Children typically start reading in the first years of elementary school, but building foundational skills to do so starts several years before they start sounding out words. Words of any language are made by mixing up and combining individual sounds. As babies learn to create words to speak, they do so by gaining phonological awareness; the ability to hear individual sounds and manipulate sounds to create and change the meaning. For example, by three a child knows that for most nouns, you add a /s/ sound to the end to mean more than one (cat to cats).
As children learn to speak, they often go through a period of time where their use of sounds is inaccurate. They may drop sounds from words, use the wrong sounds in the wrong places, leave out whole syllables. Examples of these common errors are:‘top!’ for ‘stop!’, ‘tat’ for ‘cat’ and ‘nana’ for ‘banana’. Speech errors are part of the learning process, as with crawling and walking, researchers have developed a timetable of milestones to mark expected ages by which children will use each sound accurately.
But what if they don’t?
When speech errors persist beyond the age they are expected to be corrected, a Speech Language Pathologist may recommend intervention to improve the child’s use of sounds in words, phrases and sentences. Speech therapy will help a child improve intelligibility which in turn boosts confidence and communication skills and reduces frustration and negative behaviour.
And strengthens a shaky foundation for reading.
The sounds the child is struggling within speaking are the same ones she will need to use to read. Having a strong enough understanding of ‘t’ and ‘k’ so she can hear the difference and produce them differently helps when learning the letters that represent the sounds.
English is hard. It has 44 sounds but only 26 letters, spelling rules and exceptions to rules, words that look the same and sound different, words that sound the same and look different. It’s important that all early readers have as many tools in their toolbox as possible including intelligible speech, strong phonological skills and the confidence to tackle reading head-on that comes with being a competent, assured communicator.
Are you wondering if your child is developing age-appropriate phonological skills? We offer a complimentary Speech and Language screening to help you determine if your child is meeting communication milestones by gaining and using skills as expected for their age. Simply click below to learn more and sign up.