What Can Parents Do to Help Young Children with Literacy Development Problems that may be at risk for Dyslexia.


Research studies suggest the 10 to 15 % of all children are slower than average at acquiring literacy skills. Early intervention is crucial to reduce the possibility that a child may later be diagnosed with Dyslexia. Hong Kong schools are not immune to this problem and parents often ask me what can done to help their young children who are having difficulties learning to read and write in early childhood.

An important beginning step in reading is drawing the child’s attention to sounds and words first through noticing rhymes, then comparing sounds in different words and finally by learning how to pull words apart, push them together and moving the parts around within the words.

Reading stories and poems aloud to the child that have lots of rhyming words is important. By pointing out the words that rhyme, the learns to appreciate that words have parts. As you read stories that rhyme, make comments to the child that help stimulate awareness. “Bat and mat sound alike don’t they, both words end with a t sound” Point out the ending and beginning sounds in the rhyming words and ask the child to think of some other words that rhyme.

Here is a list of books that include lots of rhyming words:

Bemelmans, Ludwig, Madeline (New York, Penguin Putnam, 2000). Carlin, Nurit The Fat Cat Sat On the Mat, (New York, Harper Colin, 1998). Ochs, C. P. Moose on the Loose, (Minneapolis: Carolroda Books, 1991). Dr Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, (New York: Random House, 1988).

Segmenting refers to pulling words apart into their specific sounds. These are key skills in learning to spell and read.

Begin by separating words into syllables. Have the child count the syllables in words starting with their name by clapping aloud or jumping up and down to the number of syllables. You can also practise putting syllables together to form words and say them separately (pen…cil, pa…per) then ask the child to identify the word that you are saying.

The next step is separating syllables into individual phonemes. Phonemes are the smallest sound unit in a language that is capable of conveying a distinct meaning. A unit of speech is considered a phoneme if replacing it in a word results in a change of meaning (bat…..becomes……rat).

First practise comparing or matching sounds into different words. The aim is to start the child thinking about how the sounds in these words compare to one another by asking him to match the first sounds in words and the final sounds. Use a set of cards with pictures of everyday objects (dog, cat, man, bus, toy etc.). Ask the child to identify the first sound in a word such as a toy, show a picture of a toy and say “the first sound in toy is “t” “t” “t” and then ask him to repeat it. Put all of the object pictures out and ask the child to put together the ones with the same beginning or ending sound. Lay out a series of cards and ask the child to identify the ones that begin with a specific sound. When you are in the community point things out to the child and ask him to name them and then identify the beginning and ending sounds. Start with basic two phoneme words and then work your way to three or more sounds.

After drawing awareness to and practising segmenting words the next step is phoneme blending. One blending activity is done by lining up three pictures such as a cat, a bat and a map. Chose one word and slowly pronounce each of its sounds “c, c, c, c, c …”, “a, a, a, a …”, “t, t, t, t”. Then ask the child to point to the picture that shows the word made by putting these sounds together. Remember that the goal of these activities is to draw the child’s attention to the smallest parts of words.

Remember that you are trying to get the child to notice each word or word part that you demonstrate. Therefore it is crucial to speak slowly, clearly and use good pronunciation. Remember to exaggerate the individual sounds especially when working on phonemic awareness.

Here are some commercially available pre-prepared programmes for teaching phonemic awareness:

· The Sounds Are Bound Programme: Teaching Phonological Awareness In the Classroom (Appropriate for pre-school children through first grade, P2)
· The Source for Phonological Awareness
· Take Home: Phonological Awareness:

All of the above are available at www.linguisystems.com