How Can Speech Therapy Help Children Learn to Read?

Home / Language and Literacy Development / How Can Speech Therapy Help Children Learn to Read?
How Can Speech Therapy Help Children Learn to Read?

When a child is diagnosed with a reading disability, they can benefit from speech therapy services. Children with speech delays are usually at a higher risk of having a reading deficiency or disability later on. Sometimes, even if speech has not been affected, the tools and resources that aid language development can positively influence the development of literacy. A speech therapist or speech language pathologist can work with the child, parents, and teachers to provide supports, modifications, and tools for language and literacy success.

The Specialists in Speech Therapy

A speech therapist or speech language pathologist (SLP) is trained in the foundation of language, which affects a person’s ability to read, spell and write. The therapist will identify the areas of difficulty a student and address the student’s problem areas with appropriate exercises, therapies and services. Their areas of expertise include:

Speech Therapy can help children with language and literacy difficulties.

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Semantics
  • Syntax
  • Morphology
  • Comprehension.

Phonemic and phonological awareness establish a good foundation for reading.

What Is Phonemic Awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Phonemes are the smallest units of spoken language and combine to form syllables and words.

For example, the word ‘cat’ has three phonemes: /c/ /a/ /t/. “There are 44 phonemes in the English language, including sounds represented by letter combinations such as /th/. Acquiring phonemic awareness is important because it is the foundation for spelling and word recognition skills. Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of how well children will learn to read during the first two years of school instruction,” according to Reading Rockets, a American multimedia project that provides reading resources to parents, teachers, and early readers.

Phonics teaches how letters or letter combinations (graphemes) are linked to sounds (phonemes) to form letter-sound correspondences and spelling patterns and how to apply this knowledge in reading.

Therapy for a phonemic and phonological awareness deficiency includes:

  1. Tapping/Clapping: Teaching children to identify the sounds or syllables of a word by finger tapping or clapping out each part of the word. Using the word “cat” as our example, we would tap on “C” and then again on “AT”. Once the taps are made, the entire word is blended into “CAT”. This kinaesthetic connection allows children to become actively engaged with words.
  2. Syllable Blending: A child is presented with a series of phonemes and they need to blend the sounds to form a word.
  3. Rhyming: Children are taught to identify sounds and manipulate phonemes to rhyme. “What word rhymes with ‘Top”?
  4. Alliterating: Identifying words with the same beginning sound.
  5. Segmenting words into individual sounds: consonant-vowel (CV), vowel-consonant (VC), and consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) For example, there are three sounds in C..A..T
  6. Segmenting words into individual sounds: CCVC, CVCC, CCVCC For example, identify the individual sounds in ‘drink”.
  7. Manipulating sounds in words: What word do you have if you take away the “S” in “Stop”?
  8. Identifying letter-sound correspondences: (What sound does the letter “D” make? What letter makes the “Duh” sound?)

Although the original scope of speech therapy was limited to verbal expression, many studies have proven that there is a link between oral language and reading. Studies have shown that speech therapy can help a child overcome reading challenges. When children have a strong phonemic and phonological awareness base, they become better readers.

If your early reader is struggling, you may want to consider speech therapy, in conjunction with reading books that emphasise phonics with fun, rhythmical letter and word combinations.

For more information: