busy world where we rush from one appointment to another. Many of our children are living noisy and busy lives as well. They are surrounded by noise and busyness from the TV, play-station, radio, traffic, school or play groups, and from us. Our children do not always learn to listen to small differences in sound because they may need more time to be somewhere quiet enough to notice them, or to stop their own noise and be quiet enough to hear them. Sounds such as a hedgehog rustling, the wind, the noise a footstep makes on the floor, and the different sounds letters and words make are part of our world but may not be noticed by your child when they are mostly living in a busy and noisy environment.

Many children who are having difficulty reading and spelling cannot yet hear the differences between similar but different sounds. Maybe they need more time to practise listening before they can read and spell well. For example, sounds such as ‘f’ and ‘th’, ‘a’ and ‘u’ ‘d’ and ‘t’ may be confused.

Some children have more trouble than others to learn to differentiate between sounds, but most children can learn this very important listening skill if you make time for ‘quiet time’ activities such as the ones below.

Before your child is school age:

  • tell nursery rhymes every day and sing to your child (songs, rhymes, chants
  • regularly turn off the radio and television so that your child can hear other noises, and appreciate silence
  • listen for sounds then talk about the sounds you can hear (a dog barking, a car revving, rain on the window)
  • read stories that rhyme (such as Hairy Maclary stories, and books by Dr Seuss).

When they start school:

  • keep reading to your child every day. There are any good reasons to keep reading to your child even if they can read already and I will address them soon in another article.
  • keep up with rhythm and rhyme activities if your child is unsure of them, as they are vital for literacy success
  • play fun games to see if they can remember how to say the sounds in words that they confuse such as ‘three’ and ‘free’. Make up crazy sentences and get them to repeat them. Make up a competitive game where you take a point if they say a word incorrectly and have to give them one when they say it correctly. Only play for brief periods, and make sure that they win at times so that they want to play again.
  • encourage your child’s music development
  • encourage your child to write: shopping lists, thank you letters, wish lists, emails
  • encourage your child to read: library books, comics, children’s pages in the newspaper, signs, instructions
  • keep TV/computer/play-station/wii to a minimum
  • have quiet times every day in your child’s environment with no TV or radio noise

Quiet time is ‘magic’.

Special quiet times such as those activities above are when you have a chance to renew your listening skills as well. We are often so busy that we forget for example to stop and listen to our children, the sounds in our garden and in our house, and the sounds spoken words make when they are said for effect. Seizing those moments to stop and notice small sounds and small events with your child will add immeasurably to your enjoyment of life as well as your child’s enjoyment. Consider that these quiet times not only improve your child’s listening skills so that they can read and spell words more easily, they also give you both moments of ‘down time’ together that revitalise you both and remind you of the simple pleasures that make life worth living.

The phonics training link gives you more simple and satisfying things you can do to develop your child’s listening skills.

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