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Sight Words: The Rule Breakers

Learning how to sound out words as an early reader is such an exciting and important milestone in the pre-literacy stage. Finally, words start to take their shape and early readers can access leveled stories and even read books! The confidence that grows when they finally feel like they can read is a crucial step in progressing through the pre-literacy hierarchy, but then comes the sight words.

Sight words are high-frequency words that you cannot always phonetically sound out, but make up about 75% of the words appearing in early reading materials. Children are encouraged to memorize these words as you would a picture as opposed to identifying individual letters making up the words. When children can recognize the shape of the word, they can more readily commit it to their memory for fast access when reading. We know the faster or more fluently children can read, the better their comprehension of what they are reading will be. When they can automatically recognize and decode sight words, there are more cognitive resources available for comprehension and processing of the material.

There are various sight words lists that correspond with the frequency in which they will appear at the level your child is reading. If your child is just beginning to read, the pre-primer list is the one for you! Typically, pre-schoolers will be exposed to this first list and will generally master them part way into kindergarten. Here at Parkwood Clinic, we most frequently use Dolch Words lists to guide our practice. Visit for information, fun activities and printouts!

Sight words are organized by grade in relation to when children would be encountering the words in their texts. Pre-Primer words are those that are introduced in preschool, Primer would be focused on in Kindergarten and from there, they correspond with the grade level (i.e., first grade, second grade, etc.). This could be helpful to keep in mind when checking your child’s knowledge of age-appropriate acquisition as well as when preparing for what is next!

At Parkwood Clinic, we have several clinicians trained in a variety of reading programs including Orton Gillingham and Barton. We target reading challenges through systematic approaches that improve not only your child’s reading and decoding abilities but also the underlying cognitive skills necessary when learning how to read, such as working and immediate memory. By focusing on both the literacy components and the cognitive pieces, your child will get to feel that sweet success of reading fluently with their peers. Reading is potentially one of the most functional skills we can teach. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s literacy development, do not wait! Contact us for an initial screening today.

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