Learning to Read

Ideas for Beginning Readers

Learning to Read

The focus for children learning to read, usually five to six year old children in kindergarten and first grade, should be on decoding and word recognition, including sight word identification. Fluency and reading comprehension are also key reading components, but are not the primary focus for beginning readers.


Decoding is the ability to "sound out" a word - knowing the sounds that correspond to each letter or combination of letters (e.g. ch, sh, th) in order to recognize a word.

Word recognition

Word recognition is the ability to identify a word while reading, either through decoding (sounding it out) or sight word identification. Sight word identification means the word has been memorized, either because it occurs frequently or can not be sounded out.


Fluency in reading refers to the ability to recognize and read words accurately, smoothly and quickly, usually in context.

Reading comprehension

Reading comprehension is the child's ability to understand what they are reading.

Ideas for Beginning Readers

Below are a few suggestions of particular importance for children with CAS when they are learning to read. Remember, reading instruction at all levels should be successful and rewarding for your child. Experiencing failure or frustration is counterproductive – you want reading to be a positive experience! Since children vary greatly in their skills and reading readiness, ask your child’s speech-language pathologist (SLP) and classroom teacher if these suggestions are appropriate for your child and if there are additional items recommended for your child. The suggestions below can be tailored to the level where your child can succeed.

Practice decoding

Once your child knows the sound-letter associations, they are ready to learn to decode or “sound out” words. Books with simple sound patterns can give your child excellent decoding practice. Look for books like the Bob Books series or Primary Phonics storybooks. Remember to choose words and books with words that are in your child's vocabulary, so they understand what the words are and how they are used.

Sight word recognition

Helping your child recognize commonly occurring sight words - and even introducing those words into speech practice if there are words that are difficult for the child to say - can help your child with reading fluency. You can find word lists and flash card sets with the 100 most frequent sight words. Select words that are in your child's vocabulary so they understand what the words mean and/or how they are used, and coordinate with your child's classroom teacher and/or SLP to make sure everyone is working on the same words at the same time. Start by introducing three to five sight words. Once your child has memorized those, introduce several more. Be sure to regularly review the sight words that your child has already learned, not just the new ones, to make sure they don't forget the previously-learned words. While drilling with flash cards works well for memorizing new sight words, review can also be done by pointing out previously-learned sight words in books when you and your child are doing shared reading.

Continue shared book reading

While you will probably still be reading most of the words, encourage your child to read the words that they are able to decode or recognize (such as sight words). Seeing and hearing the words is critical for building sight word vocabulary. Don’t replace shared reading with audiobooks only.

Adaptive techniques

Reading aloud not only requires reading skills but also requires motor planning/programming for speech, which is the primary deficit for children with CAS. Adaptive techniques can help children with CAS succeed with reading, despite this challenge. For example, an adaptive technique might be previewing and drilling a key vocabulary word that will occur often in a book so your child doesn’t get “stuck” because they can’t say the word easily. If your child is going to read an Amelia Bedelia or Danny the Dinosaur book, then they may need some practice just saying the words “Amelia Bedelia” or “dinosaur” prior to reading the book. Another adaptive technique is to learn sight words receptively, in which you show your child two to four sight words and ask them to point to (rather than say) the word you say. See the video linked below for an example of this!

Adaptive Techniques for Sight Word Recognition

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Becoming a Fluent Reader

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Tips for Reading Success

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