Positive Reading Experiences

Language Skills

Phonological Awareness

The primary deficit for children with CAS is difficulty motor planning and/or programming in order to produce speech. However, many, but not all, children with CAS also experience other challenges. One such challenge is reading/literacy. Research studies of children with CAS indicate that 50-75% struggle with literacy. For this reason, it is important to be pro-active about reading skills, but it is also imperative to create and maintain positive reading experiences for your child. To keep your child interested in learning reading skills, they need to enjoy reading.

Two important pre-reading skills or building blocks for literacy are language and phonological awareness. Language includes both expressive (what we communicate) and receptive (what we understand) skills, including vocabulary and grammar knowledge. Phonological awareness is the ability to think about the sound structure of language, i.e. the realization that words are made of sounds. By working on these skills with your child, you can increase the likelihood that they will succeed with reading.

The most important thing you can do is to read with your child, regardless of their age or stage in development. Reading together teaches your child:

  • that books and reading are fun and interesting
  • how to hold a book right-side up
  • how to turn the pages
  • and much more!

You can also increase language and phonological awareness by reading with your child. Read on for more information!

Language Skills


Numerous studies have demonstrated a link between language development and reading success.  Reading can build language skills by exposing your child to new vocabulary and grammar. There are a number of ways you can increase your child’s language while reading. See below for some ideas. Don’t feel like you have to do all of these at once. Pick a couple and try to include them the next time you read with your child. Follow your child’s lead – for very young children, you may only be on a page briefly or may not finish the book. That’s okay – keep it positive and build from there!

Go beyond what is on the page

You may be looking at a picture book with a child who is reading or not yet able to read on their own. Regardless, don't be limited by what is on the page. Follow your child's lead and talk about what they point to or look at in the book. Personalize the book by making connections between what is happening in the book and your child's life. This might mean encouraging your child to get one of their toys that's similar to a toy in the book or talking about an experience in your child's life that is similar to what is happening in the book. For example, if the book is about the zoo, you might talk with your child about a time they went to the zoo.

Introduce new words (vocabulary) and teach what they mean

The book may contain new words. If so, draw your child's attention to these words and explain what they mean through pictures or actions if possible. You can also use a different word that your child already knows that has a similar meaning. For example, if the word "huge" is used in the book, you might tell your child "That means really big!"
If the book doesn't contain new words, go beyond the page and introduce some of your own vocabulary!

Make reading interactive

You can ask your child to point to some items, but remember the "three comments for every question" approach. You can also make reading interactive by acting out parts of the book or using gestures. For example, if the book features snow, you might say "Snow is cold! Let's act cold!" and pretend to shiver with your child.

Use descriptive language

In addition to naming items in the pictures, try to add descriptive words such as color, size, shape or texture. You can also talk about the different parts of an item. Don't forget to teach your child what new words mean by showing them pictures or actions or telling them another word that has a similar meaning.

Re-tell the story

After you have read a book, try looking back through the book and summarize or re-tell the story. Ask your child to participate with words if they can or by pointing to pictures in the book.


Children learn through repetition. If they ask to read the same book repeatedly, that's okay! That's how children learn. Don't worry if you don't read the book the exact same way each time. You can also choose books that contain lots of repetition, such as repeating certain words or phrases on each page.

Phonological Awareness


The two strongest predictors of reading success in the first two years of school are phonological (phonemic) awareness and letter knowledge. Both of these skills can be explicitly taught during early reading experiences. Here are suggestions to build phonological awareness and letter knowledge while reading with your child:

Rhyming words

Point out words that rhyme and words that don’t rhyme to help your child understand what rhyming means. For example:
“Cat, hat. Those words rhyme. Cat, hat. They sound the same at the end!"
"Cat, red. Those words don’t rhyme. Cat, red. They sound different at the end.”
As your child gains understanding of the concept of rhyming, you might ask them to identify if a word rhymes. You might say:
”Cat, hat. Do those words rhyme?” or “Cat, red. Do those words rhyme?”
By giving your child a yes/no question that they can answer with head nods or speech, you can increase their phonological awareness skill of rhyming, even if they are not yet able to produce rhyming words on their own.

Identify words in a sentence

Pick a sentence out of the book and clap out the words in the sentence. So for a three word sentence, you will clap three times - once as you say each word.

Play with sounds in words

Make up "silly words" with your child by changing one sound in a simple (one syllable) word. You can change the beginning sound, change the ending sound, take a sound off, etc. For example, if we change the beginning sound in "cat," we can say "pat," or if we change the ending sound, we can have "cap." If we take off the beginning sound, we can have "at" or if we take off the ending sound we have "ca." It is not important to generate other real words. It is more important that the child can manipulate the sounds in the word accurately, even if the end result isn't a real word.

Identify syllables/parts of words

Clap out the syllables or parts of words with your child. So for a two-syllable word, you will clap two times - once for each syllable.


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