Frequently parents ask me how to help their children who are learning to read in Spanish. They wonder what to do when their kids come to words they can’t read. There are specific strategies children can use as they are learning to read in Spanish.
Be sure to check out our Spanish reading for kids resource page for online books, printable reading activities and activities for favorite picture books.
These word attack strategies help kids break down words, look for clues and consider the context. They are the same strategies good readers use in other languages, and you can find many articles about them online. Mrs. Will’s Kindergarten has a cute work attack poster in English. You can download a printable bookmark with the strategies in Spanish below.
If children have heard a significant amount of Spanish, they have vocabularies they can draw on to understand what they read. When these kids are learning to read in Spanish, they are associating text with words they know. Often, once they determine the sound of the word, they know what it means.
If children have not heard much Spanish, they will encounter many words they don’t know when they start to read. Their vocabulary is often limited to words they have been explicitly taught in a school setting. Therefore, even common words are unfamiliar. Give them extra support and encouragement as they begin to read. Be sure they are reading books slightly below their comprehension level. Quickly they will build more vocabulary and it will get easier.
Strategies for Learning to Read in Spanish
Before your child starts a book, talk together about the title and the picture on the cover. This will help her understand the story.
When your child comes to a word that is unfamiliar, help her use these strategies to learn to read in Spanish.
- Estira los sonidos. – Stretch the sounds. Help your child say the word slowly, drawing out the letter sounds, especially the vowel sounds. Make sure they are using the correct letter sounds. This helps them hear and recognize the word if it is familiar.
- Divide la palabra. – Divide the word into syllables. Cover the word with your finger leaving only the first syllable showing. When your child pronounces it, uncover the next syllable, and so on. When your child pronounces all the syllables, help her blend them together to hear the word.
- Observa los dibujos. – Look at the pictures. Most books for emergent readers have illustrations that support the text. Encourage kids to look at the pictures for clues to words they have trouble reading and for the meaning of words they don’t know.
- Mira la palabra. – Often kids can recognize cognates or the root of a word. Help them look for little words within bigger words. Ask them if they know other words that look like the word.
- Piensa, ¿tiene sentido? – Does it make sense? Kids with large Spanish vocabularies sometimes start to guess words when they come to a word that is difficult for them to read. Often they are not thinking about the context of the sentence and the story. Remind them to think about what would be logical in the sentence. Kids with limited vocabularies do not usually guess other words. However, they need to think about what makes sense in the sentence and the story to determine the possible meaning of the word. They are learning vocabulary as they learn to read in Spanish.
- Regresa y lee de nuevo. – Back up and read again. This strategy also helps a child keep the bigger context in mind. Suggest starting at the beginning of the sentence, or the beginning of the previous sentence, and reading again.
- Salta la palabra – Jump over the word and keep reading – Suggest kids leave the word out and read the rest of the sentence. Often the sentence will make sense as it is. Other times, children will be able to determine what the word is, or what it means.
Printable Bookmark With Word Attack Strategies
This bookmark will help kids remember to use their reading strategies. Of course, you have to teach them the strategies and help them practice! If your kids read in English, there is a good chance they use the same strategies, so remind them that they work in Spanish too.
Download the reading strategies bookmark. There are two bookmarks on each page. They are meant to be folded in half.
It is exciting when kids are learning to read in Spanish, but don’t stop reading aloud to them. For a long time, they understand more than they can read. Children learn new words and complex language from listening to stories. This post has strategies for reading aloud to Spanish learners. So, help them as they are learning to read in Spanish, but keep reading aloud to them too.