The letter 'C' creates a bit of a quandary for a poor speller or reader. Why? Let's count the ways:
- The letter C doesn't have it's own sound. It makes the S or K sound.
- Teachers may refer to these sounds as the soft or hard C sound, giving students something else to remember about the letter C.
- The reading rule is that a C has the S sound when followed by an e, i, or y. Examples? Center, city, or cylinder. For most children this is apparent without even thinking about the rule. Other children have to work at remembering the rule when reading new words.
- Children have more problems knowing when a C should be used in spelling. They might be able to cite the rule, but application is much more difficult.
- The rule is that the K sound is spelled with a K before an e, i or y. But, of course, the K sound at the end of a one syllable word is spelled CK or K depending what letter proceeds it. A two syllable word that ends with the K sound may be spelled with a C. For example: picnic and music. Of course, picnicking is spelled with a ck and musical isn't.
- What about the S sound? When is it spelled with a C and when is it spelled with an S? One rule states after a long vowel it is spelled CE for example race, mice, nice. Remember, you are looking at the S sound not the z sound found in words like nose. So, obviously the letter S also has two sounds: S and Z. Let's not go into that right now.
- What about the S sound at the beginning of words? Before all letters except e, i, and y the S sound is spelled with an S.
- Before e, i and y it may be spelled with a c or an s - silver, cinder, sister, city, system, cylinder, center, sent, etc. Knowing which one to use seems to depend on exposure to the word and visual memory.