Q:

My 4-year-old son has problems making certain sounds. And he doesn't always use the proper sounds for letters. Could this affect his learning to read? If I correct him, he can say some of the sounds correctly. He does love listening to stories. Will reading to him help? -- Wrong Sounds

A:

More than 85 percent of the English language is phonologically predictable. That is why the ability to identify a letter and produce the sound that the letter makes correctly definitely has an affect on children learning to read. Reading as well as spelling will be a lot easier for your son if he is able to reproduce the correct sound for every letter.

Even before phonics is taught, children need to develop phonemic awareness. This is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. You can help your son develop phonemic awareness by reading him rhyming or patterned books.

It is not unusual for children your son's age to have some problems with producing sounds. While he should improve with time, it is far smarter to have him evaluated now by a speech-language pathologist so you know that he doesn't have a serious speech problem. Contact your local school district to set up the testing. The federal government under the No Child Left Behind laws mandates that districts provide services for children after they turn 3. If your son does need help, the local school district will provide the speech therapists to help him catch up before entering kindergarten.