As a qualified teacher, I have seen children who struggle with reading and certainly, in my role as a school governor in a local primary school it is a discussion that we regularly have about how to support those who are struggling to learn to read. If a child struggles to read it will impact on all of their educational needs and can affect their growth mindset. The struggling reader cannot access the lesson fully and there will be a growing gap in attainment. Therefore it is really important that struggling readers are supported with early intervention both at home and in the classroom. Therefore I am pleased to be partnering with Helping Children to Read in this post.
Guessing: if you’ve seen it, you know it.
Your child guesses at words based on the first letter. Or heavily relies on context clues or the illustrations to fill in the blanks. Or they interchange those short, high-frequency words, like of, and, for, from, etc.
It can be frustrating, to say the least! For everybody – parents, teachers, and most of all the children themselves.
Is guessing really so bad?
The problem with guessing is that it covers up a hole. And one that can widen over time if the root issue is not addressed.
You see, at its core, guessing tries to hide weak phonetic foundation. Many very bright kids are able to memorise words and even whole books in the first couple years of school. So they never really need (or learn) phonics. They just sort of use their natural intelligence to make it work.
But when the number of words that children are expected to know rises, around age 7 or 8, all that supposed reading ability starts slipping away. The memory just can’t keep up. The first words to go are the short common ones – for and from look much more similar than elephant, which is visually distinctive!
These children just haven’t been taught phonics in the way their brains want to learn. Usually, guessers are visual learners. That’s why they sight-memorise words. So you need to use a visual approach to unlock that phonetic understanding in their brain.
Enter, centre stage: trainertext visual phonics (TVP)
Trainertext visual phonics (TVP) is just that approach. And everything you need to get started is available for you free of cost – truly!
Since reading is a subconscious skill like riding a bike, and NOT a conscious rules-based process like building an IKEA table, TVP uses a training wheels approach. The training wheels are a set of 45 memorable (and quite funny!) visual characters, called trainertext. They represent each of the sounds in the English language, and help a child sound out even the most irregular word. (You can print them out free here, or purchase them pre-printed here.)
An independent randomized control trial of TVP showed that after around 120 lessons, children who had been 2 years behind we now on average at the national standard. So while it’s great for early readers, it is transformative for strugglers.
You can now try TVP yourself at Helping Children to Read. Free printables, a TVP manual, workbooks and flashcards are all available to you (did we mention it’s all free?!) to help your beginner. If you have a struggler, we’d highly recommend a free trial of the Easyread system, which showed the 2-year-reading-age-gain above.
And if you want more information on why YOUR child is struggling, we’d recommend The 9 Main Causes of Reading Difficulty, our Amazon bestseller that can take you through a baseline assessment to help pinpoint what is going wrong for your child, and how to fix it.