A guide for parents and educators on the stages of learning to read that children will go through on their learning to read journey.

Words are everywhere!

So it’s essential that parents and educators provide children with reading experiences daily. We want children to develop a love for reading, and this will only happen if we consider the following key factors:

  • positive reading experiences,
  • ability to use a variety of techniques for decoding words,
  • reading/modelling to your child,
  • asking lots of questions,
  • celebrate successful moments,
  • choosing books that spark interest,
  • knowledge of sight words and
  • make learning FUN (don’t make it a chore).

There are many different theories and different techniques to teaching reading. Throughout a child’s learning to read experience, the most important thing is to keep a positive attitude.

Reading out loud to children is important. It encourages good expression when they learn to read and a love of books. When reading to a child, there is so much to talk about. Ask the child what the book was about, their favourite character, what things they can see in the picture, what letters or words they can recognise on the page.

From an early age, it’s important to make children aware of the reading process. Always have something around for them to ‘read’ like board books, television guides, magazines, novels. Encourage them to hold the book the right way up and turn the pages. Often children will make up fantastic stories just doing this and looking at the pictures.

The English language uses about 100 common words that children can learn by sight. For everything else, however, children must possess the ability to decode. Knowing the sounds that letters make will help children become competent and fluent readers through decoding.

This leads us to the three main stages of reading in the early years and is how we introduce letters and sounds in the Begin Bright programmes:

Single Sounds Approximate age 3 – 6 years
Single sounds are where children learn the name and sound of the letter and begin to look at simple words like ‘cat’ and identify the beginning, middle and end sound.

For a beginner, this can be very tricky. b, p, d are three of the most commonly confused sounds as they look so similar.

English is a tough language to learn to read and write. At this early stage, children need to practice all their sounds to begin to build words. Children can look at simple words like bed, peg, cat, dog and identify the beginning, middle, and end sounds in this stage. They can also rhyme words and have a simple grasp of comprehension. Children spend their first years learning that the letter ‘c’ makes a ‘c’ sound in cake, but then they discover that it makes ‘sss’ in circle and ‘ch’ in chips. To avoid confusion, explain early on that letters sometimes change the sound they make in words. Knowledge of vowels is also important at this stage.

Blend and End Sounds Approximate age 6 – 7 years
Blending is when you mix/group the letters together, e.g. tr (trip, trace) bl (blue, blink). After children are familiar with all things in stage one, they can move on to blending sounds. In this stage, children learn the common sounds that are made when two or three letters are grouped together. Once they have established this connection, decoding words and reading fluency will become easier.

Double Sounds Approximate age 7 – 9 years
Double sounds are the trickiest ones to learn. There are a lot of them, different letter combinations make the same sound, and the same letters can make different sounds!

e.g. ‘oo’ as in book or ‘oo’ as in moon – ‘ee’ as in see and ‘ea’ as in sea. When learning about doubles with vowel sounds, a great trick is, ‘when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking (e.g. seat)’.

This is not something that you would think about when reading but can be incredibly confusing to children, so a lot of patience needs to be exercised when trying to explain. The automatic recognition of these double sounds will help children read fluently and decode more easily.

In the first year of school, children will be learning ‘sight words’ and are generally taught to use the ‘look and say’ method. Once children know sounds, it will be easier for them to decode. Depending on the school, teachers expect children to know how to read the list of 100 most frequently used words in our language by the end of their first year at school. It sounds like a lot of words to learn! This is why school readiness is so important to give your children a head start to reading. If children aren’t progressing, ask the school for support – ask questions like ‘does my child need extra support/assistance?’ or even in some cases ‘does my child need a speech pathologist?’

Remember always to encourage children to try! It is better to have a go and get closer than not to try at all. Use the pictures in books to help with children’s reading; they often provide the meaning.

Always praise children’s reading. The English language is a tough one to learn. At the start, it seems like there is so much to remember, and it can often be very overwhelming to children. Praise their efforts for every small achievement they are advancing to the time when they can read without consciously thinking about it. After years of learning and practice, you will feel proud as punch when you see children read themselves!

Register now to receive our free Parents Guide to the three stages of reading with more information on how you can support your child’s reading. 

If your child needs extra support or you’d like to give them the best start to school and support their learning to read journey you can find your nearest location by clicking below.