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What your child needs, to learn to read.

Updated: Jul 23, 2018

Learning to read and spell can be difficult, particularly if there are underlying difficulties with phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is a metalinguistic skill that requires the ability to reflect upon the structure of language and the ability to think about a word separate from its meaning. Phonological awareness is important as it has been linked to literacy outcomes at school.

Research has found that those children who have struggled with phonological awareness will often experience difficulties with reading and spelling at school. Exposure to phonological awareness skills in the preschool years can help to prevent literacy difficulties once they reach school.

Early phonological awareness skills include syllable segmentation, and identification and production of rhyme. Syllable segmentation involves clapping or tapping out the beat of a word. The ability to chunk words into syllables is an important skill required for reading and spelling. When children are able to identify rhyme, the next step is to create rhyme. These skills help children identify familiar parts of words that can assist with reading and spelling.

Later phonological skills are at the sound level.

Children need the ability to identify the sounds at the start and end of words and be able to identify when words contain the same sound. The ability to segment words into individual sounds is crucial for success in spelling.

The ability to blend sounds together is extremely important for sounding out words and identifing what word those sounds create. Advanced skills at this level include the ability to manipulate the sounds in words by deleting, adding or changing them. An example may be “what is ‘hop’ without the ‘h’ (op)”, or “what word to do get if you add ‘s’ to the beginning of ‘top’ (stop)”.


You can help your child develop their phonological awareness skills. Reading books regularly to your child is one of the ways that you can introduce children to rhyme and awareness of print. Choose books with rhymes so that you can point them out to your child or see if they can find words that rhyme.

Try leaving out the rhyming word in a familiar book and encourage your child to finish the sentence. One example from A Cat In The Hat by Dr Suess could be: “Look at me!Look at me!Look at me NOW!It is fun to have fun,but you haveto know…” (how).

To help you child hear syllables within words, try hitting a drum or clapping to the beat of a word. ‘Watermelon’ would be broken up into wa / ter / me / lon, or ‘helicopter’ into he / li / cop / ter.

Sound activities may include finding words that start with the same sound either in a book or from memory. You may try to name food items that begins with the sound /k/ like carrot, corn, cucumber, and cabbage. Try playing “I Spy” but instead of “I spy…. something beginning with M (letter)”, try, “I spy… something beginning with ‘mmmmm’ (sound). Play guessing games where you sound out a word and they need to guess what it is. Start with blending two sounds together and if they can do this, try blending three sounds together. Some examples may be, e / g (egg) or d / o / g (dog). Turn the game around so that your child sounds out the word and you need to guess what it is.

If your child has demonstrated difficulties learning to read and spell in the early years of schooling, it is encouraged that they see a Speech Pathologist for an assessment. Early intervention is important to achieve the best outcomes for your child’s literacy development.

If you would like to contact a speech pathologist you can visit the ‘Speech Pathology Australia’ website for your local speech pathologist or contact Tyquin Group Speech Pathology on 3399 8028.


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