Does your child skip small words when he’s reading? Skipping small words is actually a very common problem that we usually notice when our children are reading aloud, but the truth is that many adults skip words as well.
Interestingly, the most commonly skipped words are small, high-frequency words such as the, in, on, a, and of. These are function words that a child cannot visualize, and since the sentence can still be comprehended without them, the words are easily skimmed over.
In addition, shorter words are much more likely to be skipped than longer words, and predictable words are more likely to be skipped than non-predictable words.
When I first explored the reasons for skipping small words while reading, I was surprised to find out how much research has been done on this topic. Generally, researchers wanted to study the way the eyes move during the process of reading: how they track, how they jump forward to the next word or phrase, and how much text is taken in at a single glance.
I’ve cited the research at the bottom of this post, but for our purposes, the main thing we need to know is this:
As a person reads, their eyes jump forward to the next word or phrase, and in this process, small words can be missed.
Longer words or unusual short words grab our attention, while smaller common words are more likely to go unnoticed.
In addition to the scientific explanation, there are several other reasons a child may skip words:
If your child doesn’t have a vision or decoding problem, try some of the following tips to help your student pay attention to smaller words when reading.
Brysbaert M, Drieghe D, Vitu F. (2005). Word skipping: Implications for theories of eye movement control in reading. In: Underwood G, editor. Cognitive processes in eye guidance (pp. 53-77). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Choi, W., & Gordon, P. C. (2014). Word skipping during sentence reading: effects of lexicality on parafoveal processing. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 76(1).
Drieghe D., Rayner K., & Pollatsek A. (2005). Eye movements and word skipping during reading revisited. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31, 954–969.
Ehrlich, SF & Rayner K. (1981). Contextual effects on word recognition and eye movements during reading. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 20, 641–655.
Fitzsimmons, G. & Drieghe, D. (2011). The influence of number of syllables on word skipping during reading. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 736–741.
Hyönä J. (1995). Do irregular letter combinations attract readers’ attention? Evidence from fixation locations in words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 21, 68–81.
Rayner K., Slattery, T.J., Drieghe, D., & Liversedge, S.P. (2011). Eye movements and word skipping during reading: Effects of word length and predictability. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 37, 514–528.
Does your child skip words when he is reading? Have you discovered any helpful tips?
Photo credit: Rachel Neumann