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02.07.2020 Feature Article

How To Teach A Child To Read

How To Teach A Child To Read
02.07.2020 LISTEN

Reading is an important skill that is necessary for both kids and adults.
And it can be developed at any age.
However, for kids, the majority don't start reading until around 6 years old.
This is not to say that you should wait till your child is old enough before you start teaching reading but at the same time, there is no need for pressure.
The information shared below is beneficial for children of all ages.
There is no need to implement all of these strategies at once; neither should you expect your child to be able to do everything right away.
Learning to read is a process and like any other process it takes time.

The following strategies will help you teach a child how to read in very simple ways:

1. READ ALOUD TO YOUR CHILD
Teaching your child to read is truly a process that begins at infancy. No, I am most certainly NOT advocating programs that claim to teach your baby to read using flashcards! What I AM encouraging you to do is to begin reading with your newborn within days of welcoming her home!
Not only is ongoing reading time building a special bonding time for the two of you, it instils in her a love for books. Enjoyment while reading is one of the single greatest predictors of reading success in school-age children. If children don't learn from an early age to enjoy reading, it will most likely hinder their ability sometime down the road.
How much you read to your child is completely up to you and your family, but I suggest you aim to read at least 3-4 books a day, even while your child is very young. As she gets a little older and can sit for longer stretches of time, make it a family goal to read together for at least 20-minutes each day.
Here are a few suggestions for the types of books to read to your child. But by all means, read whatever your child responds to and enjoys!
• Birth-1 Year: Lullabies, Board Books (with real pictures), Cloth Books (with various textures), Song Books
• 1 Year-3 Years: Rhyming Books, Song Books, Short-Story Board Books
• 3 Years-5 Years: Alphabet Books, Song Books, Picture Books, Rhyming Books

2. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE
Even if your child is fascinated with books from an early age, her fascination will quickly dwindle if she does not see reading modelled in her home. If you are not an avid reader yourself, make a conscious effort to let your children see you reading for at least a few minutes each day!
Read a magazine, a cookbook, a novel, your Bible…it's up to you!
But show your child that reading is something that even adults need to do. Sons need to see their fathers read; especially since it is not something that young energetic boys are naturally prone to doing.
As parents, we can sometimes get wrapped up with what exactly our children should be doing to be successful. But we often forget that children often learn by example. Grab a book and take a load off…for your child's sake, of course!

3. USE SONGS AND NURSERY RHYMES
Children's songs and nursery rhymes aren't just a lot of fun—the rhyme and rhythm help kids to hear the sounds and syllables in words, which helps them learn to read.
A good way to build phonemic awareness is to clap rhythmically together and recite songs in unison.
This playful and bonding activity is a fantastic way for kids to implicitly develop the literacy skills that will set them up for reading success.

4. MAKE SIMPLE WORD CARDS
Cut out simple cards and write a word containing three sounds on each one. Invite your child to choose a card, then read the word together and hold up three fingers.
Ask them to say the first sound they hear in the word, then the second, and then the third.
This simple activity requires little prep time and builds essential phonics and decoding skills helping them learn how to sound out words.
If your child is just starting out with learning the letters of the alphabet, focus on the sound each letter makes, more so than letter names.

5. ENGAGE YOUR CHILD
Create daily opportunities to build your child's reading skills by creating a print rich environment at home.
Seeing printed words enables children to see and apply connections between sounds and letter symbols.
When you're out and about, point out letters on posters, billboards and signs.
In time you can model sounding out the letters to make words.
Focus on the first letter in words. Ask your child “What sound is that letter?” “What other word starts with that sound?” “What word rhymes with that word?”

6. PLAY WORD GAMES
Building on from the previous step, introduce simple word games on a regular basis.
Focus on playing games that encourage your child to listen, identify and manipulate the sounds in words.
For example, start by asking questions like “What sound does the word start with?” “What sound does the word end with?” “What words start with the sound?” and “What word rhymes with?”

7. UNDERSTAND THE CORE SKILLS
It's important to remember that learning to read involves various different skills.
There are five essential components of reading that you can read about here. These are the skills all children need in order to successfully learn how to read.
In summary, these include:
1. Phonemic awareness – the ability to hear and manipulate the different sounds in words
2. Phonics – recognising the connection between letters and the sounds they make
3. Vocabulary – understanding the meaning of words, their definitions, and their context
4. Reading comprehension – understand the meaning of text, both in storybooks and information books
5. Fluency – the ability to read aloud with speed, understanding and accuracy
Children must be introduced to a range of interactive activities that reinforce letter sounds and symbols, building phonemic awareness and phonics skills, as well as vocabulary and comprehension.

8. PLAY WITH LETTER MAGNETS
Middle vowel sounds can be tricky for some children, which is why this activity can be so helpful.
Prepare letter magnets on the fridge and pull the vowels to one side (a, e, i, o, u). Say a CVC word (consonant-vowel-consonant), for example 'cat', and ask your child to spell it using the magnets.
To help them, say each vowel sound aloud (/ayh/, /eh/, /ih/, /awe/, /uh/) while pointing at its letter, and ask your child which one makes a sound similar to the middle sound.

9. HARNESS THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY
Learning to read should be an enjoyable process in order to keep kids motivated to improve.
Sometimes a child might be full of excitement and eagerness to learn at the beginning, but once they hit a wall can feel overwhelmed and give up easily.
As a parent, it can feel impossible to pick up again and know where to fill in any gaps that may be causing frustration.
In cases like these, you can use self-paced lessons that match each individual child's ability.
Children can be rewarded for completing activities and reaching new levels, which keeps them motivated to stay on track.

10. READ TOGETHER
A lot of people don't realise just how many skills can be picked up through the simple act of reading to a child.
Not only are you showing them how to sound out words, you're also building key comprehension skills, growing their vocabulary, and letting them hear what a fluent reader sounds like.
Most of all, regular reading helps your child to develop a love for reading, which is the best way to set them up for reading success.
Strengthen your child's comprehension skills by asking questions while reading.
For younger children, encourage them to engage with the pictures. For older children, ask questions about what you've just read, like “Why do you think the little bird was afraid?” “When did Sophie realise she had special powers?”

11. PLAY GAMES TO MEMORISE
Sight words are ones that cannot be easily sounded out and need to be recognised on sight.
High frequency sight words are ones that occur very often in reading and writing (e.g. you, I, we, am, had, and, to, the, have, they, where, was, does).
The strategy for learning sight words is, "See the word, say the word".
Learning to identify and read sight words is essential for young children to become fluent readers.
Most children will be able to learn a few sight words at the age of four (e.g. is, it, my, me, no, see, and we) and around 20 sight words by the end of their first year of school.
You can teach sight words by playing with flashcards and using reading programmes.

12. BE PATIENT AND MAKE IT FUN
Every child learns at his or her own pace, so always remember the single most important thing you can do is to make it enjoyable.
By reading regularly, mixing things up with the activities you choose, and letting your child pick out their own books occasionally, you'll instil an early love of reading and give them the best chance at reading success in no time.

13. INCORPORATE DOMAINS OF DEVELOPMENT
Children learn best when multiple senses or areas of development are included.
That's why hands-on learning produces longer retention and more meaningful application.
Once your child has shown an interest in letters and you have already begun to utilize natural settings for identifying those letters, begin implementing activities that incorporate as many senses as possible.
Keep in mind that learning letter names isn't nearly as important as learning their sounds!
There are a plethora of ways to incorporate multiple domains of development in regards to letter recognition and early-reading skills.
Alphabet crafts allow your child to learn the shape of a letter along with an association of the sound it makes all the while utilizing fine motor skills in the process of cutting, gluing, and creating!
Playing games that involve gross motor skills are also wonderful ways to include movement.
Of course, every child loves songs and rhymes! Take an inventory of your child's strengths and areas of interest and target activities to fit them!

14. CLASSIFY THE GENRE
Once your child is around 5 and can recognize the difference between real and make-believe, I would suggest starting to help your child understand various genres of books during your reading time together.
This might seem complicated, but it's really not. There are around 5 different genres of children's books that I would encourage you to point out to your little one.
Of course you can use the term “type” rather than “genre” if that is easier to remember.
• Nonfiction (real stories or facts about animals, places, people, etc)
• Fantasy (make-believe, can't happen in real life because of magic, talking animals, etc)
• Realistic Fiction (a made-up story, but it could technically happen in real life because the characters and situations arebelievable)
• Alphabet Books
• Song Books

When children classify a book into a certain genre, they have to first summarize the book in their head and recall details.
Then they have to use that information to decide which type of genre that particular books fits into.
Finally, your child will be recalling details from other books in the same genre, making connections between the two.
This simple activity that might take 5-10 seconds of your time after reading a book but it certainly packs a punch of thought and processing in that young brain!
Also, it's important to note that not all books will fit into one of these genres, especially books that are considered “phonics readers.”
I would suggest that you do this exercise only with high-quality children's literature, not with books that are attempting to get your child to “sound-out” on their own. Most picture books found in children's libraries will fit into one of these genres.
Remember, our goal is for our children to learn to comprehend what they're reading…otherwise reading will honestly do them little good.
When we encourage our children to think about and process the book we've just read together, we are inadvertently modeling what we hope they'll one day do independently!

15. WORD FAMILIES
To put it simply, word families are words that rhyme.
Teaching children word families is a phonemic awareness activity that helps children see patterns in reading.
This is an important skill because it allows children to begin “reading” by grouping sets of letters within a word.
The first part of a word is called the onset and the last part of the word is conveniently called the rime.
Word families share a similar “rime” as the onset changes.
Once your child recognizes the word “mop”, he'll then have an advantage to reading all of the other words that have the same rime (top, pop, stop, cop, hop) because only one letter is changing.
Plus, recognizing rhyming words is a great language skill in and of itself!

16. USE PHONEMES AND PHONICS
“Phonemes” are the smallest sounds in the English language.
These sounds are made up of consonants, short vowels, long vowels, and digraphs.
“Phonemic Awareness” consists of learning those sounds and how to manipulate them within a word.
Digraphs are unique sounds comprised of individual letters like /th/, /sh/, /ch/, etc.
“Phonics” includes learning how to spell those sounds and the various rules that the English language follows.
Phonics is an important component of reading/spelling, but it should never be the main focus.
Again, we are looking to balance our literacy “program” with reading comprehension as the end result.
Learning the rules of phonics is simply a tool that helps a child learn to decode and spell.
I used the Pathways To Reading program in the classroom as my phonemic awareness and phonics program and loved it!
It made learning all of the tricky spellings so much fun, but I wouldn't recommend it until your child is in kindergarten or first grade.

17. USE DECODING
Decoding is often referred to as “sounding it out.”
This is an important element in teaching your child to read, but it certainly isn't the most important.
Once your child knows the sounds each letter makes, she is ready to begin putting words together.
When looking at a short word, encourage her to say each individual sound /b/, /a/, /t/, and then put them together “bat”.
As children decode words with more frequency, they will become more proficient at automatically identifying that word.
Sometimes this task is tedious, though, so it's important to find creative ways to make it fun.

18. KNOW YOUR SIGHT WORDS
Sight words, also known as high-frequency words, are the most common words in our written language are often difficult to decode phonetically because they don't follow the rules of phonics.
Because of this, they must be memorized.
Sight words must be memorized in order for your child to become a fluent reader.
There are a few popular lists of sight words that individual researchers have found beneficial, including the Dolche List and the Fry List. Don't get overwhelmed when looking at this list…just start working on a few sight words at a time when you feel your child is ready.
Activities like Sight Word Bingo can help make memorizing sight words more fun!

19. TALK ABOUT TEXT
A text-rich environment for preschoolers lays the groundwork for reading success.
It's not just about having books in the home, although that's a great start.
You can also start talking about letters, numbers, and words on packages and signs.
Help your child see how text is already a part of his daily life. Point out the name of his favorite cereal.
Show him the labels on clothing. Show him the different parts of a birthday card or invitation.
When you are out and about, play games involving letter and number recognition.
Can your child tell you any of the letters in the supermarket sign? Can she read the serving amount on a packaged snack? She will be delighted to understand more about her world — but don't push her delight.
Developing text awareness should never be a chore.

20. BE AWARE OF PROBLEMS
Are you concerned that your child might have a learning disability?
As with almost any disability, early intervention can prevent problems in the future.
In the preschool years, speech delays are much more noticeable than the learning disabilities that may affect a child's efforts to read.
Ask your pediatrician for advice if you are concerned that your child is speech delayed.
Most school districts will not diagnose reading disabilities until first grade.
However, there are signs that you can look for earlier.
If your 5-year-old can't “hear” the rhyme in two simple words, or cannot differentiate between a letter and a random squiggle, this may be an area of development you'll want to keep an eye on.

CONCLUSION
As you've probably noticed, there is no “magic formula” to teach your child how to read.
The points we've discussed are simple, effective strategies that are easy to modify for your child.
After all, every child learns differently! This series is not to be used as a “checklist” and think that once you've covered all the strategies your child will be proficiently reading.
Rather, this series provides valuable information to you so that you can guide your child while creating a print-rich, learning environment to foster his/her growth as a reader. Don't rush and don't stress!
While it's important to take advantage of the prime-learning time, it's even more important to let your kid be a kid!
Leave a comment below and let's learn from you also.
If you like the information in here then please share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and all your other social media platforms.
If you are looking for a home tutor for yourself or your child, please call: 0501457284, WhatsApp: 0246099277, email: [email protected] or visit: www.excellenthomeclasses.com

How to Teach Kids to Read: 10 Simple Steps to Try at Home

Most people don't think about the process of learning to read until they decide to start teaching their own children at home.
Contrary to what some people believe, learning to read is not a 'natural' process that happens all on its own. It's a complex one that requires the proper teaching of various skills and strategies, such as phonics (knowing the relationship between letters and sounds) and phonemic awareness.
The good news is that although reading itself is a complex process, the steps taken in order to build these skills are fairly simple and straightforward. In order to teach kids how to read and make it a positive and rewarding experience, try these simple and time tested strategies below.

Here are 10 simple steps to teach your child to read at home:

1. Use songs and nursery rhymes to build phonemic awareness
Children's songs and nursery rhymes aren't just a lot of fun—the rhyme and rhythm help kids to hear the sounds and syllables in words, which helps them learn to read. A good way to build phonemic awareness (one of the most important skills in learning to read) is to clap rhythmically together and recite songs in unison. This playful and bonding activity is a fantastic way for kids to implicitly develop the literacy skills that will set them up for reading success.
2. Make simple word cards at home
Cut out simple cards and write a word containing three sounds on each one (e.g. ram, sat, pig, top, sun, pot, fin). Invite your child to choose a card, then read the word together and hold up three fingers. Ask them to say the first sound they hear in the word, then the second, and then the third. This simple activity requires little prep time and builds essential phonics and decoding skills (helping them learn how to sound out words). If your child is just starting out with learning the letters of the alphabet, focus on the sound each letter makes, more so than letter names.

Reading Eggs teaches phonics skills—an important tool to help children decode and read words—with interactive activities that are fun and highly engaging. Free trial.
3. Engage your child in a print-rich environment
Create daily opportunities to build your child's reading skills by creating a print rich environment at home. Seeing printed words (on posters, charts, books, labels etc.) enables children to see and apply connections between sounds and letter symbols. When you're out and about, point out letters on posters, billboards and signs. In time you can model sounding out the letters to make words. Focus on the first letter in words. Ask your child “What sound is that letter?” “What other word starts with that sound?” “What word rhymes with that word?”
4. Play word games at home or in the car
Building on from the previous step, introduce simple word games on a regular basis. Focus on playing games that encourage your child to listen, identify and manipulate the sounds in words. For example, start by asking questions like “What sound does the word start with?” “What sound does the word end with?” “What words start with the sound ?” and “What word rhymes with ?”.
5. Understand the core skills involved in teaching kids to read
It's important to remember that learning to read involves various different skills. There are five essential components of reading that you can read about here. These are the skills all children need in order to successfully learn how to read. In summary, these include:
1. Phonemic awareness – the ability to hear and manipulate the different sounds in words
2. Phonics – recognising the connection between letters and the sounds they make
3. Vocabulary – understanding the meaning of words, their definitions, and their context
4. Reading comprehension – understand the meaning of text, both in storybooks and information books
5. Fluency – the ability to read aloud with speed, understanding and accuracy

Reading Eggs incorporates all five components of reading in its online lessons. Children are introduced to a range of interactive activities that reinforce letter sounds and symbols, building phonemic awareness and phonics skills, as well as vocabulary and comprehension. The e book at the end of each lesson allows children to apply the skills they have learned. Free trial.
6. Play with letter magnets
Middle vowel sounds can be tricky for some children, which is why this activity can be so helpful. Prepare letter magnets on the fridge and pull the vowels to one side (a, e, i, o, u). Say a CVC word (consonant-vowel-consonant), for example 'cat', and ask your child to spell it using the magnets. To help them, say each vowel sound aloud (/ayh/, /eh/, /ih/, /awe/, /uh/) while pointing at its letter, and ask your child which one makes a sound similar to the middle sound.
7. Harness the power of technology to keep your child engaged
Learning to read should be an enjoyable process in order to keep kids motivated to improve. Sometimes a child might be full of excitement and eagerness to learn at the beginning, but once they hit a wall can feel overwhelmed and give up easily. As a parent, it can feel impossible to pick up again and know where to fill in any gaps that may be causing frustration.
Reading Eggs uses self paced lessons that match each individual child's ability. Children are regularly rewarded for completing activities and reaching new levels, which keeps them motivated to stay on track. Parents can also view instant progress reports to see how a child's skills are improving.
8. Read together on a daily basis and ask questions about the book
A lot of people don't realise just how many skills can be picked up through the simple act of reading to a child. Not only are you showing them how to sound out words, you're also building key comprehension skills, growing their vocabulary, and letting them hear what a fluent reader sounds like. Most of all, regular reading helps your child to develop a love reading, which is the best way to set them up for reading success.
Strengthen your child's comprehension skills by asking questions while reading. For younger children, encourage them to engage with the pictures (e.g. “Do you see the boat? What colour is the cat?”). For older children, ask questions about what you've just read, like “Why do you think the little bird was afraid?” “When did Sophie realise she had special powers?”
9. Play games to memorise high-frequency sight words every day

Reading Eggs makes it easy for children to learn and memorise sight words through interactive activities and repetition. Free trial.
Sight words are ones that cannot be easily sounded out and need to be recognised on sight. High frequency sight words are ones that occur very often in reading and writing (e.g. you, I, we, am, had, and, to, the, have, they, where, was, does).
The strategy for learning sight words is, "See the word, say the word". Learning to identify and read sight words is essential for young children to become fluent readers. Most children will be able to learn a few sight words at the age of four (e.g. is, it, my, me, no, see, and we) and around 20 sight words by the end of their first year of school. You can teach sight words by playing with flashcards and using reading programmes like Reading Eggs.
10. Be patient; the best way to teach kids to read is to make it fun!
Every child learns at his or her own pace, so always remember the single most important thing you can do is to make it enjoyable. By reading regularly, mixing things up with the activities you choose, and letting your child pick out their own books occasionally, you'll instil an early love of reading and give them the best chance at reading success in no time.
Over 10 million children have used Reading Eggs to learn how to read. The multi award winning online reading programme is based on solid scientific research and makes learning to read fun and highly motivating for young kids. Start your free trial now.

HOW TO TEACH A CHILD TO READ IN 10 EASY STEPS

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*Update: I have written a more comprehensive eBook with specific strategies you can use to teach your child to read. Get the eBook I Can Teach Teach My Child to Read: A 10-Step Guide for Parents as a PDF, Kindle version, or purchase a paperback ($9.99).
$4.99 – PURCHASE
WHEN DO KIDS LEARN TO READ?
As a former first grade teacher, teaching children to read is one of my greatest passions! But because most children don't start actually “reading” until around 6 years old (which is upwards of the targeted age range for my blog), I didn't want parents to feel pressured that their 3-year old needs to start reading (which, by the way, they don't!). However, the information shared below is general information that is beneficial for children of all ages, whether your child is ready to read or not. Don't implement all of these strategies at once, nor should you expect your child to be able to do everything right away. Learning to read is a process and the information below is simply for you to implement when you feel your child is ready.
Please also recognize that although the suggestions below are labeled as “steps”, they are not necessarily in consecutive order, nor are they in order of importance. The information you will find here is simply a guide to help you see how each of the components of reading fit together!
HOW TO TEACH KIDS TO READ
1. READ ALOUD TO YOUR CHILD
Teaching your child to read is truly a process that begins at infancy. No, I am most certainly NOT advocating programs that claim to teach your baby to read using flashcards! What I AM encouraging you to do is to begin reading with your newborn within days of welcoming her home! Not only is ongoing reading time building a special bonding time for the two of you, it instills in her a love for books. Enjoyment while reading is one of the single greatest predictors of reading success in school-age children. If children don't learn from an early age to enjoy reading, it will most likely hinder their ability sometime down the road.

How much you read to your child is completely up to you and your family, but I suggest you aim to read at least 3-4 books a day, even while your child is very young. As she gets a little older and can sit for longer stretches of time, make it a family goal to read together for at least 20-minutes each day.
Here are a few suggestions for the types of books to read to your child. But by all means, read whatever your child responds to and enjoys!
• Birth-1 Year: Lullabies, Board Books (with real pictures), Cloth Books (with various textures), Song Books
• 1 Year-3 Years: Rhyming Books, Song Books, Short-Story Board Books
• 3 Years-5 Years: Alphabet Books, Song Books, Picture Books, Rhyming Books

2. ASK QUESTIONS
Asking questions while reading to your child is not only great for encouraging your child to interact with the book, but it is also extremely effective in developing his ability to comprehend what he is reading. You see, if our main objective in “reading” is getting our child to “sound out” words, we have missed the boat entirely. Even children who can decode words and “read” with great fluency still might not be able to comprehend what they are reading. If a child can't comprehend what he is reading, there really is no point to reading at all!
While your child is a baby, ask him questions such as, “Do you see the cat?” while pointing at the picture of the cat. This will not only develop his vocabulary, it will also encourage him to interact with the book that he is reading. As he gets older, ask him to point to things in the book himself and make the noises of the animals he sees.



Once your child is about 2 or 3-years of age, begin asking questions before, during, and after reading the book. Show your child the cover of the book and ask him what he thinks the story is going to be about (predicting). While reading, ask him what he thinks is going to happen in the story or why he thinks a character made a particular choice (inferring). If a character is depicting a strong emotion, identify that emotion and ask your child if he has ever felt that way (connecting). At the end of the book, ask if his prediction(s) came true. Afterwards, ask him to tell you what he remembered happening in the book (summarizing).
Modifying each of these techniques during read-alouds to meet the developmental stage of your child is a great way to promote and increase reading comprehension!

3. BE A GOOD (READING) EXAMPLE
Even if your child is fascinated with books from an early age, her fascination will quickly dwindle if she does not see reading modeled in her home. If you are not an avid reader yourself, make a conscious effort to let your children see you reading for at least a few minutes each day! Read a magazine, a cookbook, a novel, your Bible…it's up to you! But show your child that reading is something that even adults need to do. If you have a son, share this article with your husband. Sons need to see their fathers read, especially since it is not something that young energetic boys are naturally prone to doing.


As parents, we can sometimes get wrapped up with what exactly our children should be doing to be successful. But we often forget that children often learn by example. Grab a book and take a load off…for your child's sake, of course!
4. IDENTIFY LETTERS IN NATURAL SETTINGS
Before our boys were born, we painted and hung large wooden letters spelling their name above the cribs as a decorative accent in their rooms. I would have never guessed that those wooden letters would have such a learning incentive for Big Brother! Around age 2.5, he began asking what letters were above his name. That's honestly how he learned to spell his name…and he can spell his brother's name too because he has taken an interest in his letters as well. In technical terms, this is called “environmental print” and includes all of the print we are surrounded by–fast food signs, labels, traffic signs, clothing, magazines, etc.


Often times, we want to force our children to learn letter names by a certain age. We buy flashcards or DVDs claiming to teach our children their letters. We drill our 2-year old over and over for minutes on end. Don't buy into this…allow your kid to be a kid and take advantage of the “teachable moments” as they come along! Children's minds are like sponges and are certainly capable of memorizing the alphabet from drilling, but that's not the most effective method that will produce the best long-term results. Your child will be curious about the print he sees around him and will ask questions. That's your chance to jump in with a practical application that actually has real meaning and significance to your child.
Don't misunderstand me and think that I don't think learning the alphabet is important. It is certainly important…but the method in which we teach them is even more important! Always keep in mind that our ultimate goal is to foster a lifelong learner who loves to read, not a child who has simply memorized without any significance.

5. INCORPORATE MULTIPLE DOMAINS OF DEVELOPMENT
Children learn best when multiple senses or areas of development are included. That's why hands-on learning produces longer retention and more meaningful application. Once your child has shown an interest in letters and you have already begun to utilize natural settings for identifying those letters, begin implementing activities that incorporate as many senses as possible. Keep in mind that learning letter names isn't nearly as important as learning their sounds!
There are a plethora of ways to incorporate multiple domains of development in regards to letter recognition and early-reading skills. Alphabet crafts allow your child to learn the shape of a letter along with an association of the sound it makes all the while utilizing fine motor skills in the process of cutting, gluing, and creating! Playing games that involve gross motor skills (like tossing beanbags on the appropriate letter) are also wonderful ways to include movement. Of course, every child loves songs and rhymes! Take an inventory of your child's strengths and areas of interest and target activities to fit them!

6. CLASSIFY THE GENRE
Once your child is around 5 and can recognize the difference between real and make-believe, I would suggest starting to help your child understand various genres of books during your reading time together. This might seem complicated, but it's really not. There are around 5 different genres of children's books that I would encourage you to point out to your little one. Of course you can use the term “type” rather than “genre” if that is easier to remember.
• Nonfiction (real stories or facts about animals, places, people, etc)
• Fantasy (make-believe, can't happen in real life because of magic, talking animals, etc)
• Realistic Fiction (a made-up story, but it could technically happen in real life because the characters and situations arebelievable)
• Alphabet Books
• Song Books


When children classify a book into a certain genre, they have to first summarize the book in their head and recall details. Then they have to use that information to decide which type of genre that particular books fits into. Finally, your child will be recalling details from other books in the same genre, making connections between the two. This simple activity that might take 5-10 seconds of your time after reading a book but it certainly packs a punch of thought and processing in that young brain!

Also, it's important to note that not all books will fit into one of these genres, especially books that are considered “phonics readers.” I would suggest that you do this exercise only with high-quality children's literature, not with books that are attempting to get your child to “sound-out” on their own. Most picture books found in children's libraries will fit into one of these genres.
Remember, our goal is for our children to learn to comprehend what they're reading…otherwise reading will honestly do them little good. When we encourage our children to think about and process the book we've just read together, we are inadvertently modeling what we hope they'll one day do independently!

7. WORD FAMILIES
To put it simply, word families are words that rhyme. Teaching children word families is a phonemic awareness activity that helps children see patterns in reading. This is an important skill because it allows children to begin “reading” by grouping sets of letters within a word. The first part of a word is called the onset and the last part of the word is conveniently called the rime. Word families share a similar “rime” as the onset changes.
Once your child recognizes the word “mop”, he'll then have an advantage to reading all of the other words that have the same rime (top, pop, stop, cop, hop) because only one letter is changing. Plus, recognizing rhyming words is a great language skill in and of itself!


Check out this word families

8. PHONEMIC AWARENESS AND PHONICS
“Phonemes” are the smallest sounds in the English language (go here for a complete list of phonemes). These sounds are made up of consonants, short vowels, long vowels, and digraphs. “Phonemic Awareness” consists of learning those sounds and how to manipulate them within a word. Digraphs are unique sounds comprised of individual letters like /th/, /sh/, /ch/, etc.
“Phonics” includes learning how to spell those sounds and the various rules that the English language follows. Phonics is an important components of reading/spelling, but it should never be the main focus. Again, we are looking to balance our literacy “program” with reading comprehension as the end result. Learning the rules of phonics is simply a tool that helps a child learn to decode and spell. I used the Pathways To Reading program in the classroom as my phonemic awareness and phonics program and loved it! It made learning all of the tricky spellings so much fun, but I wouldn't recommend it until your child is in kindergarten or first grade.

9. DECODING
Decoding is often referred to as “sounding it out.” This is an important element in teaching your child to read, but it certainly isn't the most important. Once your child knows the sounds each letter makes (which is taught in real, meaningful situations), she is ready to begin putting words together. When looking at a short word, encourage her to say each individual sound /b/, /a/, /t/, and then put them together “bat”.
As children decode words with more frequency, they will become more proficient at automatically identifying that word. Sometimes this task is tedious, though, so it's important to find creative ways to make it fun. When I taught first grade, I used to buy little finger puppets that my students could use to point to the letters as they were decoding. This was a huge hit and made this process so much fun!


Find these finger puppets and more at Oriental Trading

10. SIGHT WORDS
Sight words, also known as high-frequency words, are the most common words in our written language are are often difficult to decode phonetically because they don't follow the rules of phonics. Because of this, they must be memorized. As I've shared with you before, I am not an advocate of rote memorization for optimal learning because I feel it only utilizes the lowest level of cognitive processes. However, sight words must be memorized in order for your child to become a fluent reader. There are a few popular lists of sight words that individual researchers have found beneficial, including the Dolche List and the Fry List. Don't get overwhelmed when looking at this list…just start working on a few sight words at a time when you feel your child is ready.

Activities like Sight Word Bingo can help make memorizing sight words more fun!

As you've probably noticed, there is no “magic formula” to teach your child how to read. The points we've discussed in previous posts have highlighted simple, effective strategies that are easy to modify for your child. After all, every child learns differently! This series is not to be used as a “checklist” and think that once you've covered all the strategies your child will be proficiently reading. Rather, this series provides valuable information to you so that you can guide your child while creating a print-rich, learning environment to foster his/her growth as a reader. Don't rush and don't stress! While it's important to take advantage of the prime-learning time, it's even more important to let your kid be a kid!
LEARNING TO READ
In summary, here are some practical suggestions you can implement every day based on the learning to read strategies shared with you in this post. Obviously, you can't implement all of these suggestions with children of all ages, so use your judgement about what is the best way to teach your child to read.
• Read to your child every day!
• Ask your child questions before, during, and after reading.
• Let your child see you reading.
• Look for letters while out and about and in the environment around you.
• When teaching letters and letter sounds, incorporate as many senses as possible.
• Read a variety of books and make a game out of guessing the genre.
• Have fun rhyming!
• Work on letter sounds and manipulating them within words (phonemic awareness)
• Encourage your child to sound out short words (consonant, vowel, consonant).
• Practice memorizing a few sight words each day.
• Most of all, have fun together!

Raise a Reader: A Parent Guide to Reading for Ages 3-5
Keep your kids reading with our guide to great book lists, book-related articles, and activities for children aged 3-5.

Your Preschooler Discovers Letters and Numbers
Literacy doesn't start only when your child starts school. From birth, babies and children are gathering skills they'll use in reading. The years between ages 3 and 5 are critical to reading growth, and some 5-year-olds are already in kindergarten.
The best way to instill a love for and interest in reading is to simply read to your child. And yet, many parents don't. Reading gives you the opportunity for close bonding with your child, and it also provides a window into a world of literacy that your child is about to enter.
As your child goes from saying her first sentences to speaking in paragraphs, you will start to see exciting milestones develop with reading. Your child will begin to recognize print on the street, stop signs, familiar store signs, and the address posted on your home.
• Most Preschoolers Will: Know the names of their favorite books; hold a book correctly and turn pages; recall familiar words and phrases in favorite books, pretend to read books; know the difference between a random squiggle and a letter or number.
• Some Preschoolers Will: Recognize and write some letters and numbers; name letters that begin certain words, make up rhymes or silly phrases.
• Some Preschoolers Might Even: Predict what might happen next in a story, read and write their names and some familiar words, retell stories that they know.
Talk About Text
A text-rich environment for preschoolers lays the groundwork for reading success. It's not just about having books in the home, although that's a great start. You can also start talking about letters, numbers, and words on packages and signs.
Help your child see how text is already a part of his daily life. Point out the name of his favorite cereal. Show him the labels on clothing. Show him the different parts of a birthday card or invitation.
When you are out and about, play games involving letter and number recognition. Can your child tell you any of the letters in the supermarket sign? Can she read the serving amount on a packaged snack? She will be delighted to understand more about her world — but don't push her delight. Developing text awareness should never be a chore.
Be Aware of Problems
Are you concerned that your child might have a learning disability? As with almost any disability, early intervention can prevent problems in the future. In the preschool years, speech delays are much more noticeable than the learning disabilities that may affect a child's efforts to read. Ask your pediatrician for advice if you are concerned that your child is speech delayed.
Most school districts will not diagnose reading disabilities until first grade. However, there are signs that you can look for earlier. If your 5-year-old can't “hear” the rhyme in two simple words, or cannot differentiate between a letter and a random squiggle, this may be an area of development you'll want to keep an eye on.
Reading Activities for Ages 3-5
1. Fun With Letters
Children enjoy copying words out onto paper. Write your child's name and have him copy it himself with alphabet stamps, stickers, or magnets. Encourage him to “write” his own words using the letters. Your child will write letters backwards, spell seemingly randomly, and may hold his marker strangely — it's “all good” at this age when a child wants to communicate in writing of any kind.
2. What Word Starts With…
The letter-sound connection is one of the first steps to reading. Play a guessing game about your child's favorite words. What letter does “p-p-p-pirate” start with? How about “M-m-mommy”? Once your child guesses one correctly, see how many words you can come up with together that start with the same letter.
3. Your Child the Author
Three-year-olds can be chatty, and by age 4, it can be hard to get a word in edgewise. Take advantage of your child's interest in talking by writing a book together. Start out with something simple, like describing a fun day at a park or visiting friends. Staple a few pieces of paper together, and write out one or two of your child's sentences on each page. Then, read the story to her and let her illustrate it.
4. A Different Way to Read
Reading to your child is great — but what's even better is something called “dialogic” reading. That's when you ask your child to participate in the story. Before turning the page, ask your child what he thinks will happen next. You can also ask your child what other way the book could have ended. For example, with the classic book Corduroy, what would have happened if the little girl hadn't come back to take Corduroy home from the toy store?
5. Take Letters Outside
Kids are tactile and enjoy few activities more than poking things with a stick. Many preschools encourage kids to make letters out of Play Doh or draw them into sand or clay. The next time you are out in the park, or at the beach, or in the snow, use your surroundings to play with letters. Take turns writing letters in the snow, dirt, or sand.
6. Just the Facts
Try getting your child interested in nonfiction books. At the library or bookstore, find books on your child's favorite topics. Cars, dinosaurs, dogs, and other topics are covered in on-level books with plenty of pictures, designed especially for kids this age.
Online Literacy for Ages 3-5
Using your computer, smart phone, or tablet computer is a special treat for your child. Try some of these literacy-building activities to turn your child's fun time into an educational opportunity.
Reading on Your Phone or Tablet
There are many classic books that your child can either read or have read to him as apps on your phone. Look for these popular titles:
• The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone (iPhone and iPad)
• The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton (iPhone and iPad)
• The Cat and the Hat by Dr. Seuss (Android, iPhone, and iPad)
• Little Critter: Just Big Enough (Android, iPhone, and iPad)
Plus, you might want to look into “Tales to Go,” a subscription-based app that streams over 900 stories for kids ages 3-11 with constant updates (iPhone and iPad).
Word and Letter Games on Your Phone or Tablet
To build the sound-letter connection and practice sight words and spelling, try these apps:
• Scholastic's Books and Games Apps are based on popular characters and series that kids love. Your preschooler might especially like Go, Clifford, Go!
• Scribble Press (and the Scribble Press app on iTunes) is a multimedia creativity platform for creating, sharing and publishing stories.
• “Build a Word” by WordWorld: Based on the PBS Kids television show, users can select letters to build words to identify images of ducks, sheep, pigs, and more. (iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone).
• FirstWords: Animals: You can use phonics rather than letter names to spell animal names, plus choose upper- or lower-case letters. (iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone).
• Interactive Alphabet—ABC Flashcards :An interactive image brings each letter to life. For example, with X, your child can “play” a screen image of a xylophone. (iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone)
Children's Learning and Gaming Systems
The two big names in children's computer games are Leapfrog and VTech. Each offers a variety of options depending on the interests of your child.
From Leapfrog, you can get spelling, letter and word identification, vowel and consonant practice, and spelling games. The games are themed to feature Disney characters, Sesame Street characters, Dora, Thomas the Tank Engine, and more. Their popular products include LeapPad, Leapster, Tag, and Tag Junior.
VTech also offers similar games and products. Their platforms include “laptop” computers and the MobiGo products, which are handheld options.
Recommended Books for Ages 3-5
Looking for more titles to share with your preschooler? Try these books featuring wordplay or these titles, which are perfect for cuddle-time.

Yes, there's a right way to teach reading
There's a "right" way to teach reading, according to best-selling journalist Peg Tyre. So why are many students not learning – or learning the wrong way?

Some time, usually between the ages of 5 and 6, most children begin to read. Watching a child transition from a nonreader to one who can both entertain and educate herself with a book is, for many parents, one of the milestones and miracles of family life.
Learning to read accurately, fluidly, with good comprehension and stamina is also a crucial set of skills for school success. Schools know this. That's why in the best ones, the early years of primary education are devoted to teaching kids to read using scientifically proven methods to ensure that all kids are reading at grade level.
But in many schools, in all kinds of neighborhoods, there is a shockingly large chunk of kids — about one in three — who don't master the skills they need to learn to read in a sophisticated way. Their road is a difficult one: although many will try to use their intelligence to cover the holes in their skill set, as the work gets harder and the reading grows more complex, these children will find they are unable to keep up.
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This is one of the great tragedies of the American school system. It is even more heartbreaking when you talk to scientists about how the human brain reads. Researchers estimate that somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of children, most of whom have developmental disorders or profound neurological problems, will never learn to read. The rest? If they are given what experts say is the right kind of instruction, they will learn to read, and most of them will be able to read well.
Reading casualties
But what happens to these kids if they don't get the right kind of instruction? Reading experts call them “instructional casualties.” Most of them don't have neurological problems. They are not disabled. Their schools and, specifically, their primary school teachers have failed them.
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In terms of outcomes, longitudinal research, the kind that follows kids for decades, tells a sad story. If your child is experiencing reading failure, it is almost as if he has contracted a chronic and debilitating disease. Kids who are not reading at grade level in first grade almost invariably remain poor fourth grade readers. Seventy four percent of struggling third grade readers still struggle in ninth grade, which in turn makes it hard to graduate from high school. Those who do manage to press on — and who manage to graduate from high school — often find that their dreams of succeeding in higher education are frustratingly elusive. It won't surprise you to know that kids who struggle in reading grow up to be adults who struggle to hold on to steady work; they are more likely to experience periods of prolonged unemployment, require welfare services, and are more likely to end up in jail.
Even if your child is one of the lucky ones and is doing fine in reading, students who are poorly served by their primary schools end up being a drain on the public education system. Reading problems are the overwhelming reason why students are identified as having learning disabilities and assigned to special education, often an instructional ghetto of the worst kind.
The right way to teach reading
It doesn't have to be this way. No area of education has been as thoroughly studied, dissected, and discussed as the best way to teach students to read. Seminal research and longitudinal studies from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, combined with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and computerized brain modeling from the nation's top academic labs, provide a clear prescription for effective reading instruction. And yet that information is virtually unknown among teachers, parents, and those who serve on school boards.
In nearly every conversation about reading instruction, educators talk about different pedagogical approaches and different philosophies, as if one is equal to another. And perhaps because some kids seem to learn to read like they learn to run, from observation and for the sheer love of it, it can appear like almost any kind of reading instruction can work with varying levels of success — for at least some kids. But researchers say they've come up with a straightforward formula that, if embedded into instruction, can ensure that 90 percent of children read.
What does the research show? It turns out that children who are likely to become poor readers are generally not as sensitive to the sounds of spoken words as children who were likely to become good readers. Kids who struggle have what is called poor “phonemic awareness,” which means that their processor for dissecting words into component sound is less discerning than it is for other kids.
In practical terms it works like this: a child destined to become a poor reader and a child destined to become a good reader can both understand the word “bag,” but the poor reader may not be able to clap for each of the three sounds in the word or to know that the last sound is what distinguishes “bag” from “bad.” If a child struggles to hear individual sounds that make up words, that child is likely to stumble when you try to teach her, for example, that the letter t makes the “tuh” sound. This becomes a real problem when we ask those kids to execute the neurological triple backflip known as reading.
And here's a critical fact you need to know: scientists have shown again and again that the brain's ability to trigger the symphony of sound from text is not dependent on IQ or parental income. Some children learn that b makes the buh sound and that there are three sounds in bag so early and so effortlessly that by the time they enter school (and sometimes even preschool), learning to read is about as challenging as sneezing. When the feeling seizes them, they just have to do it. Other perfectly intelligent kids have a hard time locating the difference between bag and bad or a million other subtleties in language.
Many studies have shown that phonemic awareness is a skill that can be strengthened in kids. And following that instruction in phonemic awareness, about 100 hours of direct and systematic phonics instruction can usually get the job done and ensure that about 90 percent of kids have the fundamentals they need to become good readers.
Reading lessons
Many school districts have adopted what they call a “balanced literacy” approach to reading. If administrators at your child's school describe their reading program that way, you'll need to ask a few more questions.
In some schools, balanced literacy means that preK teachers work on letters and letter sounds. Kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers deliver an orderly progression of explicit phonics lessons and, as the children become competent and confident readers, push them to discover the best that literature and nonfiction have to offer while doggedly building up their comprehension through weekly word study, spelling tests, and story analysis.
In other schools, balanced literacy can mean something very different and something that looks a lot like what is called the “whole language” approach — which is now largely discredited. At these schools, teachers provide a portion of the kids with a smattering of phonics (most schools now concede that some kids do need phonics to help figure out the code) and also encourage them to guess words from illustrations, and later, from context. As the children (hopefully) get more competent at reading, teachers minimize the study of language and devote their time and energy to getting kids excited about words, reading, and books. If you care about your child's school success, you'll want more of the former kind of instruction — phonics and word study — and less of the latter.
Once you've seen science-based reading instruction delivered well, you'll want it for your kids. For six years, Kristina Matuskiewicz, a kindergarten teacher at Edna C. Stevens Elementary School in Cromwell, CT, believed that, like all the teachers at her tidy suburban school, she was helping to make good readers. She read them stories, she identified words and described their meaning, she offered them a variety of good books and worked to shift them to independent reading. “Each teacher had their own approach to teaching reading,” says Matuskiewicz.
The problem was, none of their approaches were working very well. In 2007, only 70 percent of the third graders were proficient in reading. Not only that, each year about 33 out of 489 kids in the preK through second grade classes required outside support in reading — a program that was costly for the school and for the district.
What the “right way” looks like
The principal, Lucille DiTunno, decided the school needed to take another approach. First, she asked her teachers to establish a “literacy block” — 90 minutes a day dedicated to reading. Three years ago, DiTunno paid $28,000 to Literacy How, then a division of Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, to bring consultants to the school every week for a full year to teach teachers about the scientifically proven methods that help kids learn to read.
The first meeting, says Literacy How consultant Wendy North, was a disaster. “We got off on the wrong foot,” says North. The teachers felt like they were being blamed for the struggles of kids they hadn't taught in years. Instead of directing the anger at the inadequate instruction they had been given at teachers college, she says, they felt humiliated and angry that outside experts were being brought in to teach what they already knew — how to teach reading.
North persevered. These days, kindergartners in Matuskiewicz's class get a different kind of instruction than their older brothers and sisters did. During the first week of kindergarten, Matuskiewicz sits with each child and determines if he or she knows the letters and their corresponding letter sounds. The skill levels of the children are variable. So, class work in the autumn has to do with “sorting” — identifying letters and connecting them to sounds.
Some of the kids with a keen sense of phonemic awareness are already moving on to what is called in teacher-speak “decodable text” — little books with single lines of text made up of words that can be sounded out with ease. After about thirty minutes, all the children stop their work and, using a broad hand motion for each sound, sing what is known as “the vowel song” with great gusto. When the chorus of cheerful voices begins to die away, North and Matuskiewicz look pleased. “The rap against phonics is that there is too much drilling,” says North. “But look at this classroom. No one is suffering here.”
First grade teacher Angela DiStefano, a 12-year teaching veteran, says the Literacy How approach to reading has changed her professional life forever. “Before that, I thought it was my job to teach kids to share my enthusiasm for reading.” Now, she teaches them to read with explicit instruction on how to sound out words. Not long ago, she gave a seminar for first grade parents to teach them some rules about vowels (for example: vowels make their short sound in closed pattern words like tap and the long sound in open pattern words like hi, so, and my) so parents could reinforce the lessons at home.
The Literacy How approach has increased the scores on interim tests, and results from the first third graders who learned to read this way are expected to be high. Already, only three children per year are now being referred for the costly reading support, a massive savings for the district.
DiStefano says that the new program has made her relationship with parents more straightforward. “Before, we might say, 'That child isn't reading!' And we'd shrug. We didn't know what to do. Now we can sit with a parent and say, 'Your child is struggling to understand the rule that when a word ends with e, the middle vowel says its own name.' And we can describe our plan to reteach that and get parents to emphasize that at home and get that child back on the path to reading success.”
Seven tips for reading success
• Remember that learning to read and to read very well are crucial to your child's well-being.
• Find a school that uses scientifically based reading instruction. Find out what that is, and make sure your child's school is doing it.
• Make it clear to your child's teacher that you expect frequent, detailed reports on your child's progress in basic reading skills.
• If your child is not moving forward steadily, be prepared to take action. “Wait and see?” Nope. Watchful waiting is a good practice for many aspects of child rearing. Progress in early reading is not one of them.
• Be prepared to encounter some confusion and defensiveness from the people you'd think are the experts. Do not be deterred.
• Throughout elementary school and middle school, teachers should be engaging in increasingly sophisticated forms of word study.
• After second grade, surround your child with all kinds of books and make what she's reading a topic of dinnertime conversation. Listen to the way she talks about books to ensure that her comprehension continues to deepen.

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