Reading can open a world of opportunities.
Before you start? Can they see normally?
Normal or corrected vision and tracking abilities will strongly impact your child's ability to learn to read. If possible early in their learning career verify that their vision is not in need of therapy or correction. Many communities have resources available to help children and adults in need of glasses who cannot afford them and if this is you then seek out this help.
Physical activities such as catching a ball can help the eyes learn to track appropriately. An inability to track will cause difficulty following a line of text and staying on the line currently being read. This can severely hinder comprehension.
Have books at home at kid height
Have books available and within reach from an early age. Teach your children that art paper is for drawing and writing and books are to be handled nicely and put them within reach. Having books in a home library has been linked in a multi-country study to higher academic achievement (study link).
You may have seen the designer rooms with the floating bookshelf that holds a few volumes far up on the wall. These are nice for a few decorative editions, but put a bookshelf or milk crate or something on the floor or at an easy to reach height for your child and keep books in it. You don't have to break the bank to keep your budding bookworm going, but you can utilize your local library to provide a wide variety of materials.
Read every single day
One of the most important things to raise a successful reader is to read every day. Model reading every day even if you only read the comic strips, sports pages, or stock reports. By showing an adult engaged in reading your child will be more likely to want to imitate you and read as well.
Read out loud to your children every day
Read to your children every day even as they are getting to be capable readers and can read alone. If you are not a good reader there is help available for you, but take the time every day with a book with your child. There are numerous picture books with which you can make up stories or play "I Spy" or similar games. Reading together can be a fun and bonding experience for you both. One family read from fourth grade till college every single night (Father-Daughter Reading Streak Lasts Nearly 9 Years).
You can make your reading streak tangible by keeping a reading journal or chart. If you have been talking with your children since they were born and they have normal hearing then their listening comprehension is going to start out ahead of their reading comprehension. So read books to them that are still too hard for them to read to themselves. Or both of you snuggle in to listen to an audio book together.
Have your child read every day as well. Don't worry if at first they just want to read every book in series that you find repetitive or boring. A story that is similar to other stories can be comfortable to a beginning reader.
Getting started on the road to reading
- Read to your child. You can even start reading to your baby before he or she is born.
- Promote familiarity with print and books. How to handle the items gently, how to turn the page.
- Introduce your child to what sounds the letters can make.
- Introduce your child to a dictionary.
- Turn on closed captioning. If you watch videos, turn on the captioning to allow the additional practice of seeing the text in association with an action.
I suggest starting with consonants and the short vowel sounds first. Then you and your child can blend the sounds together to come up with real and imaginary words. When your child is comfortable with the idea of sounding out consonant and short vowel words, start adding in the exceptions and long vowel sounds. There are many resources available and programs to teach your child to read, but breaking the word up a part at a time and sounding out the word using a phonetic approach is critical to a successful reader.
Once your child is starting to read introduce him or her to a dictionary that has phonetic entries for the words and explain that some words are harder to sound out correctly than others but by using this part of the dictionary entry you can tell how a word is supposed to be pronounced.
Whole language advocates argue that the meaning is the most important thing and having students read texts aimed at their phonetic development does not give much meaning for them work with.
An article commenting on the achievement gap in boys points out that boys do especially badly at whole language method of learning to read. Of course, meaning is important, but if you want your child to be an independent reader then you need to give them the building blocks to decode the words properly. At the same time that he is learning to read, you can continue reading to him and discussing the meaning and context of what you are reading. This promotes his independent reading while still providing growth in understanding vocabulary and concepts that are currently above his ability to decode and read on his own. When he comes back to reading these or similar books independently the knowledge gained from being read to will help immensely. Phonics is phonics is phonics, right? It seems that phonics advocates have divided into analytic vs synthetic phonics. Synthetic phonics starts with a small group of sounds and builds up the word. Analytic phonics assumes that they knew the word and are now figuring out how the sounds match which seems a bit backwards. Analytic versus synthetic phonics
On level for the current grade? How can I tell?
Reading independently and for enjoyment will promote and surpass reading at state testing levels so if the student is not reading independently then start at the beginning rather than stressing him out with state tests.
If your child is reading independently, do a rapid review of phonics and fill in any pieces that were missed or not fully covered. Pick a textbook or pleasure book and have her read a passage out loud. Listen for stumbling and watch for difficulties going from the end of a line to the start of the next line. You can use the five-finger rule here to indicate if the book is too difficult. Four or five mistakes or unknown words on a page might push the book into too difficult. More than five mistakes on a page indicate a book that can only be successfully read when the child has extreme interest in reading it. There were many children who read Harry Potter before they were really ready for it because of an extreme motivation to complete the book. Remember that the ability to read out loud does not always match the ability to read silently.
Read a book that your child has just finished reading for fun. Discuss the book and ask questions that will determine how well the book made sense to your child. If most of the questions are answered then look up the level of the book. This will give a reading level for that book and provide a snapshot into your child's reading.
There are many ways of leveling books. One way is a "reading level" shown as a grade.month. A score of a 2.5 reading level would indicate that the book can be read by an average reading ability second grader by the fifth month of school. One alternative leveling scheme provides a number, called a lexile number, for a book. The books read in the various grades provide overlapping lexile levels to indicate that there is a normal range of abilities in each grade.
There are many more competing leveling schemes and standards, but what is really important is that your child is reading, enjoying reading, and adding more challenging reading as his skill improves. It is also quite acceptable to retreat to a lower reading level when tackling more complex materials for the first time. Some middle school, high school, or even college students might find the elementary science, history, or geography texts less threatening when approaching the material for a first time. They will find value in reading all that is available on a topic at one reading level and spiralling up to higher reading levels as they master the topic.
State Test materialsYou can attempt the released versions of the state tests. The reading selections in standardized tests are not always the most engaging and fun. Some examples:
- Texas STAAR released tests
- Virginia's poorly abbreviated Standards of Learning (SOL) has released tests as well
- Alaska's Sample questions
- Washington State uses a program from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to handle assessments
|Free - $||
McGuffey First Reader
McGuffey's Second Reader
McGuffey's Third Reader
McGuffey's Fourth Reader
McGuffey's Fifth Reader
McGuffey's Sixth Reader
McGuffey's Spelling Book
Physical Printed Set
|Free and subscription||
Starfall provides free content and enhanced subscription content to facilitate phonics-based learning.
Libros de Texto
|Free - limited regions||
Oxford Owl Link
UK resource including, math and reading activities for 5-11 year olds (Year 1-6)
Other books and suggestions for learning to read
|$||Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons||This book is well regarded as providing a systemic introduction to reading. It is scripted and like other scripted or video materials can help parents who did not actually learn phonics learn and help their children at the same time. People have complained that the book size is hard for small children to hold.|
|$||Jolly Jingle Phonics||This is an entire reading program and is really targeted to classrooms, but some of the materials are available for purchase separately. You should really attempt to get your local library to add the big book to their story time collection. The images are engaging and the stories are silly which appeals to children.|
|$||Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook||This book speaks eloquently about the advantages of reading aloud and is also essentially a large book list with books broken out by levels. Most libraries have a copy of this book and you should check it out. If you have a parent's group, consider making this your book club book when your child is a toddler.|
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