Question:What is the best order in which to introduce letters and their corresponding sounds?
Question:What strategies and programs do you recommend for teaching phonics and early literacy skills to preschoolers?
Question:My child is 18 months old and is not yet speaking, but understands commands and responds to directions. What can I do to help her develop her language skills?
Each child develops language at her own rate. Typically children say their first word around one year of age and then slowly acquire more words. Some children can say around 70 words at 18 months, however others take longer to get started. The key is that your child's receptive language, meaning what she understands, is not delayed. A typical child at 18 months can follow directions, point to a number of pictures in books, point to objects/people in their environment when asked, and point to several body parts.
Reading to your child makes the biggest difference in language development and future reading skills. Also, imitate and expand on your daughter's attempts to speak. If she says, "Uh-oh," you say, "Uh-oh, we spilled the milk!" If she still isn't talking by her second birthday, talk with your doctor and consider an evaluation by an early intervention specialist. This may ease your concerns if you continue to have them.
Also see the Reading Rockets section on developmental milestones for speaking and reading.
Question:How can I help my son practice blending sounds as he reads?
You can do a lot to help your child practice. One way is to use modeling to introduce these skills. As you read to your child, sound out some of the words before you say them completely. Also, you can make a game to practice blending. Give your child a picture (e.g. a cat) and have him sound out the name while placing marbles, drawing marks, or tapping their fingers for each of the individual sounds in the word (e.g., /c/.../a/.../t/ is composed of 3 sounds, thus the child would use 3 marbles, marks, or taps.) You can also practice counting syllables by clapping or using your fingers to tap out the number of different sounds, or phonemes, in a word.
As your child continues to develop as a reader, the best thing you can do as a parent is to support him and give him many opportunities to practice.