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A Handy Trick for Learning to Read

“Aoccdrning to rscheearch…”

Sequence of Learning to Read We all bring different experiences and backgrounds to our reading.  Our comprehension skills, vocabulary and language fluency all factor into what we take away from the series of letters and spaces on the page in front of us.  But the foundations of how we decode those characters comes from our learned ability to translate “letters into sounds” and “sounds into words.”

And so, most of us can “read” the subtitle of this blog as “According to research…”  Even more context would help us confirm that’s what the meaning of the letters is.  We had to make some assumptions to come to this conclusion, but we had experience to do that with.


Photo: From top right, to top left, the steps to learning to read. 

Elementary school kids don’t have that luxury.  They are learning to read.  So my teacher started with basics.  The boys and girls have learned to recognize letters, and the sounds that those letters denote.  R/rat/rrr.  T/top/tuh.  O/octopus/ahhh.  Every day they go over the entire alphabet to establish their mastery over all the vowels and consonants.

Once the connection between letters and sounds has been established, the kids can then take those sounds and string them together into words.  “Tapping out” words is one of the primary tactics that my teacher employs to strengthen their ability to pronounce and recognize words.

“Tapping out” R (R/rat/rrr), I (I/ih/itch), and T (T/top/tuh) with their thumb and fingers allows them to string together the sounds and then “blend” them together.  The “word” that they create it “rit.”

Of course, “rit” really isn’t a word, but my teacher has them build “nonsense” words as well as real words to help them improve their phonic awareness.  So, by building simple words-“rit” can easily be morphed into “rat”–and “tapping them out,” the kids strengthen their reading abilities and build their vocabulary.

The funny part is that they really enjoy sounding out the “nonsense” words-sometimes more than real words– but there’s a healthy blend of real and nonsense, because, aoccdrnig to rscheearch, it is ultimately their vocabulary and comprehension that will allow them to make the transition from “learning to read” to” reading to learn!”

 Robert Hodder is currently working with Experience Corps in Washington D.C. to help K-3rd graders with their reading skills.