How to Become a Stronger Reader | 123Read&Write

In order for your child to become a stronger, better, and more independent reader, it is beneficial for them to realize what they are doing when they are actually reading. Context clues are one helpful technique to use when reading; especially when your child comes across difficult words. Another manner in which a child can work to become a more independent reader is their understanding of sound and letter relationships, along with word parts.


Written and Spoken Words

When we read, we think of how words sound when they are spoken. The ability to do this comes from understanding the sounds which individual letters make. In essence, the letters of the alphabet are very similar to a code. Therefore, when you are reading, you are actually decoding the words on the page. Hence, written letters are being transferred into individual sounds.

Letters and Sounds

The English alphabet consists of 26 letters; however, the English language has nearly 43 unique sounds. When dealing with letter sounds, keeps the following concepts in mind.

  • An individual letter can make more than one simple sound.

For example, the i in pin sounds different than the i in pine. Moreover, the c in cat has a much different sound from the c in celery.

  • A variety of letters can create the same sound.

Take for instance the word fluff, photograph, and enough. Each of these word’s ending sound is the same: the /f/ sound. However, the /f/ sound is created in three different ways with the provided examples: f, ff, ph, and gh.

  • A combination of two letters together can create one sound.

As an example, two letters together create the first sound in the word there (th). Additionally, two letters combined create the last sound in the word rich (ch).

Vowel Sounds

As practice, take the numbered word and then decide which words underneath create the same vowel sound.

1. sell

fell, feel, yellow, felt, jello

2. soap

rope, top, hole, whole, bottle

Simple Vowel Rules

  • A vowel letter (such as i) which is followed by two or more consonants will most likely sound like sit, hit, chip, etc. 
  • A vowel letter (such as o) which is in a one syllable word ending in e will likely sound like wrote, boat, sole, etc.
  • A vowel by itself (such as e) in a one syllable word, which ends with a consonant will sound like melt, felt, kept, etc. 

Simple Consonant Rules

Often, different consonants can create the same sound. Observe the examples below. Look at the indicated sound and view the underlined word parts, which the consonants create that particular sound. 

1. /k/

In the countryside, in lower California, squirrels scurried around the pile of acorns, grabbed a few and kept them.

2. /s/

The sight of single people collecting apples to make cider is serene.

Note: Also take notice of how the letter “s” can make the /z/ sound as well.

3. /f/

In each phase of life, the body functions in a different manner. 

/k/ = q, c, ch, k, and ck

/s/ = s, sc, and c

/f/ = f, ph, and ff

Double Consonant Sounds

Look at the words below. Each word has two consonants placed together, which create one sound.

1. telephone (ph = /f/)

2. machine (ch = /sh/)

3. laugh (gh = /f/)

Observe the examples below. Look at the indicated double consonant sound and view the underlined word parts, which the consonants create that particular sound. 

1. ph = /f/

The original telephone model has been phased out for cellular technology.

2. ch = /sh/

Machines that sqeeze cherries to create juice are expensive. 

3. gh = /f/

It is easy to laugh at a giraffe.


Homonyms are words that sound exaclty alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Look at the sentence below which contains a homonym pair.

The sail for the boat was for sale, making it cheaper.

If you were to only listen to the sentence, you would hear the word sail/sale twice. However, you would not be sure what the word meant, if you are unsure of how each is spelled. One must understand the context of such a word to fully understand its meaning. Look at the context clues of the homonyms to understand the meaning.

sail = boat

sale = making it cheaper

Look at the examples of homonyms below to see how each has its own distinct meaning.

meat = form of beef or food.

meet = to be introduced to someone

see = to visualize something

sea = a body of saltwater

dear = term of endearment

deer = an animal

Root Words

Often times while reading, a child may come across a larger word they do not understand, but they see a familiar word within the longer word. Take a look at the underlined words in the following sentences.

My favorite musical is Phantom of the Opera.

Will you rearrange your schedule, please?

You can see the word music in musical. Music is a root word. The letters -al are a suffix. A suffix is a letter or group of letters added to the end of another word to alter its meaning. As a reader, can you infer the meaning of musical from what you understand of music? By observing the root word and the context clues which surround it, helps you comprehend the meaning of an unknown word.

You can see the word arrange in rearrange. Arrange is a root word. The letters re- is a prefix. A prefix is a group of letters added to the beginning of another word to alter its meaning. The prefix re- means “again”. So, by using text clues, it can be determined that rearrange means to arrange or organize again. 

It’s important to look closely when deciding whether prefixes or suffixes are being used. One needs to make sure that there is indeed a root word present and that a prefix or suffix has been added. Look at the words below to see how they can be broken down into a prefix/suffix and root word.

1. Word = practicing

Root Word = practice

Suffix = ing

2. Word = politeness

Root Word = polite

Suffix = ness

3. Word = refusal

Root Word = refuse

Suffix = al

4. Word = reinvent

Root Word = invent

Prefix = re

Root Word Practice

Look at the words below. Even though you may not know the meaning of each one, you can get clues to their meaning by locating the root word. Decide the root word of each of the following:

invention = ________________________

enjoyment = _______________________

performance = _____________________

machinist = ________________________

refusal = __________________________

Now, by knowing the roots for the above words, see if you can decide which word is needed to complete each of the following sentences.

1. My car needed a skilled  ________________________ to fix the broken engine.

2. His mom’s ____________________ to raise his allowance made Timmy angry.

3. Thomas Edison’s ____________________ of the lightbulb was a revolutionary discovery. 

4. The band’s ______________________ of the Star Spangled Banner was spectacular. 

5. Benny’s _______________________ of the first Harry Potter book led him to want to read the second book. 

It has been shown that a suffix, as well as a prefix, can change the meaning of a root word. It’s helpful to know what certain prefixes or suffixes mean. Please see the tables below.

Now, looking at the table above, see if you understand the word which follows by breaking it down.

Word = Powerful

Suffix = ___________

Root = ____________

Meaning = _________________________

Therefore, by understanding root words along with its suffix, see if you can decide which word is needed to complete each of the following sentences.

1. The ______________________ of our environment is hurting our planet.

2. Eating enough fruits and vegetables is part of a ________________ diet.

3. The is a ______________________ to all the speeches given by politicians.

4. Your argument is ___________________ since you have no facts to back it up. 

5. The alien ____________________ came to our planet by surprise. 

Looking at the table above, see if you understand the word which follows by breaking it down.

Word = Impossible

Prefix = ____________

Root = _____________

Meaning = _________________

By understanding root words along with their prefix, see if you can decide which word is needed to complete each of the following sentences.

1. The little boy was too ____________________ to see the Rated PG-13 movie.

2. Her performance on the test was ______________________, since she didn’t even score the class average.

3. Alien species are ____________________, since human life knows little or nothing of their existence. 

4. The coach was very ___________________ at his team’s performance during the loss.

5. It’s important to ____________________ a contract before you sign it.

Many times, you’ll see words that have both a prefix and a suffix. When you come across such a word, try to find the root word first. Then, look for the word parts (prefix or suffix) which add to its meaning. Look below at a few common prefixes and suffixes that work together.

Now, try to break down the following word into the each of the following bullets.

Dishonestly - in a manner which is not honest

  • Root word =
  • Prefix =
  • Suffix =


When you come across a word which you are unfamiliar, sometimes breaking the word into syllables can help you decode it. As defined, a syllable is a word part that has one vowel sound. That being said, every word has at least one vowel sound. For example, you could not pronounce the sound of bm. However, with a vowel sound added, you could say boom

It’s important to note that a syllable can contain more than one singular vowel letter. For instance, there can be two vowel letters together as in shout. Conversely, there can be a vowel letter that is not heard, as in bake

See if you can hear how many syllables are in the following: pretty, beautiful, punctuation

pretty = 2

beautiful = 3

punctuation = 4

When you come across a word that is confusing, try to break the word into smaller portions that you think have one vowel sound each. Then, try to say the parts together as one. More often than not, you will be able pronounce the word.

Below are some words that may cause younger readers some difficulties. See how each is broken into syllables to make the pronunciation of each easier.

voluntary = vol   un   tar   y

substitute = sub   sti   tute

primarily = pri   mar   il   y

intensified = in   ten   si   fied

explanation = ex   pla   na   tion

Give It a Go!

Below are activities which will test your understanding of each of the concepts presented on this page. See how you do!

Practice 1

A. In the first word in each row, the letters c or g offer a specific sound. In each row, circle other words which have the c or g representing the same sound.

B. From the exercise above, try to fill in the following statements.

1. Normally c stands for /k/ when follwoed by the vowels _____, _____, and _____

2. Normally c stands for /s/ when followed by the vowels _____, _____, and _____

3. Normally g stands for /g/ when followed by the vowels _____, _____, and _____

4. Normally g stands for /j/ when followed by the vowels _____, _____, and _____

Practice 2

A. In each row, the underlined letters indicate the sound shown on the left. See if you can think of another word which utilizes the same letters to show that sound. The first item has been completed for you.

1. /ā/     mail - snail     kale - ________     may - ________

2. /ē/     meal - ________     thief - _______     eel - _______

3. /ī /     high - ________     tie - ________     mine - ________

4. /ō/     rope - _______     goat - ________     throw - ________

5. /ū/     cute - ________     soon - ________     chew - ________

B. Now, complete the following statements by indicating the correct letters. The first item has been done for you.

1. The /ā/ sound can be shown by the letter patterns ai, a-e, and ay.

2. The /ē/  sound can be shown by the letter patterns ____, ____, and ____.

3. The /ī / sound can be shown by the letter patterns ____, ____, and ____.

4. The /ō/ sound can be shown by the letter patterns ____, ____, and ____.

5. The /ū/ sound can be shown by the letter patterns ____, ____, and ____.

Practice 3

A. In each of the following words, find two consonant letters that together create one sound. Circle the two letters in each word. Please note that there are two words in which the same sound occurs twice.

Practice 4

A. The sentences below give a homonym pair to choose from. Choose which of the two words completes the sentence correctly.

1. A (night, knight) can seem like a long time if you’re afraid of the dark.

2. The (reeds, reads) along the shoreline blew with the breeze.

3. It is not a good idea to (lye, lie) about what mistakes you have made.

4. There is a (tacks, tax) on items you purchase.

5. The new puppy had short, brown (hare, hair). 

Practice 5

A. The sentences which follow contain a compound word which is underlined. Determine its meaning by breaking the word apart and by utilizing context clues. Below the sentence, circle the correct meaning.

1. The hunter was a sharpshooter, since he hit the bullseye every time.

good shooter     mechanic     athlete

2. Sally was an officeholder each semester in high school.

elected official     athlete     secretary

3. A peddler was giving out handbills on the street.

money     hugs     printed announcements

4. The flight was quick, since the plane flew in a jetstream.

fast flight     large river     wind current

5. The teacher’s papers, which she had to grade, were held in place by a paperweight.

paper stack     scale     tiny heavy object

Practice 6

A. The following sentences contain an underlined word. Decide and write its root word. Then, circle the correct meaning of the original underlined word in the sentence.

1. The approaching night appeared dusky, with the light dimming.

a. The root word in dusky is __________.

b. Dusky means: bright     hot     dark

2. Jeff’s ability as a guitarist was impressive, since he practiced often.

a. The root word in guitarist is __________.

b. Guitarist means: reader     vocalist     player of a musical instrument

3. It was an extraordinary event which brought so many people together.

a. The root word in extraordinary is __________.

b. Extraordinary means: normal     simple     amazing

4. The athlete was disabled after his injury.

a. The root word in disabled is __________.

b. Disabled means: good shape     new     bad shape

5. The thief had a mysterious look in his eyes.

a. The root word in mysterious is __________.

b. Mysterious means: happy     strange     tired

Practice 7

A. Next to each of the following words, indicate the number of syllables that it has.

1. Tropical = 

2. Terrific =

3. Serious =

4. Blanket =

5. Wonderful =

Practice 8

A. The paragraphs below are an excerpt from a science textbook. Utilize the skills you’ve mastered on this page to help you comprehend any difficult words which may arise. Next, answer the questions which follow.

     Space probes are laboratories that are sent into space. Much of the study of space depends upon light, radio waves, and other kinds of radiation that come to earth. Space probes, however, are sent out to particular regions of space to gather information.

     Space probes are sent into space by rockets. Some space probes orbit the earth. These gather much information about the space around the earth. Other space probes are sent toward the moon. These have helped scientists to learn much more about the only natural satellite of the earth. Some space probes are sent out into the solar system. From these probes, scientists have learned much about the nature of space that could not be found in any other way.

     Space probes carry instruments to measure temperatures, the number and kinds of particles in space, the strength of magnetic fields, and so on.

—From Probing into Science

1. What are space probes?

2. How many syllables are in the word radiation?

3. How many syllables are in the word temperatures?

4. The words “the only natural satellite of the earth” describe a word located in another sentence within the writing. What is the word?

5. What is the root word of magnetic?

a. Magnetic fields are ones in which there is: heat     attraction between objects     light