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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Sophiea

How do reading errors impact vocabulary?

Student Spotlight: June, a third-grade student, was working on manipulation tasks. She was told to change a sound in a CVC word (a word that's made up of a consonant, vowel, consonant sound), read it, and then determine if it was a real or silly (nonsense) word. Today's spotlight example occurred when June was reading the word hup. "Real!" she exclaimed, excited to add a point to that side of the scoreboard. "Hmm..what does "hup?" mean?" asked the clinician. "Well, it means this" June responded, as she proceeded to get up from her seat and start to hop. "See, I'm hupping!" she said, convinced she had proven her point.

June is a classic example of a student who has had difficulty processing the sounds in words. For the past 8 years of her life, when June heard the word "hup" and "hop" they were not processed differently. She has stored them in her vocabulary as the same word. Since she has difficulty decoding (reading) words, especially middle vowel sounds, she has not accurately reinforced the difference through reading. Over time, her difficulty perceiving and reading the word(s) has led to this confusion.

This is just one example of countless words June has most likely mapped incorrectly into her vocabulary. Take a second to think about how many words this has (most likely) happened with. Now, think about how many tasks will be impacted by her limited vocabulary. Spelling- writing- reading comprehension: all will be impacted by her poor vocabulary acquisition. And, without proper intervention, this error pattern will continue. Sadly, it will most likely become worse as words and academic demands increase. (If hop is difficult to map, just imagine what will happen in chemistry!)

Teacher/Clinician Takeaways:

  • Don't turn an eye to sound substitutions! When a student mixes up a sound in a word, it is often indicative of an underlying processing disorder.

  • Don't make the mistake of mixing up articulation and phonological errors. Phonological errors are language based while articulation errors are motorically based.

  • Teach phonological awareness. Kilpatrick is a great resource (

  • Teach vocabulary words in a way that helps students retain the meaning of the word. Isabel Beck shares wonderful teaching strategies in her book, Bringing Words to Life.

  • Look for patterns across a child's profile. Are they making sound substitutions when they talk? When they spell? When they read?

Parent Takeaways:

  • Don't underestimate the power of listening. If you hear your child make a mistake on the sounds in a word, take note. If it seems to happen often, seek out a professional opinion.

  • While you're reading with your children, it's best to correct them (in a nice way) when they read a word incorrectly. Giving immediate feedback helps them learn the words in the correct way.

  • Foster correct reading habits from a young age. Steer your child towards reading the sounds in words rather than taking a guess.

  • Teach vocabulary! Surrounding your child with rich language will help their language and literacy development.

As always, email with any questions or comments about this week's post. Better yet, if you're interested in connecting with The Learning Doctor, inquire about a free consultation.

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