Commercial entry level or beginning reading books usually have 4 or 5 different vowel sounds on the first page. Students who are struggling to read, or have a long history of reading failure, are overwhelmed when faced with multiple vowel sounds. Struggling students cannot learn that many sounds at one time. The brain simply does not process letter sounds by hopping around from one to the other. The brain clusters sounds. When phonemic instruction jumps around from one sound to another, struggling students become confused and frustrated. The vowel clustering technique that I use in my reading programs, such as Camp Sharigan, teaches children to build words by using letter sounds. For example, I start with AT by simply changing the consonant sounds: bat, cat, hat. The child gains confidence by sounding out the words and reading: “The cat spat at the rat.” If your child is struggling, you can do this at home. If you need help, click the email icon above.
Elaine Clanton Harpine, Ph.D.
Elaine is a program designer with many years of experience helping at-risk children learn to read. She earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology (Counseling) from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.