If your child is having trouble reading - even in teen age years - chances are they are having trouble with auditory discrimination. That is, they probably have trouble discriminating vowel sounds - that is they confuse the sounds that the letters represent. This can happen to children (and adults) even though they have no diagnosable hearing problem.
There are 26 letters in the alphabet. Five of these are vowels. The vowels are the letters : a,e,i,o,u.
The rest are called consonants. Every word in the English language has a vowel in it, except for words such as 'fly' and 'by' where the 'y' takes the place of a vowel.
We have to remember that writing is a code for spoken language. So it is important to be able to hear the different sounds, or 'phonemes' that the various letters represent.
It is best to look at the short vowel sounds first. That is:
- 'a' as in 'cat'
- 'e' as in 'egg'
- 'i' as in 'fit'
- 'o' as in 'orange'
- 'u' as in hut.
- the short 'a' with 'e' and 'u'
- the short 'e' with 'a' and 'i'
- the short 'i' with 'e'
- the short 'u' with 'a'
Make up some flash cards. You can print out cards and laminate them or just make simple cardboard, handwritten ones like the ones below.
Keep these in a snack size, ziplock bag. (I find these invaluable for keeping reading resources.)
Present these to your child randomly,one at a time, once or twice a day until they know the short sounds of the vowels. Then try it a bit faster - see how fast they can go.
In reading it is not just a matter of knowing sounds but of cementing them into the brain so it becomes automatic.
Once your child can deal with this without many mistakes, introduce 3 more sets of cards with vowel sounds.
Keep them in the ziplock bag and present them randomly once a day. (With my own child I always found it is best to avoid weekends unless she wanted to do her letters. It is really important not to make reading a punishment.)
Even when your child seems good at this, it is good to repeat it every week or so for a while. With every practice we are slowly changing the brain.
Avoid criticising your child and praise them when they are correct. As far as possible this has to be a positive experience. If your child links reading with anxiety or negative experiences, it is going to make it very difficult to keep them working.
If this just seems too simple, don't worry. We are building a really firm foundation for their reading which will serve them for the rest of their lives. It is all right to take your time. Next week we will begin working with simple words.
PS If your child wants to work on words after they have done this don't hold them back.