The Mighty Vowel

From my years of teaching and tutoring, I have come to appreciate five special letters of our alphabet – the vowels (a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y).  These letters and the sounds they make are the foundation of every word in the English language.  In fact, if you try to find a word that doesn’t have a vowel in it, I bet you wouldn’t be able to.  Yet, when I teach reading and spelling, most children don’t know or have not learned all the vowel sounds.  Further, they often don’t hear the vowel sounds because in modern English most of us have learned to shortcut these sounds.  Many people will say “uhgen” or “uhgin” instead of correctly pronouncing the word as “a-gain.”

In my experience the routine mispronunciation of these vowel sounds causes new readers difficulty and confusion because they do not hear the distinctly different vowel sounds in words.  So, my program emphasizes the vowels sounds in all words.  With my program I recommend helping your child to hear the short “a” sound and then have him/her say that sound over and over.  I recommend playing games that assist your child to hear the difference between vowel sounds in “pet” and “pit”, “bit” and “bet” or “cat” and “cot.”  As you read this blog post you may be saying to yourself that the sound differences are obvious, and to you as an adult that may be, but to many new readers these sounds are confusing and very difficult to differentiate.  It takes practice.

If a child can’t easily hear or differentiate the vowel sounds well when reading them in words, it then becomes difficult to sound out those words and later on spelling also becomes difficult.  Spelling is the subject of another discussion so I won’t discuss it at length here.

If a child learns to hear, differentiate and say the vowel sounds correctly, beginning with the short vowel sounds, then word recognition is much easier.  Once, I worked with a young boy who was having a great deal of difficulty learning to read.  When he ran across a word he did not recognize (as was the case with most words), he would try every single vowel sound trying to figure it out.  For example, if he saw “pet” he might say pat, pit, put, pot, pate, pet until he was so confused he did not recognize the word when he finally got it.  When I taught him the individual sounds and he could hear them correctly, he began to recognize words more easily as he read and he was able to sound them out correctly.  He was also able to recognize more words.  After he learned the different vowel sounds he didn’t even try to make a vowel sound that wasn’t in the word and this made reading faster and easier for him.  He was soon reading up a storm and for the first time he loved to read.  (I used the sets of cards we developed for our phonics program, Basic and Advanced Phonics Cards and Phonics Game Cards by Success Reading.) Although learning rates can differ greatly from student to student and although all students learn slightly differently one to another, I have found this same problem in one form or another – or in varying degrees, with all beginner readers.

So, as a parent, what can you do?  Say the vowel sounds and have your child repeat them.  If you do it in a fun way like singing the sounds and having him or her repeat the sounds in a melodic tone, your child could find it to be much more fun. Also take some time to have your child see the letter that corresponds to the sound.  Try to pronounce your words clearly, especially when reading aloud to him/her.  And one thing that has been found to be very valuable in bringing about a skillful reader is to read aloud to your child every day.  The more they hear you reading stories and the more they enjoy their reading time with mom or dad, the better reader they will become later.  Again, above all else, have fun with your child and strive to make reading time enjoyable for them.


Success Reading is a subsidiary of Success Reading, Inc.


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