Sight Words for kids – why and how they work.
Did you know that Sight Words are some of the most important words in reading, speech and language development? Sight Words make up a large percentage of most texts, so it is critical for children to be able to read them quickly and accurately. In this blog post, we will discuss what Sight Words are, why they are important for speech and language development, and how you can help your child learn them. Keep reading to learn more!
Sight Words are instantly recognizable, known “by sight.”
Sight Words are actually high frequency words that we see in our written language. They are often described as the “glue” that holds a narrative together. For adults, these are words that we recognize instantaneously, automatically, and we don’t even think about them at this point. That’s because, as children, we memorized them – learning to instantly see them and know what they mean.
This is why as your little ones are learning to read, it’s really important that they learn these sight words.
Sight words are essential for your child's reading skills.
Sight Words are “irregular,” meaning they do not follow the rules of phonics.
These high frequency words are also irregular words, which means they do not follow the rules of phonics and you cannot sound them out like other words.
What that means when they do not follow the rules of phonics, it implies that you cannot consistently sound them out. For example, the word “was.” We spell it “W-A-S.”
If your child was going to try and spell it and sound it out, you would probably see them write “W-O-Z,” or “W-A-Z,” or “W-U-S,” etc, because that’s how they are sounding it out. But because the word is written as irregular, that is why this is something that is a Sight Word, and we simply have to commit it to memory.
Children will learn sight words at their own pace, but usually start pre-k.
Keep in mind as you’re going through this reading process, just as your little one started expressing themselves in their own time, the same goes for their reading abilities and understanding written language.
They will go at their own pace, but in general will start understanding a few sight words pre-K or about age four. Some little ones are ready early on and others take a little bit longer. And all of that is very appropriate and normal. It depends on each individual child.
Teach sight words when you read together, 1-3 new words at a time.
What we recommend is to continue to sing and continue to rhyme with them and absolutely continue to read with them. Have them flip through the books with you as you’re going along. Read and point to each word, and continue to build that language component. Just because they don’t get it instantly does not mean that they’re not going to get it. So absolutely have patience during this entire process.
Now as your little one is learning these sight words most will tell you “wash, rinse repeat,” or “practice and repeat,” because as they see these words frequently, they will continue to build upon themselves. They will continue to comprehend this information and as they continue to comprehend this information, their foundation for reading will continue to strengthen. Also building their confidence!
Sight word resources.
Dolch Sight Words
The Dolch Sight Words list is the most commonly used set of sight words. Educator Dr. Edward William Dolch developed the list in the 1930s-40s by studying the most frequently occurring words in children’s books of that era.
The list contains 220 “service words” plus 95 high-frequency nouns.
The Dolch sight words comprise 80% of the words you would find in a typical children’s book and 50% of the words found in writing for adults.
Fry Sight Words
The Fry Sight Words list is a more modern list of words, and was extended to capture the most common 1,000 words. Dr. Edward Fry developed this expanded list in the 1950s (and updated it in 1980), based on the most common words to appear in reading materials used in Grades 3-9.
Learning all 1,000 words in the Fry sight word list would equip a child to read about 90% of the words in a typical book, newspaper, or website.
A great book for sight words is Dr. Seuss’s The Cat In The Hat
One of the great books to actually practice your sight words is a very classic Dr. Seuss’s The Cat In The Hat.
We hope you learned a bit more about Sight Words and the importance on your child’s reading skills, as well as their speech and language development.
If you have any questions at all about your child’s speech and language development, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.
About the Author
I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.
I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.