Reading sight words is important in developing effective reading skills. Sight words are the words that readers recognize in an instant. It is as though their eyes and brain take a snapshot, and there’s an instant match.
Emerging readers are familiar with the concept of sight words because they are words that are presented separately from other words that build on phonics or sound-letter relationships. Sight words are on a separate list of words to learn because sight words do not follow the rules of letter-sound relationships in our language.
From a different perspective, sight words can also refer to the volume of words a person with a reading disability can recognize but cannot decode using phonics. There are a surprising number of people, adults and children, whose reading vocabulary is build strictly on the acquisition of sight words. For one reason or another they did not master the rules of phonics that present ways to “sound out” words as readers come across them.
Children will learn to recognize common sight words early in their learning process. A good example of a sight word is the word “love”. It does not follow the rules of vowel-consonant-silent e that would ordinarily give the o a long vowel sound. Therefore, love has a different sound than words like cove, drove, stove. If love followed the rules of phonics, it would rhyme with cove, drove, and stove. It is an exception to the rules. Therefore, the word love is a sight word.
We learn some sight words incidentally or in the course of everyday life. Certain words are just recognized by their appearance, which explains why young children or people from foreign countries who know little English can recognize and appear to “read” signs and advertisements.
Here are some tips to promote the developing reader’s identification of sight words:
– word games such as matching, “Concentration” and Bingo
– Word search games
– selection of emerging reader books with plenty of sight words
– picture dictionaries
– rhymes and entertaining poetry
An emerging reader as well as a person with a reading disability can build an amazingly large bank of sight words. It is as though the reader takes a snapshot of a word in his or her mind and can match it to the word when encountered in reading. One drawback, however, is that some people then misidentify some words that have a very similar appearance.
The drill and practice of sight words can be fun and readers can take a great deal of pride in their mastery.