Helping your child become an independent reader is an exciting (and sometimes frustrating) journey. They may struggle along the way, but encouraging a love for reading benefits children tremendously. Over the years, educators have uncovered the fascinating ways the brain absorbs the written word, and sight words are a fundamental part of that process.
What are Sight Words?
Around ages 4 and 5, children learn specific words by sight rather than sounding them out. Sight words are words that are used frequently in writing and speech, some are difficult to define, and they don’t necessarily follow traditional phonetic protocols. Examples of sight words are: is, it, have, had, he, she, they, was, what, with, be, and but.
As you can imagine, it’s a bit difficult to define “what” or use an illustration to explain the word “is.” But with repetition and lots of practice, kids can memorize these words, which helps them piece together a story without much assistance. While many teachers refer to these as sight words, they’re also called high-frequency words, core words, or popcorn words – because they “pop up” so many times in text!
Why are Sight Words Important?
Identifying sight words can give kids an extra advantage when learning to read. Sight words make up about 75% of the words used in books for beginners! When children can immediately recognize these words, it can:
- Increase comprehension – They can focus on words they haven’t learned yet, rather than decode every word in the text.
- Boost confidence – Having the ability to read the majority of words on a page helps them feel more like independent readers and builds their confidence.
- Promote fluent reading and writing – Knowing sight words helps to make reading and writing skills more efficient.
How to Help Your Child Learn Sight Words
There are tons of great ways to help children learn sight words! Your child’s teacher might already have some strategies you can utilize at home, so don’t hesitate to ask them about their methods. Of course, reading together as often as possible is a terrific way to help kids remember sight words.
Here are a few other helpful tips:
- Keep lessons brief, especially for beginners (preschool and kindergarten), so you don’t overwhelm them with too many words at once.
- Introduce your child to a new sight word by itself, then highlight the word repeatedly throughout a book.
- Try to avoid introducing two similar sight words in the same lesson. For instance, separately teach them words like “will” and “well” or “is” and “if.”
- Offer praise when they grasp a new word and positive constructive feedback to correct mistakes.
Overall, you want your child to have fun, be engaged, and be encouraged to read more! Practicing these words through games is highly recommended. Click here to find a few fun sight word activities from Scholastic to help you get started!