At Home #7: Don’t and Do for Beginner Readers

At The Montessori House, we use the classic, phonetic Montessori Method to have children form a sound basis for reading.  Those who already read well (that is, parents), may no longer be aware of the complexities involved in learning to read.  Without that awareness, it’s easy to confuse a child just starting to learn her/his phonetic sounds.

To help parents at home work with their pre-readers and early readers, here are some key Don’ts and Do’s:

  • DON’T practice saying the alphabet or singing the alphabet song, and focus only on the letter sounds.  
    1. There’s no need for beginning readers to know the alphabet in order.  We focus entirely on letter sounds, not the names or order of the letters, when teaching the children to build words and, ultimately, to read.   Knowing the order of the letters only becomes important when a student needs to alphabetize a list or look something up alphabetically, such as words in a dictionary.   So when you’re working with your child, be sure to use the letter sounds and not the letter names.  For example, when you point to the letter “s”, refer to it as “ssss,” and not “es”.
    2. When teaching vowel sounds, only use the short-vowel sounds, like the short “a” in “hat”, not like the long “a” in “late”.  Once children master the phonetic letter sounds, and can read phonetic words, they can slowly move on to non-phonetic sight words and alternate sounds for letters (the English language is filled with these!).
  • DON’T use upper case (CAPITAL) letters, only use lowercase letters.
    1. Since the vast majority of letters on a book’s printed page are lower case, we start everything with lower case.  We want to keep it simple for the children and have early readers make a one-to-one association between a letter and its sound.  That means letters should only look one way (lower case) and make one sound (see above).   
  • DO be careful about the tools (books, videos, workbooks, on-line) your child uses to learn.  Even reputable sources are confusing. 
    1. We have found that many tools that bill themselves as “phonetic” are poorly edited.  For example, we found one well-established company with a product that says, “Say “a” as in alien” – yet, using a long-vowel “a” is confusing for a beginning reader.   Another says, “Say “g” as in giraffe” –  yet, using a soft “g” is confusing for a beginning reader.  Help your child be successful by avoiding any materials that are inconsistent or confusing.

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