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Unlocking Reading Success: Effective Word Attack Strategies for Your Child

As parents, we play a crucial role in nurturing our children's reading skills, especially when it comes to decoding unfamiliar words. While "sounding it out" is a common approach, there are several other word attack strategies that can empower our children to become confident readers. Keep reading to learn about seven effective strategies beyond simply sounding out words that will help improve your child's reading fluency.

"7 Effective Word Attack Strategies" on a photo of a teacher reading to young students

1. Look at the first letter of the word- what sound does it make?


Encourage your child to focus on the initial letter of the word. By associating the letter with its corresponding sound, they can begin to decode the word more effectively. This strategy provides a starting point for tackling unfamiliar words, building confidence with each successful decode.


2. Be sure the ending looks and sounds right


Remind your child to pay attention to the ending of the word as well as the beginning. Does it look and sound correct in the context of the sentence? Checking the ending can help confirm whether they've decoded the word accurately to enhance their overall comprehension.


3. Chunk the word


Break down complex words into smaller, manageable chunks. Ask your child, can you find a prefix in the word? A suffix? Or what is the base word? Encouraging your child to identify prefixes, suffixes, and base words will help them understand that these word parts can provide valuable clues for deciphering the meaning and pronunciation of unfamiliar words to help them with deeper comprehension.


4. Use your finger to stretch it out

Utilize a multisensory approach by tracing each letter with your finger while saying the corresponding sound. Say each sound that you hear and then put those sounds together to say the word fast. This word attack strategy helps reinforce letter-sound correspondence and strengthens auditory processing skills, facilitating smoother word recognition.


5. Ask yourself after you read the word, "does it make sense?"


Encourage your child to evaluate whether the decoded word makes sense within the context of the sentence or passage. This critical thinking skill promotes comprehension and encourages active engagement with the text, fostering deeper understanding.


6. Look for a vowel pattern you know

Can you apply a vowel pattern to the word? (For example- the silent "e" rule or the closed vowel pattern).


Empower your child to identify familiar vowel patterns within unfamiliar words. Whether it's recognizing the silent "e" rule, identifying closed vowel patterns or using another vowel pattern entirely, applying known patterns can streamline the decoding process and enhance reading fluency.


7. Peel off the ending or the beginning

Can you peel off a suffix or a prefix and just focus on part of the word, then go back and put it all together? Teach your child to deconstruct words by removing prefixes or suffixes, allowing them to focus on the core of the word. Once they've deciphered the base word, they can reattach the affixes to complete their understanding. This word attack strategy promotes analytical thinking and strengthens word recognition skills.


Decoding unfamiliar words is a fundamental skill that lays the foundation for reading comprehension and fluency. By incorporating these word attack strategies into your child's reading routine, you can empower them to tackle challenging texts with confidence and precision and become stronger readers.

How to work with a reading tutor

At Smart Start Tutors, we understand the importance of building strong decoding skills, and our personalized tutoring approach focuses on identifying and addressing each child's unique needs. Together, we can boost your child's confidence, close the reading gap, and foster a lifelong love of reading.

If you are ready to work with our reading tutors for more help with word attack strategies, schedule a call and see how we can help your child!

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