I have sometimes felt overwhelmed with the number of children on my caseload who struggle with reading. It shouldn’t surprise me, as spoken language and hearing speech sounds is the foundation for reading text. We know that children with speech and language delays are at risk for reading failure. It’s important for the speech-language pathologist to understand how delays in early sound productions interfere with the process of reading and learn simple interventions to remediate both articulation and early literacy skills at the same time.
It is common to see many children in preschool, kindergarten and first grade struggling with articulation of sounds. Underneath that struggle is a child whose sound/symbol system is weak. That means this system may also be weak in hearing sounds, learning to read sounds and in learning to write sounds. This is the perfect time to get involved with the classroom teacher and use your skills to help all children make sense of sounds and print. I have found it essential to teach an overlap of skills to the students on my caseload who present with moderate to severe articulation errors.
Reading and speech tips
Here are some general pointers on working on both speech and reading:
- Review with the kindergarten staff how to teach all students how sounds are made, feel, look and touch as they are introducing alphabet sounds.
- Talk about where the sounds are made in their mouths. Do they make the sound in the front of their mouth? Do they use airflow? Did their voice turn on or was it off? Was the sound made with their lips or their tongue? This practice helps students connect hearing the sounds to what their mouths are doing when saying them.
- Teach children the correct way to produce sounds, making sure they don’t begin to add a “schwa” sound like ‘uh” onto the end of their productions. For example, the “f” says /f/ not /fuh/, the “h” says a silent /huh/ not a voiced /huh/, the “t” says /t/ not a voiced /tuh/, the “p” says /p/ not a voiced /puh/ and the “k” says /k/ not a voiced /kuh/. When children learn to produce sounds with the added schwa they may have trouble when they are sounding out words.
- Be an active participant with the classroom teacher when they begin to assess the letters and sounds a child knows. Offer to help give the assessments and take a close look at the results. It’s amazing what you can learn about a child’s speech sound productions and early reading skills just by a simple sound assessment.
- Consider an initial sound DVD that is very visual, repetitive and kinesthetically rich. Children can solidify alphabet sounds very quickly when given access to repetitive song-type DVD’s.
- Phonemic awareness skills taught in the early grades are extremely important for children with speech articulation difficulties. Children need to be able to hear and play with sounds in words. Work with the child on the skills of blending and segmenting simple CVC words using sounds they are working on.
- Teach classroom teachers and children about voiceless and voiced sound pairs. Make a chart and post it in the classrooms. When children understand how these sounds are related, spelling skills improve.
|Voice Off||Voice On|
When a child is reading text
Here are specific things you to can do to help when children read:
- Use visual reminder cards with children to remind them to use certain reading strategies. A simple strategy card may include strategies such as “Get your mouth ready” or “Say what you see.”
- “Say what you see” is helpful to say to children when they make an error when reading an initial sound in a word. So when a child is trying to read the word “dog” and he says “fat”, explain that if he sees a “d” in the beginning of the word his mouth has to make that sound.
- Make simple books with beginning sight words tied to words with the sounds the child is working on. Books like “I see____” or “I like____”. Use blank page books or take a simple book that you own and replace the text with your own, targeting the sounds a child is working on.
- Every time a child reads out loud they are practicing oral speech sounds.
- Use highlighter tape to visually highlight the sounds a student is working on. Use the tape in books they are reading or in their writing to draw attention to sounds. Students love to use the tape to cover their sounds while another student in a group is reading.
Sue Lease is a speech-language pathologist at Glacier Edge Elementary School in Verona, Wisconsin. She has a particular interest in emergent literacy in young children.