Learning to Read and Write is Complicated!

Sharing is caring!

Learning to Read and Write is Complicated!

So many things make learning English difficult and confusing. Consider the many spellings (and alternative spellings), grammar structure, word meanings, and rules that contradict existing rules! The English language consists of many different languages. 26% of English is Germanic in origin, nearly 30% French in origin, and nearly 30% Latin. English is such a difficult language to learn.

Now consider the young child, or ESL student, developing both visual and auditory processing skills as he gets ready to learn to read and write the English language.

A toddler with a book showing learning to read is complicated!

Learning to Read: Have you ever thought about how a child learns to read and write?

Reading books to your children and talking about stories is very important. It gives children a love of books. (My one-year-old granddaughter loves going to the library. They clearly get very excited to see so many books!) However, it does not teach them how to read books for themselves. For this, children need to learn how the code of language works.

What does text look like to a young child?

Visualize yourself picking up a book written in an unfamiliar language. Imagine trying to make sense of the squiggles on the page… even if it is just a few words. How would you react if you were presented with each word and asked to remember the print/spoken connections? Check out these sentences translated with Google Translate. Imagine learning to read each language!

If you were taught how to read one of these sentences, could you ‘read the words’ again after 15 minutes?

嗨! 我的名字是约翰。 我喜欢和我的狗玩。  (Chinese –simplified)

Γεια! Το όνομα μου είναι Γιάννης. Μου αρέσει να παίζω με το σκυλί μου.  (Greek)

Zdravo! Moje ime je John. Volim da se igram sa svojim psom.  (Bosnian)

Здравствуй! Меня зовут Джон. Мне нравится играть с моей собакой.  (Russian)

Hi! My name is John.  I like to play with my dog.    (English)

                  When you read a familiar language…it’s easy!

Learning to Read: Why is it that some children find learning to read much more difficult than others – whatever method is used?

Sometimes there are gaps in a child’s learning. They may need explicit teaching, re-teaching, re-direction, or more opportunities and experiences playing with the language.

A boy with a book wondering why reading is so complicated.

Some of the skills we take for granted while learning to read and write include:


  • Auditory Processing is important.
  • We need to train the child’s ears to hear the difference between sounds (e.g., /v/ and /f/ or /d/ and /p/). Activities that build auditory skills include working with rhyme, syllables, compound words, words in a sentence, and letter sounds.
  • Children need to remember a sequence of sounds. Can they repeat a clapping pattern, remember and complete simple directions, recall a number sequence, repeat the sounds of a word? (e.g., cat – /c-a-t/; monster – /m-o-n-s-t-er/


  • Visual Discrimination is important.
  • A chair has object permanence… It doesn’t matter which way it’s flipped or turned…. it is still a chair! But when letters are flipped or turned… they have a whole new sound attached to them! (e.g., /b/ and /d/ or /p/ and /q/) LEARN MORE about b d p and q confusion HERE!
  • Remembering items on a memory tray is just the beginning of developing visual memory skills that allow the child to recall letters, shapes, words, and numbers. (e.g., n, r, h, m)
A bookworm showcasing books for reading.


  • Read books and talk about new experiences and learning opportunities.
  • Identifying the sounds of our language.
  • Blending and segmenting those sounds.
  • Learning correct letter formation.
  • Learning Tricky Words.
  • Reading and writing letter sounds, words, phrases, and sentences.

Learning to Read: Check out the Sounds of the English Language!

Learning with a systematic phonics program provides a step-by-step process for children learning to read and write. I love the slogan: “No child left behind.” Phonics programs, like Jolly Phonics, are excellent for teaching children how to read and write. They are synthetic phonics programs. The child builds on what they know. First, they learn to read and write the 42 basic sounds, including sounds with two letters. They learn to blend and segment sounds in words. We teach Tricky Words with a look and say approach. When they have a good grasp of sight words and basic sounds, learners begin to read and write sentences. Finally, the child learns the many alternative spellings in the English language!

Imagine learning to read this passage as an “English is my Second Language” student. Consider how complicated the English language is…

No wonder English is so Hard to Learn (Author Unknown)

  1. We polish the Polish furniture.
  2. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  3. A farm can produce produce.
  4. The dump was so full it had to refuse refuse.
  5. The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
  6. The present is a good time to present the present.
  7. At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.
  8. The dove dove in the bushes.
  9. I did not object to the object.
  10. The insurance for the invalid was invalid.
  11. The bandage was wound around the wound.
  12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  13. They were too close to the door to close it.
  14. The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  15. They sent a sewer to stitch the tear in the sewer line.
  16. To help with planting the farmer taught a sow to sow.
  17. The wind is too strong to wind the sail.
  18. After a number of Novocain shots, my jaw got number.
  19. I shed a tear when I saw the tear in my clothes.
  20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  21. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
  22. I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.

Learning to Read the English Language

A young boy doing a headstand.

Children learn to use symbols as they combine their oral language, pictures, print, and play into a coherent mixed medium… creating and communicating meanings in various ways. But the ability to read and write does not develop naturally, without careful planning and instruction. Check out Learning to Read and Write: What Research Reveals to learn more.

A boy sitting on books learning to read and write with phonics.

Learning to read and write is not an innate task!

Reading is complicated!

We need to teach anyone learning how to read and write ‘the code’ for the language!

Explicit, systematic phonics instruction provides the key to learning a language.

A young boy learning to read with phonics and Primarily Learning resources.

Here is a simplified version of the poem called “The Chase.”

It was written by G. Nolst Trenite, a.k.a. Charivarius (1870-1946)

See: http://www.wordsmith.org/awad/english.html

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,

I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, horse and worse.

Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,

Made has not the sound of bade
Say - said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.

But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.

Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe. 

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;

Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve;
Friend and fiend; alive and live,

Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair;
Senator, spectator, mayor.

River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.

Stanger does not rhyme with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.

Soul but foul, and gaunt but aunt,
Font, front, won't, want, grand, and grant.

Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger,
And then: singer, ginger, linger,

Seat, sweat, chaste, caste,
Put, nut; granite but unite,

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.

Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

Finally: which rhymes with 'enough'
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?

Hiccough has the sound of 'cup'.
My advice is - give it up!  

a picture of a child learning to read and write

Teach. Play. Learn.

Have a great day!


p.s., Check out these verses that reflect on life events!

Poems About Life & Life Reflections as Your Young Children Grow

Have You Ever Had a Pet Who Was Your “Best Friend?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *