Make Word Recognition Skill
Development in Kindergarten
Worthy of Effort


In kindergarten reading, word recognition skill represents the ways and means to gain access to unfamiliar words in written texts. It's a process that leads to successful reading.

To the mature reader, the skills developed through school and life experiences are integrated and used, automatically. They allow the reader to maintain the pace of reading with minimal delay.

To the beginning reader, word identification is a complex set of skills developed in a systematic way...after many years in elementary school. These skills help the reader work through unknown words. They are also known as word attack skills.

Word recognition, word identification, word attack, and decoding skills are four terms that are used to describe what we do when we encounter new...or unfamiliar words when reading written communications. They are often used interchangeably. Some reading teachers make fine distinctions between each of these terms despite their interchangeable use.

Those distinctions have very little impact on word identification skills appropriate to the kindergarten child. That said, it is important to note that

...the trend in North American schools

is to download onto the Kindergarten teacher, skill development that traditionally...

belonged in first grade.

In fact, in some states in the US and provinces in Canada, there are prescribed skills that must be acquired within specific timelines. The impact of no child left behind is placing an enormous amount of pressure on kindergarten children. 

Just as there are many ways to get from Vancouver to Miami, so, too, are there many ways to acquire the pre-reading and word recognition skill needed to be comfortable with the learning requirements of first grade.

If you have to get to Miami by the next day, the obvious answer is to fly directly, if possible. If you have five days, you might choose to drive the shortest route. Given a month or more, you might choose to drive the US Highway system instead of using Interstate highways. You might choose to go down the West Coast and across the Southern States...or...the Northern States across and the Eastern Seaboard south. The time factor allows for many routes and stops along the way.

Is there a relationship here?

I think so. If we focus too much on individual word recognition skill, we may, inadvertently, miss the proverbial forest for the trees.

What is the goal of word recognition skill?

To get to reading and understanding communications in writing!

It is a given that, if your child has learned to speak the target language of the reading program, in this case English, she has learned the sound system of the language. The purpose of word recognition skills is to apply the sounds of the language to their written equivalents.

Since those written equivalents combine and recombine the letters of the alphabet...

is there a way...

to apply letter-name recognition in a realistic way...

to set-up your child

to gain the word attack skills needed...

to learn to read, easily?

Is there a powerful way to instill decoding skills in as natural a way as learning to speak? 

What are the real differences between the way we teach children to read and to speak?

Reading is taught formally.
Teaching children to speak is taught informally.

No parent sets a child down...
for a formal lesson in speaking!

Parents don't insist that toddlers use standard language in order to have a request fulfilled.. 

or to acknowledge communication.

If the toddler says, "Them's Billy's shoes!" Mom or Dad is likely to acknowledge the truth of the statement over the form. They will model the correct form by saying, "Yes. Those are Billy's shoes."

If the shoes aren't Billy's, they will say, "No. Those aren't Billy's shoes. They are Johnny's shoes."

Mom and Dad know that the correct form goes into the data bank for use at some future time. 

In the same way, a natural way to get to the goal of reading text can be had by extending alphabet knowledge. This is done easily by

...integrating an earlier skill

through the practice of letter naming the words in written texts, where the letters are...

in random order.

How can word recognition be done in this way? 

Take your child's favorite book...or one familiar to him.

When my daughter was three years old, she invariably
chose Margaret Wise Brown's Good Night! Moon to
read, at bedtime...for at least 75 nights! On each of
those nights, she said, "Look, Daddy! There's a hole
in the sky." She watched the pages as the book
was read to her. By the end, she knew the story by

At the time, my wife was in full-time attendance in an
Early Childhood Education at the local Community
College, by day. I taught evening courses, which
made me the primary caretaker, by day.

It was amusing to watch Kelly sit alone with her book,
reading the story aloud, turning the pages at the
proper time. Remarkably, her fluency and expression
were very much like mine. An outsider might conclude
that she actually was reading.

Oh...And, yes...I washed dishes, floors, windows. I
cooked and vacuumed, too.


A well-loved and familiar book is a best choice for this activity.
Have your child name the letters of each word in a line of print.
Follow that by reading the words to your child while pointing to the words.
Your child may want to read the words, too.
Any word your child may not remember should be spelled, again.
Tell your child the words spelled.
Reread the sentence.
Then ask your child to reread the sentence.
Progress through the book in this same fashion.  

Not only does this activity contribute to early reading,
it is cited as a contributing factor in children
who teach themselves to read.

When the favored book is finished, use the same procedure with other books on other occasions. You might want to use Pat Hutchins' book, Rosie's Walk. Books that have a pattern of language are excellent choices. 

This process promotes word recognition skills in as natural an environment in learning to learning to speak.

It integrates previously learned skills at the application level, in a realistic and familiar context. What happens is that you weave in word recognition skills to yield a subtle, yet powerful, process in learning to read.

Artificial and isolated word recognition skills, so problematic in many children, are avoided.

This word identification process:

...requires active participation on the part of your child
...allows for intricate, internal organization to take place
...demonstrates that this is an activity worthy of effort
...allows for the expectation of success
...captures your child's attention
...presents decoding in an interesting and accessible form
...engages your child's mind in the interaction with print
...resists the mechanical emptiness of isolated skills
...yields a sense of progress and involvement
...allows for active learning and increase in confidence, and
...helps children who need look and hear.

Most importantly, this word recognition process...

Conveys the idea that your child is a capable learner!

In short, the integrity of this approach to word recognition skills is that your child may

learn to read...

because you have established a natural learning environment where the outcome is predictable. 

You learn best when you believe what you are trying to learn is of value to you. 

A good teacher must believe in the ideas she teaches.
She must also believe in the students to whom she
offers the ideas.

In 1908, in his book entitled The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading, Edmund Burke Huey stated:

Perhaps we should catalogue still another (reading method), the imitative method. In the Orient, children bawl in concert over a book, imitating their fellows or their teacher until they come to know what the page says and to read it for themselves. Many a ...child cannot remember when reading began, having by a similar method pored over the books and pictures of nursery jingles and fairy tales that were told to him, until he could read them for himself. (p.274)

Word recognition skill development at the Kindergarten level can be as simple as using what your child

knows and enjoys.

This process integrates prior knowledge with what is familiar and

...extends it into new realms where
...the mystery of learning to read
is unravelled.

A note to teachers who are reading this page.
This website is the answer to the many
requests from parents about how they can
help prepare their youngsters for the learning
requirements of first grade...most importantly, ease in word recognition skills!

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