Let Your Early Reader Acquire New Skills One at a Time

When early readers begin to take on new literacy skills, it is important to remember that they need to assimilate a new rule into their repertoire before they can learn the variations on this rule. For example, when teaching young children that adding an ‘e’ to the end of a word turns a short vowel sound (a as in apple) into a long vowel sound (a as in cake), let them fully accomplish the use of this new skill before teaching them about vowel pairs (ai as in rain), which also provide a long vowel sound. If your child writes ‘the bird etes sedes,’ this is because they want to write ‘eat’ and know that ‘et’ doesn’t give them the long vowel sound, but adding an ‘e’ to the end of the word usually accomplishes this goal. Similarly, if you tell this child that ‘seed’ is written as such, rather than letting the child follow the rule by adding an ‘e’ to the end of ‘sed’ to make the long ‘e’ sound, they will not be able to acquire the skills as concretely. Allow ‘mistakes’ to happen as they rigidly follow each rule, and then teach them the variations (such as vowel pairs) after they can easily read and write with the current rule.