Yesterday, I mentioned that we’d talk about this. Introducing the letter r sound can be tricky, especially if a student is younger. However, if your child is going to learn to read they are going to have to learn to pronounce. The voice in their head likely sounds a lot like the voice they use, meaning that they are actually repeating in their heads the mispronunciation of words.
This means that, for some children, “rag” and “wag” sound the same in their minds. Do you see how this sort of thing will disrupt comprehension over time? Because we love them, we help them grow out of their pronunciation problems.
When E., who is now seven, was three, and he was reading “Dot” for the first time, we took a day off. Instead of reading lessons, we had roar-like-a-lion lessons.
And then we began to growl our words.
I wrote the words he could read (not many: rag, rot, rad, rat, ram, ran) on a giant white board and we growled them out. We were reading lions.
And from then on, he could pronounce his r’s properly, at least when he was reading. Sometimes, he slipped back into baby talk. Depending on the circumstance, I corrected him, or not. But when he was reading, he had to say it correctly.
Some children have more pronunciation problems than others. I am not a speech therapist. However, many habits can be broken by simple parental coaching. As a parent or instructor, you are going to have to think about how the sounds are made in your own mouth.
With r, the sides of your tongue press against your molars. Did you ever notice that? With soft-s, some children say it wrong because their tongues are simply in the wrong part of their mouths. They put their tongue where it belongs for the th sound, which means it is out in front of their top teeth, slightly pointing toward their top lip, with air running over the top of it, rather than back behind their top teeth, front part of the tongue flat against the front of the palate.
Have clean hands so that you can touch the proper part of the mouth or palate to show them where to put their tongues, if need be.
Make sure that they can hear the difference. Say w and then r and ask them if they can tell the difference. Then explain how to say r. Same with soft-s. Say th. Say s. Ask them to hear it, then explain how to say it, and then have them practice saying it correctly.
Baby talk is precious, I know. But a teenager who cannot pronounce words is a problem. When they start reading, we must take them to the next level in regard to what they are saying, for their own sake. Loving them means we cannot leave them babies forever.
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