Breaking The Sound-It-Out Barrier

What is reading?

Reading is understanding what the printed words mean.

For children to become strong, independent readers, they must use a variety of strategies to figure out unknown words. By doing this, good readers are able to understand what is written on a page.

What are the strategies good readers use?

For example, good readers would know that the underlined word in the sentence above would not be horrible, because "Mary likes to ride her horrible on Saturday," wouldn't be a word that would fit in that sentence.

For example, good readers would look at horse and be able to see that the sounds of the letters would be h-or-s.

By using all three strategies, good readers are able to read and understand written language.

How can parents help?

Parents can help their children learn to use the following process to figure out unknown words. This process encourages the use of all three strategies

When children are stuck on a word they don't know, have them:


"Does it make sense?"
"Does it sound right?"
"Do the letters match the sounds?"

If the answers are yes, go on reading. If not, go back and try the process again.

What else?

Try not to interrupt your child if the error he or she makes does not change the meaning of the text. For example, if your child substitutes home for house in the sentence, "Let's go to her house," the meaning is unchanged. Those interruptions only promote the idea that reading is saying words correctly rather than getting the meaning.

When your child uses good strategies, compliment him or her for thinking and for making sense of what is being read. After all, that is what reading is all about.