Reading is the most important, make-it-or-break-it skill. I can’t believe this is happening!


Lots of kids, really every kid, needs help with something at some point. There’s nothing to panic about.


My mother worries about everything.



his is Chevy,” Adina says, introducing her daughter. “She’s five years old and in Pre-1A.”

I settle Chevy with toys, and Adina and I take seats in the consult area.

Adina leans forward. “It’s crazy,” she says urgently. “I never realized there was anything wrong with Chevy, and now I’m hit with this!” She pushes a sheaf of documents toward me. “They’re telling me she can’t learn the alphabet, she’s not going to be able to read… This is a disaster!” She looks near tears. “If she can’t read she’ll be handicapped for life! And,” a note of hysteria creeps in, “everyone knows that kids who can’t succeed in school get into… trouble when they’re older.” 

I glance at the papers. They contain a formal evaluation performed by the school reading specialist. The report describes Chevy as not acquiring pre-reading skills along with her class and pinpoints poor phonological awareness as the cause.

I call Chevy over. “Let’s play some word games,” I suggest. “Can you guess what I’m thinking? When I shop with mom I think it’s dandy, when she buys my favorite…?”

Chevy looks blank. Adina sighs.

“Candy!” I fill in for her. “See how it rhymes? That’s a clue. Let’s try another one. ‘If I want more, I’ll go back to the…?’”

Again a blank look.

“What might rhyme here? Kitchen or store?”

“The candy’s in the nosh cabinet,” Chevy tries. Adina groans.

“Chevy, your name starts with a ches, right? Ch, ch, ch. Can you think of another word that starts with the same sound? How about a Yom Tov that’s coming up soon?” I pause, then give her choices. “Succos? Pesach? Chanukah?” I prompt.

“Succos? No, Chanukah,” she guesses uncertainly.

“Great! Let me ask you something about your name. Chevy is a nickname for Yocheved, right? Does Y-y-y-yocheved start with the same sound as Ch-ch-chevy?” 

Chevy looks unsure. “It’s the same name,” she says.

Chevy goes to play again and I turn back to Adina. “She’s very bright.”

Relief and anxiety play across her face. “Really? She didn’t know any of the answers!”

“Well, all the answers drew on phonological awareness, an area in which she’s weak.”

Adina lets out a long sigh. 

“I see you’re very worried. Chevy just has an area of weakness that needs remediation so that she can acquire pre-reading skills.” 

Adina seems to have a good relationship with Chevy and is committed to helping her. “What’s your schedule like?”

“I work part-time.”

“Fantastic. You’re not going to need to bring Chevy here every week for therapy,” I tell her. “I’m going to train you, and you’re going to treat Chevy.”

Adina’s face brightens. I have a feeling this is going to work . 

“Phonological awareness” is the awareness of the sound structure in words.

Phonological awareness includes the ability to manipulate sounds, such as creating rhymes.

Phonological awareness also includes the ability to identify individual sounds within a word, like the first sound, final sound, or separate syllables. 

Originally featured in Family First, Issue 617. D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist in private practice for over 15 years. She is the creator of the Link-It reading comprehension and writing curriculum for elementary school students and directs continuing education programs for speech-language pathologists and educators.