What skills do children need to become competent readers and spellers?

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There are a whole range of skills children need before they can become competent readers and spellers.  It’s not just about sitting down and teaching your child to recite the letters of the alphabet and to recognise some words. The more well-developed a child’s pre-reading and pre-writing skills, the easier the process of learning to read and spell becomes.

Kindergarten Skills

Kindergarten is the time for children to develop pre-reading and pre-writing skills.  This includes:

  • An awareness of print (which is the front and back of a book, the direction we read, identifying and distinguishing between letters, words and sentences).
  • Developing phonological awareness (identifying and producing rhyming words, segmenting the sounds in a word and blending sounds together to make a word, breaking words into syllables – all done orally).
  • Developing visual discrimination skills (identifying differences between objects or scenes, finding shapes within pictures, identifying direction, size and shape).
  • Beginning to identify the sounds of some of the letters of the alphabet.
  • Holds a pencil correctly and is able to manipulate the pencil to form a range of shapes and patterns.

Pre-Primary Skills

In pre-primary, children are beginning the process of learning to read and write.  This includes

  • Recognising the common sound represented by each letter of the alphabet and can write the letter when told the sound. This is a critical skill in learning to read and spell.  It is important that the child learns to write each letter correctly, starting in the correct position, moving in the correct direction and correctly proportioned.
  • Being able to remove a sound from a word to make a new word (e.g., take away the /t/ from ‘plant’ and you have ‘plan’) and substitute sounds in words (e.g., in the word ‘mat’ replace /a/ with /e/ to make ‘met’).
  • Reading and spelling simple words by sounding out the letters (e.g., cat).
  • Beginning to recognise a growing number of high frequency words which the child may or may not have the knowledge to sound out (e.g,. with, the, to, and) and able to correctly spell some of these words.
  • Beginning to read and comprehend early reading books.
  • Being able to listen to and comprehend text that does not contain pictures (e.g., chapter books).
  • Towards the end of the year, beginning to read and write some of the more common digraphs (e.g., sh, ch, th, ee).
  • Beginning to write sentences with clear spacing between words, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a full stop.

If by the end of Pre-primary you have concerns about the progress your child is making, talk to your child’s teacher or seek assistance from a specialist literacy teacher.  It is better to give your child extra support as soon as possible.