phonemic awareness skills

Phonemic Awareness Skills

Phonemic awareness is a building block for literacy. Phonemic awareness, or a child’s ability to manipulate sounds to change word meaning, make new words, or even segment and then blend sounds together to make words, are all important skills when children are learning to read. Parents can practice the skills below with their children, adding onto previous knowledge while increasing complexity. As with any skills, it is important that children have a strong phonemic awareness foundation to aid in reading and ultimately writing, too!

Building Phonemic Awareness Skills By Age:

Age Skills Acquired During Year
3 years ·         Begin to familiarize children with nursery rhymes·         Stress alliteration (e.g., “big boat” or “many mumbling mice”)

·         Identify words that rhyme (e.g., snake/cake)

4 years ·         Child can begin to segment sentences into words·         Children start to break down multisyllabic words (e.g., “El-i-an-a”)

·         Children generate rhyming words

5 years ·         Notes words that do not rhyme within a given group·         Blends sounds together
6 years ·         Blends sounds together to create words (e.g., /p/ /a/ /t/, pat)·         Segments sounds to identify parts of words

·         Enjoys creating multiple rhymes

7 years ·         Begins to spell phonetically·         Counts sounds in words
8 years ·         Moves sounds to create new words (e.g., “tar” turns to “art”)


The above ages highlight typical skill mastery. As with most skills, there are varying ranges of development. Parents should incorporate phonemic awareness activities into usual book reading, and have fun talking about sounds and words!

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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Reference: Goldsworthy (2003); Justice (2006); Naremore, Densmore, & Harman (2001).


child hates to read

Help! My Child Hates to Read

Reading homework and practice is a constant throughout a child’s educational career from the very beginning when a child is learning to read. Children need to practice reading for a variety of reasons, mainly to improve their own literacy skills, but also to be introduced to new vocabulary and concepts. Obviously, reading practice is important, but it is not always the easiest activity to complete in a child’s day, especially if he or she does not enjoy reading. Try these strategies to improving a child’s motivation to participate in reading activities.

Inspire your child to read with these tips:

  1. Let your child choose what he or she reads: If a child is not interested in reading a certainHelp! My Child Hates to Read book or story, it will only add to the negativity surrounding reading. Take your child to the library and give him or her the opportunity to explore various topics and pick something he or she is interested in. With added interest, comes increased motivation, which will ultimately lead to a more positive reading experience.
  1. EBooks: Try downloading a book on yours or the child’s iPad or computer. With the added flare of electronics, a child may be more motivated to complete his or her reading practice. Be sure to set boundaries with the child that no other activities or games should be completed on the iPad/computer during reading time.
  1. Family Reading Time: It can be difficult to get a child to separate him or herself from the rest of the family and afternoon activities to complete reading. Instead of having an individual expectation for one child, have the entire family sit down for their own respected reading time. This will help your child not feel so left out or discouraged when they are to complete their reading, instead it will be a family activity.
  1. Incentive Chart: Incentive charts work as a great motivational tool by giving the child something to work towards. Give your child a goal (e.g., 10 starts). You child can work towards that goal each time they complete their reading. Once the child earns the goal, they can then receive a motivating reward (e.g., getting a slurpee, a trip to the movie theater, etc.)
  1. Talk with your child: Have a discussion with your child about why he or she hates reading. It may be because it is hard for them. Be knowledgeable of the warning signs for a reading disorder, as your child may require additional support in this area. See the list of warning signs below and consult with your child’s teacher to get a better understanding for your child’s reading abilities:

Warning Signs of a Reading Disorder:

  • Dislike or avoidance of reading
  • Not understanding that words can be segmented (e.g., “cowboy” broken down is “cow” and “boy”).
  • Trouble with sound-letter relationships
  • Difficulty sounding out words
  • Difficulty understanding written and spoken language
  • Difficulty rhyming

Click here for more tips on how to get your child interested in reading.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Learning to Read v. Reading to Learn

In elementary and middle schools, there tend to be two different stages of reading: learning to read, and reading to learn. These stages highlight the shift that children go through once they have learned to read, as they then use their reading to learn in all subject areas.

Learning to Read: For most children, this stage encompasses kindergarten through third grade. In these earlyThe Progression of Reading Skills elementary school years, children are learning the alphabetic principle, or the systematic and predictable relationship between sounds and letters. Children begin to understand how sounds make up syllables, syllables make up words, and words have meaning.

Reading to Learn: Once children reach fourth grade, the expectations change. Children are now expected to be proficient readers, and their learning is highly contingent upon reading abilities. Children become more independent with their education, and often homework assignments pertain to reading passages and answering questions or reading materials to study for tests and quizzes.

Potential Difficulties:

This system certainly has benefits. It builds upon previously learned skills and allows children to become more independent with their own learning. Once children are in the “reading to learn” phase, school work becomes more challenging, often targeting reading comprehension and more advanced writing activities. There are potential difficulties with this model, however. Once children reach fourth grade, many are still struggling with reading. As school work becomes more difficult, children stuck in the “learning to read” stage may fall behind in class, begin avoiding or disliking reading, and a larger gap than previously noticed may arise.

Warning signs of a Reading Disorder:

  • Dislike or avoidance of reading
  • Not understanding that words can be segmented
  • Trouble with sound-letter relationship
  • Difficulty sounding out words
  • Difficulty understanding written and spoken language
  • Difficulty rhyming

The later into schooling that children progress, the greater impact reading has on academic success, across all subjects. Math gets harder as story problems are introduced, science often has new concepts requiring children to read about, and even in English classes, children will no longer have spelling lists but will grades will suffer due to poor spelling. It is so important for parents and families to identify early struggles in reading and intervene!

NSPT offers our Blossom Reading Program in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!


raising a reader

Raising A Reader

Are you looking for ways to encourage a love of reading in your child?  Starting at an early age is important, but it is never too late to get your child more interested in books.  Here are a few tips to get your child to love books and to raise a reader.

Tips to Raise a Reader: raising a reader

  1. Make reading together a daily habit. Set aside time every day where you and your child read together.  Your child will look forward to this time spent together with mom or dad’s undivided attention and the opportunity to share a special story.  As they get older, you can still do this but have your child select a book to read on their own and then talk to them about what they read.
  2. Be a model. Have your child see you reading books of your own. Children who see their parents reading are more likely to be interested in reading themselves.  So grab a book and teach them by doing!
  3. Make regular trips to the library. Get your child excited about books with a trip to the library.  Seeing all of the different choices available to them and colorful cover pages will have them reaching for multiple books.  Since there is a time limit on checking out books, they will be motivated to read each one and then exchange for new titles.
  4. Designate a reading area in the home that is free from other distractions. Make a comfortable spot that is used for reading and does not compete with other activities.  If we create spaces that are associated with specific tasks, we are more likely to continue to engage in them.
  5. Put their accomplishments in a visual format. Create a reading graph of all the books that a child reads.  Children love to see their accomplishments and making a reading graph is something to be proud of!

Click here to read Books By The Ages: Reading Fun For All.

NSPT offers reading and tutoring services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

How to Adapt a Book to Support Language Development

Books have long been considered an avenue for enhancing language development. Books provide children a way to learn more vocabulary, explore new things and enhance their literacy development. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Books by themselves are great therapeutic activities, however, at times more interaction is required to help children with speech and language disorders engage with the stories they are listening to. By adapting a book, you are providing a child with additional ways to interact with the story, words and language within its pages. Greater interaction will ultimately lead to increased comprehension and improved language development (Delsandro, 2013).

How to Adapt a Book:

There is no correct way to adapt a book, in fact, books can often be adapted several different ways. Once you have a book that you would like to adapt, you need to decide which aspect of the story you want make more “interactive” or which element you would like to emphasize/highlight. Ways to adapt a bookBrown Bear can be to highlight repetitive text, simplify text or use a carrier phrase (e.g., “I want the ______” or “She has the ______”) (Delsandro, 2013). For example, in the picture to the right, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle was adapted to highlight the repetitive concepts of color (adjective) + animal (noun).

The computer software, Boardmaker, was used to select pictures to represent each item. The pictures were then laminated, with Velcro placed both on the back of the pictures and then in the book. Depending on the child’s skill level and therapeutic goals, the pictures can be used in a variety of ways. When reading, the child needs to find the corresponding color and animal for each page. Or before reading, the child needs to separate the pictures into colors versus animals to target categories. Or the child needs to name each animal or color, using the pictures as reinforcement of the vocabulary…the options for activities are endless.

Ultimately, any child would benefit from and enjoy reading an adapted book. It makes reading more fun! However, there are some children who may benefit more than others. Adapted books would be a great therapeutic tool to use with children with limited receptive or expressive language who have goals to improve their vocabulary or sentence structure. Additionally, children who are working towards increasing their verbal output are ideal clients to use with adapted books, as these activities are supportive and predictable (Delsandro, 2013). Adaptive books are not just therapeutic tools, but could act as great carryover activities to the child’s home environment.

Click here for your   Articulation Checklist
Delsandro, Elizabeth. “Adapted Books.” [PowerPoint]. University of Iowa. Wendell Johnson Speech & Hearing Center, Iowa City, IA. The China Project 2013. Lecture.

dyslexia signs and symptoms

Dyslexia: Signs and Symptoms

Dyslexia is commonly thought of as letter reversals (e.g., substituting b/d or p/q) and letter inversions (e.g., substituting b/p or d/q). However, that is not the case for all people. Individuals with dyslexia tend to have a much broader range of symptoms, many of which are not typically associated with the disorder. Symptoms of dyslexia may manifest more as a general language disorder, notably as difficulty with the acquisition and use of language, both spoken and written. Language-based learning difficulties can affect up to 20% of the population, with dyslexia being the most common type. The symptoms below are not an exhaustive list, rather they most commonly occur with dyslexia.

Symptoms of Dyslexia:

General Signs: Typical to most with dyslexia, individuals tend to have difficulty with the alphabetic principle, ordyslexia signs and symptoms the predictable association between sounds and letters (e.g., if you hear a “j” sound at the end of the word it is usually “-ge” or “-dge”, as words don’t usually end in “-j”). Individuals with dyslexia may also have trouble with memorization of letters and numbers, and will have trouble with reading and spelling. Learning foreign languages will likely be challenging, as well.

Preschool-Aged Signs: Most preschool-aged children exhibiting signs of dyslexia will have difficulty with phonemic awareness, or the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in words (e.g., “what is ‘bug’ without the /b/”). Other signs include:

  • Trouble reading single words
  • Trouble generating rhyming words or identifying which words don’t belong
  • Reversing letters and words (e.g., tab/bat)
  • Difficulty segmenting words (e.g., “clap the syllables in ‘ice cream’”)

Elementary-Aged Signs: Once children enter elementary school, the demands for reading and writing become greater. Children not previously identified as being at-risk may begin to exhibit signs as school work becomes more challenging. These children often have average or above average IQ, but demonstrate below grade-level reading and writing abilities. Other signs include:

  • Trouble sequencing (e.g., steps, alphabet, naming months)
  • Continued trouble with rhyming
  • Difficulty with word finding (e.g., relying on “stuff,” “things” or other generic words)
  • Difficulty with organization and studying
  • Trouble with story telling
  • Avoidance or dislike of reading

Should an individual demonstrate some of these signs, it is not necessarily indicative of dyslexia. Other reading or language disorders may play a factor. However, if these difficulties persist through childhood and beyond, children may have difficulty with success in school. Phonics-based programs, like Orton-Gillingham or Wilson, explicitly target the relationship between sounds and letters. These programs, rooted in the alphabetic principle, systematically introduce the rule of language to help children who are struggling.

Click here to learn more about our Orton-Gillingham Reading Center.


Identifying Dyslexia: Will My Child Grow Out of This?

Reading problems tend to be pretty common, so it’s interesting to learn that Dyslexia is often missed! Although care must be taken before jumping into an evaluation and diagnosis, reading difficulties may not be temporary (as we often hope they are). Children may not grow out of these struggles, and in fact, these difficulties will continue to persist until something is done! Missing the warning signs can lead from the 5 year-old who can’t quite learn her letters to the 6 year-old who can’t match sounds to letters to the 13 year-old who shies away from reading aloud in class…(Overcoming Dyslexia, 2003)

Here is where you come in! Parents, we need your feedback and detective skills.

When Dyslexia is suspected, here are some clues to look for:Dyslexia

Signs of Dyslexia in the Preschool Years:

  • Difficulty with common nursery rhymes like “Humpty Dumpty”
  • Doesn’t know the letters in his own name
  • Mispronounces words and persistent baby talk
  • Difficulty learning and remembering names of letters

Signs of Dyslexia in Kindergarten- 1st Grade:

  • Unable to understand that words come apart : (i.e. Cowboy becomes Cow-boy)
  • Difficulty linking sounds with letters : b makes a “ba” sound
  • Difficulty reading common one syllable words: “cat, bat, hop”
  • Parent or siblings have a history of reading difficulties
  • Avoids reading time or outwardly states that reading is hard

Signs of Dyslexia in 2nd Grade & Up:

  • Mispronounces words that are complicated or unfamiliar
  • Leaves out parts of words or confusing parts : amulium instead of aluminum
  • Difficulty finding words and confusing words that sound alike: tornado & volcano
  • Difficulty remembering phone numbers, names, dates, lists
  • Lots of “um’s” and pauses while speaking
  • Taking out/missing parts of words when reading
  • Extreme difficulty of learning a foreign language
  • Difficulty with spelling and word problems

Strengths of children with Dyslexia (hint, hint: they have lots of them!)

  • A great imagination
  • Good at building models
  • Higher maturity level
  • A great listening vocabulary
  • Able to understand well what is read TO him
  • Ability to understand & read high level words in areas of extreme interest (i.e. he loves dinosaurs and can a read a highly sophisticated book on the topic – due to practicing and seeing the words multiple times)

A diagnosis can come at any point in a person’s life from pre-school through adulthood! Don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s teacher or therapist if you suspect Dyslexia. Help is only an evaluation away!

P.S. check out: Overcoming Dyselexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz…great read!

North Shore Pediatric Therapy offers the Orton Gillingham reading program to help children with Dyslexia break the reading code. Read here about the benefits of Orton Gillingham reading therapy.



Books by the Ages: Reading Fun for All!




Whether reading to a child, having a child help turn the pages of a book, or a having a child read aloud, books are a great resource for learning, fun, and special moments!

For example, I recently heard my favorite book from childhood, Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, is being made into a movie. I was so excited that I put it in my calendar! The fact that I read this over 30 years ago and still feel this excitement shows the impact books can have on a child at any age.

Below are some of my favorite books broken down by ages. Can’t afford to buy them all?…take your child to the local library and have them get their own library card.  Most are free if you a resident where the library is located!

Books for Children Birth to 3:

  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Brown
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Counting Kisses: A Kiss & Read Book by Karen Katz
  • Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth and Laura Huliska-Beith
  • Board books by Caroline Jayne Church
  • Board books by Leslie Patricelli
  • Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa! by Petr Horacek

Tip-choose books with the following qualities:

  1. Books where you can use different expressions as you read
  2. Books where you can incorporate tactile experiences (let the infant touch and chew)
  3. Books where you can allow the child to use cognitive skills–bright colors, shapes, photos.

Books for Toddlers:

  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (also under school age)
  • Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Pete the Cat books
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  • Curious George books
  • Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

 Tip-choose books with the following qualities:

  1. Books that reinforce concepts such as letters, numbers, colors, etc
  2. Books that are interactive where you can ask questions, have child help turn pages, or rhyme words

Books for School-Age Children:

  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
  • A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  • Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Stuart Little by E. B. White
  • Books by Judy Blume
  • My Weird School series by Dan Gutman

Tip-choose books with the following qualities:

  1. Books that have clear text that is easy to understand
  2. Books that have colorful illustrations that help with words or phrases that may be unfamiliar
  3. Books that encourage discussion
  4. Chapter books

Books for Teens:

  • Harry Potter series
  • The Outsiders by SE Hinton
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
  • Books by John Green (The Fault in our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Tip-choose books with the following qualities:

  1. Books that spark an interest based on hobbies or type of literature (fiction, biography, sci-fi, etc)
  2. Books that introduce a new experience
  3. Books that are part of a series

Read here for more on books that promote language in babies and toddlers!


Woman reading a book

Great Summer Novels for Caregivers




Summer time is in full swing so in-between camps and parks and playdates, why not sneak a few minutes in for you!  Here are some great “beach” reads to indulge in wherever you are located!  As a former overnight camper, my personal favorite is # 8, The Interestings…brought back memories!


1)    The One and Only by Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin, the beloved author of such novels as Something Borrowed and Where We Belong, returns with an extraordinary story of love and loyalty—and an unconventional heroine struggling to reconcile both.Woman reading a book

2)    The Vacationers by Emma Straub

An irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca.

3)    One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story.

4)    Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

5)    The City by Dean Koontz

A young boy, a musical prodigy, discovering life’s wonders—and mortal dangers. His best friend, also a gifted musician, who will share his journey into destiny.  His remarkable family, tested by the extremes of evil and bound by the depths of love . . . on a collision course with a band of killers about to unleash anarchy.

6)    One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

The summer of 1927 began with Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Babe Ruth was closing in on the home run record. In Newark, New Jersey, Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole for twelve days, and in Chicago, the gangster Al Capone was tightening his grip on bootlegging. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed, forever changing the motion picture industry.

All this and much, much more transpired in the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things—and when the twentieth century truly became the American century.

7)    Friendship by Emily Gould

An immensely relatable novel about a codependent friendship in crisis. Bev and Amy are like Hannah and Marnie with an extra five years’ worth of built-up resentment

8)    The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Long after the summer of 1974 ends, a group of teens who bond at artsy Camp Spirit-in-the-Woods enter and exit one another’s lives in Wolitzer’s beautifully crafted, epic novel of friendship and all its joys and heartaches.




A Reading List for your Child or Teen with Dyslexia

 Many times, children with dyslexia are misunderstood. Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence, but when grades are low and reading skills are poor, the lines become blurred. This can often make kids feel insecure about their abilities. Dyslexia is quite common, so you and your child are not alone, although it may feel like it at times.

Here is a list of recommended books for children and teens from the Illinois Branch of The International Dyslexia Association:

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ― Charles William Eliot

Bauer, James. (1992). The Runaway Learning Machine: Growing Up Dyslexic.  Minneapolis, MN: Educational Media Corporation.

Barrie, Barbara. (1994). Adam Zigzag . New York, NY: Delacorte Press. (young teens)

Betancourt, Jeanne. (1993). My Name is Brain/Brian . New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Blue, Rose. (1979). Me and Einstein . New York, NY: Human Sciences Press. (young teens)

Dwyer, Kathleen M. (1991). What Do You Mean I Have a Learning Disability?  New York, NY: Walker & Co. (elementary)

Fisher, Gary & Cummings, Rhonda (1991). The School Survival Guide for Kids with LD.  Minneapolis, MN:Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. (young teens)

Gehret, Jeanne. (1990). The Don’t Give Up Kid and Learning Disabilities . Minneapolis, MN: Raising Readers. (elementary to young teens)

Griffith, Joe. (1998). How Dyslexic Benny Became A Star.  Dallas, TX: Yorktown Press. (young teens)

Hayes, Marnell L. (1994). The Turned In, Turned On Book . Novato, CA: High Noon Books. (teens)

Janover, Caroline. (1995). The Worst Speller In Jr. High , Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing. (teens)

Levine, M.D., Mel. (2001) Jarvis Clutch – Social Spy . Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service. (elementary to teens)

Polacco, P. (1998). Thank You Mr. Falker . New York, NY: Putnam Publishing Group. (elementary)

Richards, Regina G. (2000) Eli: The Boy Who Hated to Write – Understanding Dysgraphia . Riverside, CA:RET Center Press.

Stern, M.A., Judith and Ben-Ami, Ph.D., Uzi. (1996). Many Ways to Learn: Young People’s Guide to

Learning Disabilities . New York, NY: Magination. (elementary to early teens) [audiotape also available.]

If you would like to have general information on any of the books listed here, you can search The National Library Service at Click on “Search the Catalog:” and type in the book title orthe author’s name to do a search for a short description of the book. Many of these authors have published multiple books on Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities.