Triveni Goswami Vernal
Registered Special Educator (A64010)
The processes of Encoding and Decoding, that are closely related to Auditory and Visual Perception, are intimately connected to the skills of Writing and Reading.
Decoding is the process of being able to ‘read the words’, that includes recognizing the letters, the sounds that the letters make and the blending of the sounds.
In comparison, the process of Encoding is used for Spelling, thereby being a crucial component for writing.
For Reading, Auditory processing skills and phonemic awareness are important. According to Bonny Terry Learning (Accessed from https://bonnieterrylearning.com/research/learning-styles/auditory-perception/), “The basis of reading is phonemic awareness and phonics (the alphabetic principle). When you have areas of auditory processing that are not working as well as they could, should, and can, reading becomes very difficult.”
Phonemic Awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in a word.
It is the ability to recognize rhyming words, blending syllables, word families etc.
According to Sarah’s Teaching Snippets (https://sarahsnippets.com/tips-and-activities-for-phonemic/ ),examples of Phonemic Awareness are
• Grouping words by similar sounds: Ball, bear, and bike all start with /b/.
• Isolating Sounds: Identifying the first, middle, and last sounds in words.
• Blending sounds into words: /w/ /i/ /sh/= wish
• Segmenting words: wish has 3 phonemes and is broken up this like: /w/ /i/ /sh/
• Manipulate sounds within words: Change the /w/ to /d/. What word? dish
Several activities can be done with the child to improve Phonemic Awareness such as Segmenting and Blending words, Rhyme Matching Game etc (For more activities see https://www.learnwithhomer.com/homer-blog/3728/phonemic-awareness-activities/ https://www.ateachableteacher.com/phonemic-awareness/ , https://www.ateachableteacher.com/beginning-phonemic-awareness-activities-2/ etc).
The Orton-Gillingham (OG) method, is widely used to teach literacy skills of reading and spelling, across the globe. The Orton-Gillingham method teaches the connections between Letters and Sounds. It adopts a multi-sensory approach and concepts are broken down into smaller units for a child to understand, better.
When I first began to work with Kabir on his literacy skills, I introduced books with very simple story lines. Books that had colourful illustrations on each page and probably a sentence or two at the most, for description, in bold, to draw his attention. Even if he couldn’t read words, or make sense of the meaning involved, he always had access to all kinds of books within his reach. Books on Animals, Sea creatures, picture books on Landscapes, Trains, Colours, Shape etc., anything that I thought would keep him engaged and busy. Story telling was introduced in the daily routine, where I would read through the books or look through the pages, as he sat next to me.
Early on I realized that Kabir is a Visual Learner, so I tried to make the best use of the Apps that were available, especially Starfall.com. It is an educational app, that includes various kinds of literacy-based games and information, presented in a clear manner and graded according to varying degrees of difficulty.
The ones I found most helpful for him, were as follows: Starfall Kindergarten and Pre K (https://www.starfall.com/h/) , Starfall Learn to Read with Phonics (https://www.starfall.com/h/ltr-classic/) , Starfall I’m Reading (https://www.starfall.com/h/im-reading/). Most of these apps are free to download on both Android and Apple devices. Beyond these, they also have material for Grade 1, 2 and 3.
Then I bought the Ladybird Series of books starting with Level 1. And I paired the book with the video of an Audiobook of that exact version of the story, on YouTube. For example, if I bought the book, The Three Little Pigs (Ladybird Level 1), I paired it with the audio version of that very book available on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE9oBF8ao5g).
When Kabir sat with his book and also saw a person reading the book on YouTube line by line, he was able to make the connection between the words in the book, their pronunciation and the intonation (the pauses) while reading and he seemed to enjoy the experience.
I did the same process with books such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood etc. When I saw that he really enjoyed and could read Level 1 books with ease, I moved on to Level 2 and then to Level 3 and 4. It wasn’t an overnight jump. We read and re-read a book multiple- times.
During the first lockdown due to Covid, I also did a lot of Visual Perception activities with him like Word Mazes/ Word Puzzles, simple Crosswords etc. He also developed a liking for videos of different kinds of Birds on YouTube. So, we did Word Search Puzzles based on that. Almost every day for months, I created a Word Search puzzle for him with Bird Names. Nothing exceptional, but a simple grid with letters that formed the names of various birds, he was familiar with. Other than being a good visual scanning activity, he was also learning how to spell the names of the birds.
We also did Auditory Memory activities, where I would show him a video of birds and he would then name the birds in the sequence he saw them.
Find: Egret, Bat, Goose, Snipe, Finch, Robin
One can start with a very simple 4 x 4 grid, and then move on to the next levels, depending on the child’s level of understanding.
Kabir is now at a stage, where he can read age-appropriate books like the series by Roald Dahl…The Enormous Crocodile, The Magic Finger, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory etc. Now that he can read, we are also trying to work on his comprehension. I feel, having a visual representation of the book (whether it is an animated representation of the book, such as The Enormous Crocodile available online or a person reading out the book on YouTube) can help augment a child’s understanding of the text being read.
Thus we see, that to truly develop the ability to Read, one must lay the foundations of Phonics and Phonemic awareness, and simultaneously work on Vocabulary, Fluency and Comprehension.
In my next blog, I will touch upon the Role of Visualization in Reading Comprehension.
Author Triveni Goswami Vernal
Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.
Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal.
Artist: Kabir Vernal
Poster paints and Acrylic Paint pens on Watercolour paper
Just as a plant grows from a tiny seed, may the love for reading be planted in the lives of our children!