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Sight Words: Are They Necessary to Teach Your Child to Read?

Mar 08, 2017

They have been called Fry, Dolch, high frequency and common words. Regardless of their name, the English language is based on sound associations to letters and letter pairs. Children learn the balance between patterns of sound and recalling words that do not follow a phonetic pattern, and must be memorized to be learned.

There are many discussions about the usefulness of non-phonetic sight words, or what are known as “red words” in the research-based Orton Gillingham world. To be a great reader, you want your child to recognize some words, and also sound out new ones so their vocabulary is at or above their age.

Your child should recognize words, signs, and the lists they are given in school and they need to have the underlying skills to recall these words and develop other literacy foundations.

Early developing sight words include “no, go, he, she, who, what, where, and goes” to name a few. As you’re reading stories, talk about the who, what, where of the story. Make up stories about things they love (“The dog is hiding. Where did he go?”).

Many children are somewhat “self-taught” or learn implicitly. Children who struggle to learn the basics of letter and number recall need to be identified from the start and given instruction so they can be successful.

You can strengthen your child’s skills by providing them with a language rich environment. Talk with them, play word games, read to them nightly. We are a generation of tablets and technology, but face to face learning and games still have an important place in your child’s learning.

Use bath-time or outside play to incorporate the foundations of reading. For many children, motor-patterns help solidify the learning process. Draw with bath crayons, sidewalk chalk, and make signs with paper cups, rocks, or other scraps of material.

Sight words are important and go hand in hand with recognizing letter patterns. If your child is language delayed or struggles learning it is never too early to get an assessment of their foundation skills. Early kindergarten is a great time for early identification.

For more information on Nationwide Children's Speech Pathology Clinics, click here.

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Jean Hruschak, MA, CCC/SLP

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