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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    Reading Lessons: One-Part Speech Therapy

    March 21, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I have said before that teaching reading is really one-part speech therapy. The younger the student, the more pronunciation hurdles you will come up against. If you recall, I began these lessons with Daughter Q. when she was only 3.5 years old. Obviously, most three-year-olds do not pronounce all of their words correctly, even if they have a broad vocabulary. Reading lessons are a wonderful chance to work on pronunciation as well.

    Many children mispronounce words because they are sloppy hearers. In fact, this is probably the main difference between baby talk and true speech impediment*. The speech impaired child may know what a word sounds like, but mispronounce the word due to various factors. The baby-talking child has not heard the word correctly, or, in many cases, heard and recognized that what they are saying back (when they are parroting words) is not what Mommy actually said.

    The nice part about placing these moments of speech coaching within the context of the reading lessons is that you’re not going to overdo it. Though I’m a firm believer in correcting a child’s improper speech, I also believe that if a mother went to an extreme and did this all day, every day, the poor child would simply quit talking altogether!

    Besides, much baby talk is simply outgrown. This is yet another reason why delaying reading lessons until children are older (age five or six) can be such a blessing.

    There are fewer hurdles.

    But we all know three-year-olds who insist they be taught to read, and teach them we do.

    And along the way, we must coach their speech.

    In book 11 of Bob Books Set 1, we teach the l sound. Many, many children babytalk with this sound. They don’t say “I love you” but rather, “I wuv you” or something of the kind. It is adorable. But, it makes for bad readers if you allow them to mispronounce a word they are reading. No good can come of it.

    In order to coach any sound, you have to pay attention you how you make the sound. Most of us pronounce words correctly without paying heed to how we actually do it. So now: make the l sound. Do you see? Do you see how the front middle of your tongue presses up against your top teeth? That is imperative for making this sound.

    With my students who struggle with this sound (like Daughter Q. does), I first have them stick their tongues out. They can’t say “wuv” if their tongue is out! Next, work with them to help them make the proper sound. I have encouraged them to lightly bite their tongues if they are having trouble keeping it in place while they make the sound.

    And then practice.

    You have the whole book to practice, but it helps to practice throughout the day. Forget all the sounds they say incorrectly. Just focus on getting this one sound right for the sake of reading.

    *This advice is not likely helpful for the speech impaired child, though it never hurts to try. If your child is struggling with speech and is older (age five or six), I’d highly advise hiring a therapist to assess and coach the child.


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