Start to make word-sound associations. Before you even start getting into the alphabet and sound specifics, help your child recognize that the lines on the page are directly correlated to the words you are speaking. As you read aloud to them, point to each word on the page at the same time you say it. This will help your child grasp the pattern of words/lines on the page relating to the words you speak in terms of length and sound.
A child who's really reading does more than just sound out a word like "cat." He must also be able to know whether a "cat" is a person, place, or thing; to comprehend the grammar in each sentence (Does the cat wear the hat or does the hat wear the cat?); to dramatize and contextualize the story in his head (cats don't normally talk and wear hats, do they?); and to empathize with the story's characters and understand the ramifications of their actions (that mom is sure going to be mad when she finds the mess made by that silly cat).
A child who's really reading does more than just sound out a word like "cat." He must also be able to know whether a "cat" is a person, place, or thing; to comprehend the grammar in each sentence (Does the cat wear the hat or does the hat wear the cat?); to dramatize and contextualize the story in his head (cats don't normally talk and wear hats, do they?); and to empathize with the story's characters and understand the ramifications of their actions (that mom is sure going to be mad when she finds the mess made by that silly cat).
The general assumption in our culture is that children must be taught to read. Vast amounts of research go into trying to figure out the scientifically best way to do this. In the education stacks of any major university library you can find rows and rows of books and many journals devoted solely to the topic of how to teach reading. In education circles heated debates--dubbed "the reading wars"--have raged for decades between those who believe that most emphasis should be placed on teaching phonics and those who take what is called a "whole language" approach to reading instruction. Many controlled experiments have been conducted comparing one instruction method to another, with kindergartners and first graders as the guinea pigs. The phonics people say that their method has "won" in those experiments, and the whole language people say that the experiments were rigged.
Literacy expert Timothy Shanahan shares best practices for teaching reading and writing. Dr. Shanahan is an internationally recognized professor of urban education and reading researcher who has extensive experience with children in inner-city schools and children with special needs. All posts are reprinted with permission from Shanahan on Literacy.
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.

Reading is an important thing, and it would be great if we could all teach it to our kids. However, it can be frustrating teaching your child something you’ve been doing so long you forgot how you learned to do it. And the last thing you want to do is create a culture of frustration around your child’s education. To ease some of the drama in teaching your children to read, I have written out a step-by-step guide outlining how I taught my son to read.
Others wrote about shared family games involving words, or about shared television viewing in which the onscreen guide and captions would be read for the benefit of nonreaders. Over time, the nonreaders needed ever less help; they began recognizing and reading more and more words themselves. The most often mentioned examples of shared participation are those of parents, or sometimes siblings, reading stories to nonreaders, often as part of the bedtime ritual. Nonreaders look on, at the words as well as the pictures, and sometimes read some of the words; or they memorize books that have been read to them repeatedly, and then later they pretend to read the books while actually attending to some of the words. Pretend reading gradually becomes real reading.

Scaffolding. When reading to young children, parents should keep in mind the image of a scaffold—one piece placed on top of another to make something bigger and stronger. If the bottom of the scaffold is weak and wobbly, the entire thing will collapse. Little children have limited experiences so parents should build upon what they already know. Reading a book about butterflies to a child who has never seen a butterfly is largely meaningless. However, reading a book about butterflies to a youngster who spent the afternoon watching them fluttering around her garden is immensely powerful.
At first, I thought she was just reciting the books we owned from memory because she knew them so well. However, I realized that wasn't the case when I started giving her easy reader books to read that she'd never seen before. That's when I realized...my baby can read! She can actually read! And I'm not talking just those beginner reading books that contain sentences like, "Pat sat on her mat" and "See the fox run."I guess all my hard work is paying off. I am raising readers! Of course, she's still very much in the beginning stages of reading, but she's off to a great start!
Set small goals. This is the one time you shouldn’t focus so much on the bigger picture. It can be daunting and discouraging. It also might encourage you to breeze past foundational principles and push them past reasonable expectations. So, forget the “bigger picture” and focus on small victories instead. Remember we should be more concerned with improvement than achievement.
Help us help you. We want this to be a resource that is constantly improving. So please provide us with your feedback, both the good and the bad. We want to know which lessons worked for your child, and which fell short. We encourage you to contribute your own ideas that have worked well in the home or classroom. You can communicate with us through email or simply post a response in the comments section of the relevant page.
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Once your child starts school, they will be taught not only the basic letter sounds (each one usually with its own rather snigger-worthy accompanying action) but also the more complicated ones, such as “sh” and “ch” and “ai” and “oi”. They'll bring (sometimes crashingly boring) reading books home, along with, at some point, a set of “key words” to learn by heart.
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.
When reading a book to your child, you can do more than just read the story. Use rich vocabulary to describe the pictures. Ask your child questions about what she thinks will happen on the next page. These techniques will improve her storytelling skills. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Show your child how to respect a book by turning the pages gently and carefully. Ask her to place the book back carefully in its place, instead of leaving it on the bed or on the floor.

I realize many people have had success with this book but we did not. My children hated, just HATED this book. I do not want my children to hate reading. I want them to love reading so I quit using the book after only a few tries. It is not a child-friendly book. The book is structured like a textbook (columns, heavy text, few pictures, no color, chapters, etc.) and oversized like a textbook, which is inappropriate for a small child. I can understand why adults like this book as it is more appro ...more
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Instead, we should think about our children as whole readers from the beginning. In his NYT piece, Willingham writes that “comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge.” He suggests that parents should leave the teaching up to teachers, and simply read with kids. Read often. Read everywhere. Read for fun. Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Explore different topics. Traditionally, the texts in early elementary grades “have been light in content,” Willingham writes. (“Mac sat on a mat,”etc.) Kids can soak in more complicated information and plots when you read to them than when they read texts themselves, so it’s important to keep at it, following their natural curiosity.
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.
Your results may vary and the results described in the testimonials here are not claimed to represent typical results. All the testimonials posted here are real - from real parents, grandparents, and caregivers who have used the Children Learning Reading program to teach their children to read. These results may not be typical, and the learning to read results cannot be guaranteed for all children and parents. See our full FTC disclaimer here.
I used this book with all three of my children, between the ages of three and six. (My oldest couldn’t wait to learn to read at three years old, otherwise, I would recommend waiting until they are ready.) This curriculum is easy to use, has a strong phonics base and is effective. Each lesson is broken up into reading/phonics instruction, reading comprehension and penmanship. Because I used another curriculum for penmanship, I used this book strictly for the reading and comprehension. Each of my children were reading at a solid second grade level after completion, and transitioned easily to the McGuffey Readers that I used for follow up. All of my children (ages 18, 11 and 7) enjoy reading. My two oldest are voracious readers, and have not had any problems, even with advanced literature. My youngest (7) reads nicely from his McGuffey Reader, which uses a wide vocabulary. It is very easy to use, as it is scripted for the parent. You can literally pick it up and use it once you have read the introduction at the beginning of the book. The only thing you need to prepare for each lesson is to cover up the picture until they have completed the story and you are ready to move on to the comprehension questions. The only downside to this book is that the stories are kind of lame, for the parent anyway! My kids thought they were silly, though, and seemed to enjoy them. After going through the book three times, I was glad to be done with it, but that’s just me! Overall, I highly recommend this curriculum, and found it to be a good fit for our family. (Note: I also used Riggs Institute phonogram cards after completion to cover any of the rare blends that were not in the book.)

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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.
Willingham recently wrote the New York Times op-ed “How to Get Your Mind to Read,” and it’s fascinating. In raising readers, it appears that we’re doing it wrong. Parents and teachers tend to think about the learning process in separate blocks. When kids are very young—around 4, 5 or 6—we teach them how to “decode” words. It isn’t until the fourth or fifth grade that we move onto comprehension. That’s too late, Willingham says. “Decoding and comprehension are not the same thing,” he tells me. “There are times when you can read content out loud but not understand what you’re reading.” In the later elementary school grades, as texts become much more complex, comprehension becomes much more difficult. And therefore, children struggle.
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.
If you're nodding along to these questions, you're the perfect candidate to teach your child to read. Sadly, too many parents have the misconception that reading must be taught by trained educators and requires a pricey phonics kit, worksheets, alphabet cards, special books, and other resources. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody is better suited to teach a youngster how to read than her own parents!

I’m an educational psychologist that specializes in helping kids learn the sight words through pictures, movement, and creativity. I love the ideas in this post and was tempted to add more about teaching difficult sight words, but I got worried that I would sound like I was ‘pitching’ to your readers. So, I decided to just send you a message. Love your blogs.
It actually misspells things at first (meaning writing the words (and the Alphabet!) as they sound, not as they are really written) and then switches over to the correct method. I didn’t have much interest or want of using this type of curriculum since I am a firm believer of learning the correct way since the beginning, but as of now, we are only on lesson 12; and she has improved at least about 60% if I’d have to scale it for you in 2 weeks and only in about 20 minutes a day!!
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.
Willingham recently wrote the New York Times op-ed “How to Get Your Mind to Read,” and it’s fascinating. In raising readers, it appears that we’re doing it wrong. Parents and teachers tend to think about the learning process in separate blocks. When kids are very young—around 4, 5 or 6—we teach them how to “decode” words. It isn’t until the fourth or fifth grade that we move onto comprehension. That’s too late, Willingham says. “Decoding and comprehension are not the same thing,” he tells me. “There are times when you can read content out loud but not understand what you’re reading.” In the later elementary school grades, as texts become much more complex, comprehension becomes much more difficult. And therefore, children struggle.
Because your child will also receive one-on-one tutoring from you they will also learn better and faster. When a child learns to read in a school classroom, they will be sharing their reading teacher with about 20 other children. This means that in a 30-minute lesson, your child will be getting one-on-one attention from that teacher for about one minute. This is mainly why it takes so long for a child to learn to read in school.
I have been using this book with my 5 year old twin girls, and have such mixed feelings about it. We are half way through. Some things I love are the structure, it is scripted and somewhat rigid. That means less work for me in terms of figuring out what to cover. I love how it teaches phonics, which is incredibly lacking in the school system near us. I also like the whole brain approach the book takes. As a neuropsychologist, it's nice to see the integration of writing, sounding out, comprehensi ...more
Ask questions about the stories. Similar to when you were reading stories to your child, every time your child reads ask them questions about what they’ve just read. At first it will be difficult for them to think critically about meanings of words and the buildup of character development and plot (or the semblance of those things in the most basic of stories), but over time they will develop the necessary skills to answer questions.
I’m also a former teacher – and reading at infancy is the key! I began reading to my granddaughter when she was 2 months old. By 1 year, she knew the correct way to hold a book and turn the pages front to back. At 2 years 6 months – she began reading! She is now 2 years 11 months and reading at the 2nd grade level – I’ve tested her! She reads at least 10 books a day.
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).
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