To be ready to read, a child not only needs to know the letters of the alphabet but also must be aware that his or her own speech is made up of segments that differ from letters. These segments are called phonemes. I will try not to use too much teacher jargon in this blog, but this term is worth learning because it is critical to understanding reading and phonemic awareness. Without phonemic awareness, a child cannot read.
What is Phonemic Awareness
Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate the individual speech sounds into spoken words. For example the word cat has three sounds – /c/, /ă/ and /t/. The word heat also has three sound /h/, /ē/, /t/ because the letters ea make one sound. Words can be divided into several other units such as syllables and rhymes. The smallest unit of sound in our language is a phoneme and there are forty four of them!
Phonemes do not correspond one-to-one with letters because some sounds are represented with two letters, like sh, ch, th and ng. The awareness of the separate sounds in a word is what we call phonemic awareness. It is an auditory skill that underlies the ability to use an alphabet to read and write. A child who can recognize that the word cat has three speech sounds, the word eye has one, and the word eat has two, possesses basic phonemic awareness.
If a child can change the /m/ sound at the beginning of the word mat to /r/ and know that the word is now rat, has demonstrated an even larger degree of phonemic awareness. This child can compare the sounds in words, substitute a new sound for an old one, and blend the sounds to make a new word.
Phonemic Awareness Activities
When I developed the PRIDE Reading Program, I made extra sure that every single lesson and skill the students learn also include phonemic awareness activities. A few examples of what the students have to do in the PRIDE Reading Program:
Identify rhymes – “tell me all of the words you know that rhyme with the word “heel.”
Listening for sounds – “close your eyes as I read some words to you. When you hear the “ū” sound, raise your hand.”
Manipulating sounds in words by adding, deleting or substituting – “in the word LAND, change the L to H.” (hand)
On the back cover of each of the Student’s Workbook there is a set of Elkonin Boxes to help the students build phonemic awareness. The students are instructed to listen to a word and then move the sound tokens into a box for each sound in the word.
As the students progress in the PRIDE program, they eventually break the words apart into syllables, and separate the syllables into sounds.
Success in reading depends on basic phonemic awareness. Without a sense of the sounds that letters represent, the child approaches reading as just memorizing letters. With phonemic awareness, the child can link letters to the sounds in words in order to decipher and spell them. Phonics is an approach to teaching reading in which the child is taught to associate letters with sounds and to use that knowledge to sound words out by blending the sounds from left to right.
It has been well known by researchers for the last 20 years that phonemic awareness and letter knowledge are the two best predictors of how well a child will learn to read during his or her first few years of school. The National Reading Panel’s report confirmed that instruction in phonemic awareness helps children learn early reading skills.
Phonemic Awareness in Action!
Here is a sample video of me teaching a student phonemic awareness with Elkonin Boxes:
Karina Richland, M.A., developed the PRIDE Reading Program, an Orton-Gillingham program for struggling readers, based on her extensive experience working with children with learning differences over the past 30 years. She has been a teacher, educational consultant and the Executive Director of PRIDE Learning Centers in Southern California. For more information, visit the PRIDE Reading Program website here. You can also reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have watched many families throughout my career as an Orton-Gillingham tutor, lose valuable time and money when choosing the wrong person or the wrong program to tutor their dyslexic child. I know that these parents had great intentions but simply did not take the time or do the research necessary to become informed. Several essentials make up a successful plan for your child to get the most out of his or her dyslexia tutor.
The Orton-Gillingham approach is the “grandmother” dyslexia tutoring program from which many others are derived. It was developed in the 1930s and 1940s by neurologist Samuel Orton and linguists June Orton and Anna Gillingham. Together they developed this amazing way of teaching the structure of letter-sound correspondences, using a multi-sensory method. A dyslexia tutor that is trained in Orton-Gillingham will be able to tutor your child in reading, writing, spelling and comprehension strategies correctly. If you are unable to find a dyslexia tutor trained in Orton-Gillingham, you can always hire a tutor that you like and hand them an Orton-Gillingham tutoring program that they can use with your child.
Orton-Gillingham tutoring programs:
The PRIDE Reading Program is a multisensory, Orton-Gillingham curriculum for tutoring reading, writing, spelling and comprehension. It is taught in a step-by-step progression using an easy to follow On-Line Teaching Guide that is heavily scripted out. Because it is so easy to follow the script and it also comes with online demonstrations on how to teach each step, tutors with little or no experience with Orton-Gillingham can implement it quite easily.
The Barton Reading Program is a teaching method based on the Orton-Gillingham approach. It comes with videos that explain how to teach each lesson. It is easy to learn this system and easy to teach it.
The All About Learning has an All About Reading Program and an All About Spelling Program. These programs offer intense reading and spelling lessons utilizing the Orton-Gillingham methodology. They are both highly interactive multi-sensory programs that are scripted and illustrated and easy to follow.
Dyslexia tutoring must be delivered 1:1 for your child to progress the most. Keep in mind that the dyslexic student is behind his or her classmates and must make more progress than they do or catch-up will never happen. If your child is far behind, he or she must make a huge leap to catch up. Those that never make that leap might very well stay behind forever. In a 1:1 lesson, the dyslexia tutor will customize the program to fit your child. The tutor will slow down, repeat, speed up or change the pace as needed. In a group setting, the tutor has to shoot for the middle of the group, so if your child is slower than the rest they will be forced to move too quickly and the information will not “stick.” If your child needs to move faster than the group but is forced to slow down to stay together, your child will be bored to death. Being bored will result in a lack of motivation and also ignites difficult behavior. Some really great 1:1 dyslexia tutoring centers are:
Lindamood Bell is a learning approach that can help students who struggle with reading and other learning issues. It offers 1:1 instruction at private learning centers throughout the world.
PRIDE Learning Center employs the Orton-Gillingham, multisensory approach to reading, writing, spelling and comprehension. PRIDE will send a trained dyslexia tutor to your home, work, school or library. They also run many Orton-Gillingham summer camp programs throughout the United States. Their dyslexia tutors are background checked, have strong backgrounds in special education and are warm, nurturing instructors trained to implement the PRIDE Reading Program.
Your child with dyslexia will face many challenges in school at various times. By being a loving and pro-active parent and getting your child into the right program with the right kind of a dyslexia tutor will really benefit your child’s self-esteem, love of learning and academic success.
Karina Richland, M.A., developed the PRIDE Reading Program, an Orton-Gillingham program for struggling readers, based on her extensive experience working with children with learning differences over the past 30 years. She has been a teacher, educational consultant and the Executive Director of PRIDE Learning Centers in Southern California. Please feel free to email her with any questions at email@example.com.
Do you worry that your child might have dyslexia? The warning signs are there. Your child is struggling with reading, writing and spelling. You might be using your intuition that something is wrong. What should you do?
Get a Diagnosis!
Diagnosis is the fundamental first step in successfully helping a child with dyslexia and the earlier, the better. It is never a good idea to wait or prolong testing. This will only put the child with dyslexia further behind. Children, who receive help early on, can catch up to their classmates. Later-identified children miss out on essential practice and miss out on an effective dyslexia remediation program during the crucial window of opportunity. So where do you go for a diagnosis… here are some suggestions:
- A licensed educational psychologist
- A Neurologist
- A Medical Doctor
- A Speech Pathologist
- The Special Education Department at a university or school district
Practice Reading A Lot!
Reading fluency comes from repeatedly practicing the same words over and over again so that the brain eventually identifies the words rapidly. Poor readers receive the least amount of reading practice although they need it the most. This is mostly because they avoid reading, read less than their classmates, and as a result fall progressively behind their peers in reading skills. With a proper dyslexia remediation program the student will be able to practice reading intensively and often. So how should your child with dyslexia practice reading a lot?
- Make your child read at least 20 minutes a day before they are allowed to get on any technology.
- Give your child materials that motivate them to read.
- Give them easy reading. Let them read below their grade level. Its about fun and practice, not torture.
- Get into the habit and routine of reading the same time each day.
Catch-up with an Intensive Reading Remediation Program!
A child who has dyslexia that is not identified until the third grade or later is already thousands of unlearned words behind the other readers. This is a gap that might never get closed without an intensive reading remediation program at this point. The best intervention is prevention in kindergarten or remediation beginning in first grade. After first grade it is just remediation year after year. And that’s a lot of catch up to do.
Reading instruction for the child with dyslexia must be delivered with great intensity. Children diagnosed with dyslexia are behind in their reading levels and for them to catch up with their classmates will need to make a big leap forward or else they will remain behind. Optimally, a child who is struggling with reading should be taught one-on-one and should receive this specialized reading instruction 2-3 hours five days a week. A larger group or less time will greatly undermine the possibilities of success. Use the long summer months to send your child to a summer Orton-Gillingham reading camp for intensive instruction. Summers are a great time to catch up and get ahead.
Make sure you find the Right Program with the Right Teacher!
A child with dyslexia will take in and process information differently and needs to be taught with a specialized program. The content must be a research-based scientifically proven method that is delivered with a sequential, systematic, cumulative and structured multisensory reading program. The Orton-Gillingham method, for example, is a perfect example of a reading approach that is proven to work for children with dyslexia. Orton-Gillingham uses a specific scope and sequence that works with kids with dyslexia and closes all reading gaps. It’s a really remarkable reading method. I recommend you check out The PRIDE Reading Program as the perfect program to teach a child with dyslexia. It comes with training videos and is really easy to implement. It is heavily scripted out, so you don’t need to be a certified teacher to use the program. Using the combination of the right program and the right instructor is the key to your child’s success.
A child with dyslexia who is not identified early may require as much as 100-200 hours of intensive instruction if they are going to close the reading gap. The longer that identification and effective reading instruction are delayed, the longer the child will require catching up. Fortunately, with the proper assistance and help, most students with dyslexia are able to learn to read and develop strategies to become successful readers.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder of Pride Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist. She is also the author of the PRIDE Reading Program. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Apraxia of Speech is a speech disorder that makes it difficult for children to correctly pronounce syllables and words. When a child struggles with saying the sounds they simultaneously struggle with reading, writing and comprehending the sounds.
To read proficiently, a child requires highly integrated skills in word decoding and comprehension and draws upon basic language knowledge such as semantics, syntax, and phonology. Children with speech and language impairments, such as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), have deficits in phonological processing. For these children, phonemic awareness, motor program execution, syntax and morphology will interfere with the ability to acquire the skills necessary to become proficient readers.
So, how does a child with Apraxia of Speech learn how to read?
With a multisensory, structured, systematic, cumulative and repetitive reading program plus intensive therapy in phonemic awareness and phonological processing!
What does multi-sensory mean?
See it – Say it – Move with it – Touch it
Multisensory teaching is an important aspect of instruction for the child with Apraxia of Speech and is used by most clinically trained therapists. Multisensory teaching utilizes all the senses to relay information to the child. The teacher accesses the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic pathways in order to enhance memory and learning. Links are consistently made between the visual (language we see), auditory (language we hear), and kinesthetic-tactile (language we feel) pathways in learning to read. For example, when learning the letter combination “ong” the child might first look at it and then have to trace the letters in the air while speaking out loud. This combination of listening, looking, and moving around creates a lasting impression for the child as things will connect to each other and become memorable.
What is a structured, systematic, cumulative and repetitive reading program?
The Orton-Gillingham approach is the best!
The most significant component in helping a child with Apraxia of Speech learn to read is utilizing an Orton-Gillingham approach. In Orton-Gillingham, the phonemes are introduced in a systematic, sequential and cumulative process. The Orton-Gillingham teacher begins with the most basic elements of the English language. Using repetition and the sequential building blocks of our language, phonemes are taught one at a time. This includes the consonants and sounds of the consonants. By presenting one rule at a time and practicing it until the child can apply it with automaticity and fluency, the child will have no reading gaps in their word-decoding skills. As the child progresses to short vowels, he or she begins reading and writing sounds in isolation. From there the child progresses to digraphs, blends and diphthongs.
Children are taught how to listen to words or syllables and break them into individual phonemes. They also take individual sounds and blend them into a word, change the sounds in the words, delete sounds, and compare sounds. For example, “…in the word bread, what is the first sound you hear? What is the vowel sound you hear? What is the last sound you hear? Students are also taught to recognize and manipulate these sounds. “…what sound does the ‘ea’ make in the word bread? Say bread. Say bread again but instead of the ‘br’ say ‘h.’- HEAD!
Every lesson the child learns is in a structured and orderly fashion. The child is taught a skill and doesn’t progress to the next skill until the current lesson is mastered. As children learn new material, they continue to review old material until it is stored into the child’s long-term memory. While learning these skills, the child focuses on phonemic awareness. There are 181 phonemes or rules in Orton-Gillingham for students to learn. More advanced readers (middle school) will study the rules of English language, syllable patterns, and how to use roots, prefixes, and suffixes to study words. By teaching how to combine the individual letters or sounds and put them together to form words and how to break longer words into smaller pieces, both synthetic and analytic phonics are taught throughout the entire Orton-Gillingham program.
What is Phonological Processing?
The key to the entire reading process is phonological awareness. This is where a child identifies the different sounds that make words and associates these sounds with written words. A child cannot learn to read without this skill. In order to learn to read, children must be aware and able to sound out each of the phonemes in the English language. A phoneme is the smallest functional unit of sound. For example, the word ‘bench’ contains 4 different phonemes. They are ‘b’ ‘e’ ‘n’ and ‘ch.’
What are some activities in phonological awareness that help?
- Identifying rhymes – “Tell me all of the words you know that rhyme with the word BAT.”
- Segmenting words into smaller units, such as syllables and sounds, by counting them. “How many sounds do you hear in the word CAKE?”
- Blending separated sounds into words – “What word would we have if we blended these sounds together: /h/ /a/ /t/?”
- Manipulating sounds in words by adding, deleting or substituting – “In the word LAND, change the /L/ to /B/.” “What word is left if you take the /H/ away from the word HAT?”
Through phonological awareness, children learn to associate sounds and create links to word recognition and decoding skills necessary for reading. Research clearly shows that phoneme awareness performance is a strong predictor of long- term reading and spelling success for children with speech and language disabilities. In fact, according to the International Reading Association, phonemic awareness abilities in kindergarten (or in that age range) appear to be the best single predictor of successful reading acquisition!
What kind of reading intervention is necessary?
For the child diagnosed with Apraxia of Speech that is already behind his peers in phonemic awareness and reading, the instruction will need to be delivered with great intensity. Keep in mind that this child is behind his classmates and must make more progress if he is to ever catch up. The rest of the class does not stand still to wait, they continue forward. Taking a few lessons once or twice a week will never give the student with CAS the opportunity to catch up. He must make a giant leap; if not, he will always remain behind.
An older child with a speech and language disorder may require as much as 150 to 300 hours of intensive instruction if he or she is ever going to close the reading gap between himself and his peers. The longer identification and effective reading instruction are delayed, the longer the child will need to catch up. In general, it takes 100 hours of intensive instruction to progress one year in reading level. The sooner this remediation is completed, the sooner the child can progress forward with his or her peers.
Children with Apraxia of Speech need more structure, repetition and differentiation in their reading instruction. They need to learn basic language sounds and the letters that make them, starting from the very beginning and moving forward in a gradual step by step process. This needs to be delivered in a systematic, sequential and cumulative approach. For all of this to “stick” the children will need to do this by using their eyes, ears, voices, and hands.
Where do I find an Orton-Gillingham Reading Curriculum?
Click on the video below to see some options…
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A., developed the PRIDE Reading Program, an Orton-Gillingham program for struggling readers, based on her extensive experience working with children with learning differences over the past 30 years. She has been a teacher, educational consultant and the Executive Director of PRIDE Learning Centers in Southern California. Please feel free to email her with any questions at email@example.com. Visit the PRIDE Reading Program website at https://www.pridereadingprogram.com
Learning to read in English would be such a simple task for kids with Dyslexia if all similar-sounding phonemes were spelled the same. They aren’t. English is such an unfair language with so many iniquitous rules!
For those of us who don’t have Dyslexia, learning to read means memorizing the symbolic code of letter combinations and then using them in new contexts. Many of us just read naturally, understanding that these letter combinations create words and sounds. Linguists call these sounds ‘phonemes.’ Our brains just register the words and are equipped to read three or four words ahead of time. We are also mentally able to pull words apart, separate them into syllables and apply all of those unfair spelling rules easily and logically.
What do kids with Dyslexia need?
For students with Dyslexia, this process of reading does NOT come naturally. Dyslexics do not use the process of sounding out phonemes (decoding) while reading and applying spelling rules while writing (encoding). Instead of decoding, these students memorize words in entirety and make mental pictures of each word they learn. The predicament with this strategy is that when they get to a word that they are unfamiliar with, they have no coping mechanisms to attack that particular word.
An example of the difficulty for some of us to learn which combination of letters creates which phoneme is the sound of the letter ‘a’ as in the word ‘cake.’ The long ‘a’ sound is written differently in different words, as in baby, ape, sail, play, steak, vein, eight and they. For students with reading disabilities, something interferes with the acquisition of these written phonemes, and in order to learn, these students must be taught how to read in a different way. One such way is using a multi-sensory method.
What does multisensory mean?
When taught with a multi-sensory approach, students will learn alphabetic patterns, phonemes and words by utilizing all pathways – hearing (auditory), seeing (visual), touching (tactile) and moving (kinesthetic).
When learning the vowel combination ‘oa,’ for example, the student might first look at the letter combination on a picture of a GOAT, then close his/her eyes and listen to the sound, then trace the letters in the air while speaking out loud. This combination of listening, looking, and moving around creates a lasting impression for the student as things will connect to each other and become memorable. Using a multi-sensory approach to reading will benefit ALL learners, not just those with reading disabilities.
What is Orton-Gillingham?
The other significant component in helping a struggling reader learn to read and write is utilizing an Orton-Gillingham approach. In Orton-Gillingham, the phonemes are introduced in a systematic, sequential and cumulative process. The Orton-Gillingham teacher begins with the most basic elements of the English language. Using repetition and the sequential building blocks of our language, phonemes are taught one at a time. This includes the consonants and sounds of the consonants. By presenting one rule at a time and practicing it until the student can apply it with automaticity and fluency, students have no reading gaps in their word-decoding skills. As the students progress to short vowels, they begin reading and writing sounds in isolation. From there they progress to digraphs, blends and diphthongs.
Students are taught how to listen to words or syllables and break them into individual phonemes. They also take individual sounds and blend them into a word, change the sounds in the words, delete sounds, and compare sounds. For example, “…in the word steak, what is the first sound you hear? What is the vowel combination you hear? What is the last sound you hear? Students are also taught to recognize and manipulate these sounds. “…what sound does the ‘ea’ make in the word steak? Say steak. Say steak again but instead of the ‘st’ say ‘br.’- BREAK!
Every lesson the student learns is in a structured and orderly fashion. The student is taught a skill and doesn’t progress to the next skill until the current lesson is mastered. As students learn new material, they continue to review old material until it is stored into the student’s long-term memory. While learning these skills, students focus on phonemic awareness. There are 181 phonemes or rules in Orton-Gillingham for students to learn. Advanced students will study the rules of English language, syllable patterns, and how to use roots, prefixes, and suffixes to study words. By teaching how to combine the individual letters or sounds and put them together to form words and how to break longer words into smaller pieces, both synthetic and analytic phonics are taught throughout the entire Orton-Gillingham program.
Students with Dyslexia need more structure, repetition and differentiation in their reading instruction. They need to learn basic language sounds and the letters that make them, starting from the very beginning and moving forward in a gradual step by step process. This needs to be delivered in a systematic, sequential and cumulative approach. For all of this to “stick” the students will need to do this by using their eyes, ears, voices, and hands.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder of PRIDE Learning Centers in Southern California. She is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, an Orton-Gillingham based reading program. For more information visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at www.pridelearningcenter.com