Literacy Building Blocks

First Steps

Next Steps

Literacy Building Blocks

Children with CAS are considered at risk for difficulty with reading. However, there are a number of activities and skills that you can work on with your child to set the stage for reading success.

The most important thing you can do is to read with your child, regardless of their age or stage in development, and provide positive reading experiences. Reading together teaches your child that books and reading are fun and interesting.

In addition to nurturing your child’s interest in books and reading, you can work on skills that are important buildings blocks for literacy. These skills include phonological awareness, sound-letter correspondence, and vocabulary:

Phonological awareness

Phonological awareness is the understanding that words are made of sounds and the ability to identify and manipulate sounds in words. Segmenting (breaking sounds apart in words) and blending (putting sounds together to make a word) are examples of phonological awareness that are very important for reading.

Sound-letter correspondence

Children need to understand that letters (graphemes) represent sounds (phonemes) in words and the correspondence between each sound/letter. The focus should be on teaching the sound the letter makes (not the name of the letter) as the sound of the letter is what is necessary for reading.


Vocabulary includes both the words a child understands (receptive vocabulary) and the words a child uses (expressive vocabulary). Children have a much easier time reading words that are already in their vocabulary.

First Steps: Activities to Build Reading Readiness

While there are many great activities to work on literacy building blocks with young children, here are a few ideas that specifically focus on skills that can be challenging for children with CAS due to their difficulties with motor planning/programming speech. Reading instruction at all levels should be successful and rewarding for your child. Experiencing failure or frustration is counterproductive – remember, you want reading to be a positive experience! Since children vary greatly in their skills and reading readiness, ask your speech-language pathologist (SLP) 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.

Segmenting and blending

When reading books with pictures, you can segment the sounds in the word and have your child find/point to the picture. For example, you can say “which picture is C - A - T” (making each sound individually) and your child finds the cat. You can also ask your child to find words that begin/end with a specific sound (remembering to always make the sound, not say the name of the letter). As you begin working on these skills with your child, avoid picture groups that have very similar sounds (cat, bat, hat) and instead use picture groups that sound very different (cat, dog, leg). As your child develops these skills, then try groups of words that are very similar sounding and require more advanced phonological awareness.

Sound-letter correspondence

Give your child as much practice as possible to learn the sounds letters make. Focus on lowercase letters first as these are much more frequent when reading. If making the sounds is hard for your child, you can make the sound, and your child can find the letter that corresponds. Magnetic letters and a white board are great for this. You can present 5-6 letter “choices” and your child can find the correct one. Start with letters that look and sound very different (e.g. t, s, c, m, p, a,).
You can also ask your child's speech-language pathologist (SLP) to start introducing the written letters/words to your child during speech practice as another way to reinforce letter/sound correspondence.


When you are reading with your child, 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.

Next Steps: Beginning to Read

Once your child has built their phonological awareness skills, learned the sound-letter correspondences for a few consonants and at least one vowel, and have sufficient vocabulary, they are ready to begin “reading”!

Put letters together

Put the letters that your child has learned together to make words in their vocabulary. For example, if your child has learned the sound-letter correspondences for "t, s, c, m, p, a," put the letters together to form words like cat, mat, sat, pat, tap for your child to read. It is often helpful for children with CAS if you help them get started with reading these words by saying the sounds at the same time at a slow rate, without putting breaks between the sounds. For example, reading "mat" as "mmmmaaaat." Then ask the child to read the word again with less help - maybe you just start "mm" together and they read the rest of the word on their own. Repetition is key to helping children with CAS learn to read new words, just as it is when learning to say new words.

Teach a new vowel

Teach your child one new vowel (such as "i") and your child is ready to “read” more words like tip, mit, sit, pit. This can provide great encouragement to learn more letters and “read” more words! Be sure to select vowels that your child can say accurately. If you are not sure, ask your child's SLP.

Teach more letters

As your child gains skills, increase the number of letters in the group, and include letters that look more similar (e.g. l, t, m, n, p, b, o, a). As you add letters, make new combinations and give your child more chances to “read” words. Remember to provide help as they need it, by reading the first sound or the word at the same time or jumping in if they get stuck. Keep practice positive and successful!

Introduce computer keyboards

You can introduce your child to computer keyboards and also play games by asking them to “type” the letter that makes a certain sound. This is not only a fun way for many children to practice, but is also a great way to begin to familiarize your child with the keyboard. Try this only when the child knows most of the letters/sounds and is ready to work outside of a small group of letters, or you can cover-up letters on the keyboard that your child has not yet learned. This is your child’s first chance to be a writer, which is equally important as reading and sometimes more difficult for children who also have fine motor coordination difficulties, in addition to CAS.

Keep practice fun and rewarding

These are your child's first experiences with "reading" and "writing," so do your best to make them enjoyable and successful!

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