Studies show that children with weak phonological awareness become weak readers. Parents can almost guarantee their youngsters will become proficient readers by starting early with phonological awareness. They should forget flashcards, workbooks, and pricey kits such as “Hooked on Phonics” and just keep it fun, light, and simple. Phonological awareness is about being silly with words, making it a game, and celebrating the magic of language. There's no need for parents to sit their children down and give formal lessons. Instead, parents should teach it throughout the day in a fun and organic way by remembering the mantra: When you're out and about, sound it out:
Parents have 3 mantras to remember when teaching their children how to read: 1) Start with the heart. 2) When you're out and about, sound it out and 3) Comprehension is the key that turns sounding out into reading. By keeping these in mind, parents have what they need to turn children into proficient readers who love books and will turn to them for both pleasure and knowledge.
Is it any surprise that people who have been told, in a million different ways by most adults that they interact with "oh, of course this is so terribly boring and awful that we will have to force you to do it, or you would never do it" actually come to believe those lies, and build up an active fear and resistance to what is in fact (in English) a *very* simple 26 letter code? There is no reason at all why reading should take more than a week, but somehow schools turn it into a terrible 7-12 year production.
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.”
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!
My daughter is also the same. I have been having anxiety for my child not being able to catch on. My daughter turned 6 in December. She can only recognize a few letters in her name. My oldest daughter, who is 8, is a great reader, and my youngest daughter, 3 1/2, can also recognize most of the alphabet and is starting to sound out small words. We read to them every day. I also feel desperate to help my child as I do not know how I can help her. I have been giving her alphabet worksheets and doing the best I can at home.

I have a 6 year old son who had some pretty significant delays due to liver disease. I never thought he would take off reading the way he has! He's doing so well with your program he will not have to repeat kindergarten. We are so pleased with your reading program! And super excited our son gets to go into first grade all because his reading skills are so good! He's a better reader than most of his friends his age who have never had delays or medical issues.
To make meaningful connections with the printed word, children need rich and varied life experiences. A kid who has never strayed from the inner-city will not get much from a story about farm life. A kid who has never visited an aquarium will not have the background needed to comprehend a text on marine life. Moms and dads can boost comprehension by remembering the mantra: Comprehension is the key that turns sounding out into reading. They can engage in the following activities.
p.s. I hated to read when I was little (I really didn’t enjoy the public school reading curriculums) but now I love reading. My husband loves to read even more than I do and so do the men at our church, young and old. In fact, one of our friends grew up in a home where his father literally had thousands of history books and had read most of them. Now his son is also an avid reader.
I have 6 children. The first one learned to read at age 9; within 3 months, he was reading Harry Potter. I had tried to "teach" him a year earlier; but he just wasn't ready and was becoming frustrated. When I saw him at age 9 sitting with a book and straining to figure it out himself, I knew he was ready and tutored him in basic phonics for a few weeks, 15 minutes a day. That's all it took, because he was ready.
Wow! I've tried lots of things (6 or 7) to teach my kids to read and this is the only no-fail system. Yes, my kids hate this book after a month or so of it, but it doesn't make them hate reading. This is the only book they are successful at. Whenever I have them try to read the school reading assignments or Bob books or I see sam books, or reader rabbit, or starfall, they instantly stop progressing. Most of these other methods either introduce new information too quickly or discourage sounding o ...more

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This is a wonderful column, and all very true. My own four (unschooled) kids learned to read at ages ranging between 3 and 8 years, and each learned in his or her own way. I'm now watching my unschooled grandchildren following the same path - the 8 year old has just taught himself to read, and I can see his 5 year old sister is close behind. I often tell other parents with kids in school about my experiences because they worry so much if their kids aren't reading by age 6.

Finally, I can't resist ending with a little story about my son's learning to read. He was a very early reader, and one of the first indications of his reading ability occurred when he was about three and a half and we were looking at a Civil War monument in a town square somewhere in New England. He looked at the words, and then he said to me, "Why would men fight and die to save an onion?"
It can be hard for those who see their (often months older) classmates outstrip them fast – especially if there are a few who have come into school already able to read. “My son's a summer-born and was only just four when he started school. He was definitely slower than most of the others at 'getting' the whole idea of reading. I started to think he was destined to be bottom of the pile for ever. It was quite hard not to get a bit worried about it.” As a teacher, I can say neither early reading nor late reading has a bearing on the intelligence of a child.
Have your child practice decoding. Classically known as ‘sounding out’ words, decoding is when a child reads a word by making the sounds of each individual letter, rather than trying to read the whole word at once. Reading is broken up into two primary parts: decoding/reading a word, and comprehending its meaning. Don’t expect your child to recognize and comprehend words just yet; have them focus on decoding and sounding out word parts..
Parents have 3 mantras to remember when teaching their children how to read: 1) Start with the heart. 2) When you're out and about, sound it out and 3) Comprehension is the key that turns sounding out into reading. By keeping these in mind, parents have what they need to turn children into proficient readers who love books and will turn to them for both pleasure and knowledge.
Terrific post! My 4 year old is starting to ask me what random words start with and I have known for a while it was time to move forward with “reading” but didn’t have a clue how to proceed. Alphabet games and crafts will be great to continue learning letter sounds. Also, thank you for using wonderful pics of completely normal home crafts (“S” and the bingo game), and not dolled up pinterest ones. It feels accessible to everyone.
I didn't make him repeat stuff as much as the book said, unless he was having trouble with a particular word. I let him set the learning pace so that he didn't get bored or overly frustrated. Only made it to lesson 70-something where the lessons start to repeat but without the special writing to help you pronounce the words. But he is reading books himself no ...more
I am homeschooling my children, although the oldes is 4. My son began interested in writing very early. He was able to hold a pencil with the tripod pencil grasp early, too. He was able to write his name, independently, by the age of three. Since then he has been asking me to help him spell words. I've gone over different phonic sounds with him while driving in the car. We'll play rhyming games, too. We've never used a curriculum. He has always been surrounded by books. We read several times a day. We have a dry erase board and a chalkboard-painted wall where he can practice his letters and words, or drawings. Yesterday while looking at a book in the car he said, "Mom, P-O-O-H spells Pooh!" That was the first time he's read a word that wasn't MOM, DAD or his own name. It was pretty amazing.
My six-year-old son has taught himself to read in the last year or two, and he is learning math in the same way. The concepts of addition and subtraction have been introduced to him early in his life because I like to talk about amounts. I guess it is the way I see the world. ("There are three apples on the table. Let's peel two of them so you can have one and I can have one. Then there will be one left and we can eat it tomorrow.")
If your child's still keen for more (and, again, there's no rush), you could have a go at helping them blend letter sounds together to make a simple vowel-consonant word: so, “a” and “t” makes “at” or “o” and “n” makes “on”. “Say 'a' and 't', then say it again, faster and faster, until the sounds run together and the penny, in theory, drops.” You could also find some simple letter-sound activity sheets from websites like Twinkl or try phonics apps like Jolly Phonics and Reading Eggs to reinforce this idea.

My daughter just finished lesson 25, and the transformation is amazing. She's gone from mixing up letters to reading simple sentences such as, "The cat is in the sack. The sack is near the man." On top of that, because she has experienced success herself, she is proud of herself and far more willing to engage in the activities! I won't lie; at first it was like pulling teeth, and mommy needed a big glass of mommy juice after a lesson. But she now picks the book up on her own in the morning and practices all by herself.


It can be hard for those who see their (often months older) classmates outstrip them fast – especially if there are a few who have come into school already able to read. “My son's a summer-born and was only just four when he started school. He was definitely slower than most of the others at 'getting' the whole idea of reading. I started to think he was destined to be bottom of the pile for ever. It was quite hard not to get a bit worried about it.” As a teacher, I can say neither early reading nor late reading has a bearing on the intelligence of a child.
I started this with both my sons in pre-k and quit each time because they were not ready. We finally made it through with my oldest who is now in 3rd grade and a great reader. My current Kindergartner and I have taken a break from it with plans to return. It is just moving too fast for him. He cannot make it through one lesson in the 20 minute time limit. We tried to break it into 2 20 minutes sessions, but he was still struggling. I do plan to return to it when I think he is ready. I think the book is a great start to phonics. The boys do love the pictures and funny stories.
Great news Mama Kim! You just have to be patient, it will not happen overnight but it will happen sooner than you think. It takes consistent effort over time. Children are remarkable and learn without you even knowing they are doing it. Just keep at it on a daily basis but always avoid overloading him. Also don’t worry too much about testing what he knows, just keep showing him the words and move on. By 30 days he will be showing you his great reading skills!
Tap into prior knowledge. Before reading, parents should tap into their children's prior knowledge—priming the pump for deeper learning. For example, when reading Make Way for Ducklings, a mother might recall the day she and her daughter went to the park to feed the ducks and ask: “What do you remember about those ducks?” Before reading Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, a dad might reminisce about the time he and his son watched the heavy equipment at the construction site near their house, asking: “What vehicles do you remember seeing and what were they doing?”

Reading Recovery is a short-term tutoring program for struggling first graders. It aims to develop reading and writing by tailoring lessons to each student. Tutors are trained in the program. They teach students in daily pullout sessions over 12–20 weeks. Reading Recovery is designed for short-term use. It’s an add-on to whatever program is being used in the general classroom. Kids with dyslexia are often included in the program at first. But research has questioned how effective it is for these students.
p.s. I hated to read when I was little (I really didn’t enjoy the public school reading curriculums) but now I love reading. My husband loves to read even more than I do and so do the men at our church, young and old. In fact, one of our friends grew up in a home where his father literally had thousands of history books and had read most of them. Now his son is also an avid reader.

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.


"There was also a time when, as an infant, I knew no Latin; but this I acquired without any fear or tormenting, but merely by being alert to the blandishments of my nurses, the jests of those who smiled on me, and the sportiveness of those who toyed with me. I learned all this, indeed, without being urged by any pressure of punishment, for my own heart urged me to bring forth its own fashioning, which I could not do except by learning words: not from those who taught me but those who talked to me, into whose ears I could pour forth whatever I could fashion. From this it is sufficiently clear that a free curiosity is more effective in learning than a discipline based on fear."

Another thing I think is important to remember is to not get frustrated. When it comes to reading, things that seem “obvious” to you aren’t obvious at all to someone who’s learning to read, but when you forget that it can be easy to get frustrated because your child isn’t understanding that seems so obvious to you. Go into it knowing that you’re going to need to be patient! It will definitely give you a new level of appreciation for people who teach children as their profession.
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.
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