Best word and letter recognition guide for early readers

The Best Guide for Letter and Word Recognition

By Catherine Wiberg
ILS Staff Blogger

Word Recognition – Early Age

Have you ever noticed that kids learn to recognize their favorite places and favorite books without knowing how to read the words or the signs? Yes, sometimes it’s the pictures, but consider: words are pictures, too. They are a system to recognize the meaning of something, just like a picture.

Best word recognition guide for early readers

Eventually, children learn the sounds of letters, different combinations of letters, and how to sound out words. In English, however, not every word can be sounded out; not every word follows the rules. Even when children first learn to read, they do not know every rule for sounding out words. We will talk about sounding out words in a different article. This article addresses sight words.

Sight words are words that don’t follow the “rules” of sounding out. Signs at places that kids love, function as their earliest sight words, even if those words actually follow the rules. Consider your child’s favorite restaurant. Can your child recognize the word even without the logo? Sometimes. That means it is functioning as a sight word. I have seen many programs that teach toddlers how to read by sight. These toddlers learn large and small words – all by sight. These programs show how easy it is for children to learn and how much they love it! Eventually, these same toddlers will learn all the rules to help them sound out words they once knew only by sight making it possible for them then to sound out words they have never seen.

Best word recognition guide for early readers

You might remember learning to read in elementary school, at a parent’s knee, or with someone else who cared about you that young. You learned words like “cat,” “dog,” “sun” and then came the word “the.” How do you figure out how to say, “the” or “said?” They don’t work like “c – a – t” or “d – o – g.” Do you say “t – h – e” or “s – a – i – d?” Nope. There is suddenly a word you can’t figure out; you simply need to learn to recognize it every time you see it. Sometimes kids have trouble recognizing the same word on a completely different part of the page.

So, how can we help our children learn to read sight words and get them right every time? It can be frustrating to have someone tell you over and over again, “That is ‘the.’” If the parent says something like, “It’s the same word as up here,” trying to encourage a child to recognize the word no matter where on the page it falls, that can be discouraging. Unfortunately, I was occasionally that parent. I wanted my kids to see that the sight word looked the same no matter where they found it. Unfortunately, my children often felt that I was frustrated and discouraged with them because their sight word recall wasn’t perfect. They then became discouraged. I will always be grateful that my children spoke up and let me know how to talk to them when helping them learn to read so they would feel encouraged instead of discouraged. Now, this method might work with other children the way I had hoped it would work with mine. You know your child best. However, if you do notice your child just can’t get those sight words down no matter how hard you try and the retention just isn’t there, you may want to do some homework to find out if they may have an auditory issue. Kids with auditory issues cannot retain the information on their own and it could become very frustrating for both parents and kids. You decide how to help. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Best word recognition guide for early readers

Recognize Sight Words

Ways we can help our children recognize sight words include

Flash cards of sight words

If you are making the cards yourself

  • make the letters big to start and then make flashcards with smaller letters for recognition improvement
  • try different colors for different words or different letters
    • consider making a different set of cards with the same words and changing the colors to be sure your children recognize the word instead of the color

Make a game

  • Go fish with sight words
  • Scavenger hunt for sight words
  • Memory game with sight words
    • Have your children say the word on the cards as they turn them over – you do the same
  • Sight words on individual posterboard cards or regular size paper so a child to move to on the ground
    • For example, I used to put big cards on the lawn and have my children run, skip, or walk to the sight word I chose
  • Write individual sight words on 3” x 5” index cards with marker. Put those cards around the house. Have your child say the words out loud every time your child passes the cards.

Read with your child

Reading with your child has SO MANY benefits. When working on sight words, you can even involve your child in reading the story. When you get to a sight word, stop and ask your child to read the word instead.

Best word recognition guide for early readers

It’s easy to find a list of sight words online to create your own ideas. If you have ideas to share, we’d love to hear them. Remember, make learning fun for both you and your child. If it becomes drudgery or boring for you, you child won’t enjoy it either.


Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

5 thoughts on “The Best Guide for Letter and Word Recognition”

  1. LydiaF

    Back in the stone ages when I was learning how to read, my mother had labels on all the large objects in the house so I could learn to recognize the shape of the words. I was in kindergarten when she did this at the advice of the teacher. We learned how to sound the letters out in later grades. Now I’m older and need to wear glasses to read. When I don’t have my glasses on I often “read” by recognizing the shapes and patterns of the letters.

  2. Theresa Sutton

    My daughter LOVES flash cards! The problem is keeping up with them once we open the packet. They tend to “mysteriously” disappear a week or so after the packet is opened. I love the flash card book pictured above (the this is an apple book). Do you have any idea where it was purchased? I wouldn’t mind getting a few for my daughter. Thanks!

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