Your Child’s Name Can Help Him Learn to Read
Scientists multiple countries have put a lot of effort in trying to understand how children learn to read. A study in Israel using Israeli children, and drawing on research done in the United States, has looked at how children use their name as a tool for learning to recognize letters and words. (If you’d like to read the full study, you can access here.) But the short story is, your child’s name can actually help him learn to read.
It is no surprise that family members encourage toddlers to learn their name and print the letters in them. Studies have shown that at the beginning, children do not recognize or understand the letters in their names or the sounds they signify. Often they cannot write their names reliably. A possible explanation is that young children have a memory for only a small number of letters. It also appears that children are best able to recognize the first letter in their name, and maybe three letters total if it is a long name. Most recognition of the first letter comes when it appears as a capital letter rather than a lower case letter. In many cultures, first names are very short, so it is easier for kids to learn the sounds and read their names.
First Letter Recognition
But generally, kids recognition of their own names, or names of people familiar to them, comes from that first letter recognition and word picture identification. Even though they may know the alphabet sounds that letters ions in pronunciation of letters, and rules, sounding out his name is often not easy or intuitive. In teaching names to children, parents tend to name the letters rather than focus on the sound each letter makes. Where the letter reliably represents the sound, the children better learns the sound along with the letter. That, of course is often not the case. Zōē, for example, is an easy name to sound out … because two letters say their name. William, Joseph, Sarah are harder, because of variations in the letter sounds.
Use your child’s name to help teach the concept of words and letter sounds. Explain that her name is a word that has a very special meaning, and belongs to her. Sound out each letter, and explain that sometimes the same letter has different sounds. The two As in Anna are different (and neither one pronounced like the two As in Sarah). William has two different pronunciations of the letter I, as does Olivia.
Sounds Don’t Correlate with the Name
No wonder they focus only on the first letter! But understanding their name as a word made up of individual sounds helps them understand the concept of letters making sounds that blend to form words that have meaning and lead to knowledge. An interesting side note, is that kids identify with, and recognize their first names, but far more often than not pay very little attention to their surname!
Even though our TIPS™ system is leveled, introducing more frequently encountered sounds first, showing your child that each letter in his name has a unique sound is helpful. Like this:
In TIPS™, “Sophie is a Level 12 word”, largely because of the /ph/ sound, which is relatively rare in the English language. But here you have 6 letters, giving 4 sounds, with 1 silent letter. Try explaining THAT to a 4 year old! But if you explain that the diacritics have a meaning and a purpose, like a line means the letter says its name, or an x under means that letter has no sound, they can apply that concept as they learn other TIPS™ and learn to read. And looking at the name above, you can see how easy it will be for kids to make the transition to no tips as they start to internalize the word pictures.
Useful Teaching Concept
Despite the difficulty in relating the letters in your child’s name to the sounds they make, a child’s name, family and peer names can be a useful tool for teaching reading concepts. It’s a good way to illustrate blending, showing how the discrete sounds combine smoothly to make their name. If your child’s name has more than one syllable, it’s a good way to illustrate segmenting, another skill important in reading.
Parents who talk, talk talk to their kids generally have kids with better phonemic awareness, because they hear so many words. Parents who read, read, read to their kids generally have kids who are more fluent readers. But every child likes to feel special, so focusing on your child’s name as a learning tool can be very beneficial.
So if you want to get started by teaching your child their name in TIPS™, make a request HERE, and we will be happy to send it to you!