In many preschool and Kindergarten classrooms, the relationship between how a letter looks and how it sounds is taught by showing the child pictures of objects, telling them the name of the object, and then telling them what letter the object starts with (‘cat’ starts with C, ‘dog’ starts with D). Some children just do not gain language acquisition in this way; what if they just can’t remember that ‘cat’ starts with C? When children know that they are not ‘getting it,’ they start to see reading as boring and stressful.
When working with a Kindergarten student in Westford, MA, who was having a great deal of difficulty remembering how his letters looked, I began reading with him in a way that would allow him to build confidence and understand that he could learn to read, just like all his classmates. We began reading a simple text together until he had memorized it, and could point to each word as he said it.
Some children excel with this whole-word reading approach, and this child was one of them. He started to see patterns in the words, and was able to transfer what he retained from one book onto other books. Most importantly, he felt good about reading, which propelled him toward learning phonics and the additional skills a child needs in order to be a reader.