For years there has been debate in the educational world regarding
the best method to teach children to read. There are two main schools of thought.
One very popular method is to introduce children to
‘whole words’, this is known as the ‘sight word’ program. This program teaches children to recognise
words by sight through repetition.
When using the sight word method children are
encouraged to read books of interest and gradually increase their ‘known word bank’. Educators who use this
method believe that the English language has too many words that disobey traditional spelling-sound
conventions and that teaching phonics is not an effective method for children to de-code the many
There are many unconventional spellings in the English language
and the English language is not as easy to decode as other languages. For example ‘won’ and ‘one’ sound the same
but are used very differently. Another example of odd spelling conventions are the words ‘two’, ‘too’ and ‘to’,
they also are similarly pronounced but used in different contexts.
Another accepted school of thought is to teach the ‘phonics method’. This program
teaches children to sound out letters or letter groups and de-code words.
This technique gives children strategies to attempt unfamiliar
The whole word approach is effective initially, but only works for a short period
of time as young children’s word memory is limited. Children tend to confuse similar looking words or forget them
if they haven’t seen them recently.
‘Whole-word’ readers are limited to the words they are able to
memorise and retain. ‘Whole word’ readers have limited strategies to make sense of unfamiliar words, particularly
if the illustration doesn’t offer any direct clue.
Latest research indicates that a combination of the two methods
may be the preferred approach. To become a successful reader, children need a combination of both the ‘whole word’
or ‘sight word’ and the ‘phonics’ or ‘sounding out’ methods.
Selecting reading material
When purchasing books or borrowing from your local library, it’s
important that your child be involved in selecting books of interest, however, it may be necessary to guide your
child towards books that are not too challenging.
Consider the following criteria:
• Will they find the topic interesting?
• Will they understand the plot?
• Are they familiar with the words used in the text?
• Will the illustrations help your child gain meaning?
Here is a link to selected story books that are ideal for beginner
The aim for children reading is to develop strategies for making
meaning of the text. When your child has finished reading a book, talk about the story together. Summarise and
encourage them to recall and retell their favourite bits.
Reading and children - Good readers;
1. Are aware of when they do not understand the text and when they do. They
monitor themselves for reading comprehension, go back and re-read text until it makes sense.
2. Make use of prior knowledge to help
them understand what they are reading.
3. Use visual clues and construct pictures in their head about the story
when they read.
For more information about buying good books to read to children,
check out this site: Good books for
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