Teach a Child to Read
IndexIntroduction Auditory Skills Learning to Read Teaching Alphabet Sounds Teaching How to Rhyme Improving Short Term Memory Putting Sounds Together Reading Selections To, With and By Phonics vs Whole Language Components of Reading Make Your Own Book Literacy Facts Good Books for Kids Literacy Websites for Parents and Teachers Education and Family Info Websites Alphabet List Alphabet Chart Questions & Answers Reading Rescue 1-2-3 About the Author
IntroductionDedicated to the thousands of children who need to improve their reading skills, and to their parents who want to help them succeed.
The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day. I sat there with Sally. We sat there, we two. And I said, "How I wish we had something to do!" -from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss -
Thirty-eight percent of all fourth graders in the United States can't read this simple poem.1 Is your child one of them? Does your child drone, hesitate, and torture words while reading? He or she is one of 7 million elementary-aged children who is performing below his or her reading potential. Certainly millions of children in America can't be stupid, lazy, or have ADD. Children sitting in the best classrooms in the country struggle with reading. Moms and dads are scratching their heads wondering whether to get a part-time job to pay for tutoring for Jerome or Ashley. This past decade, educators have been fighting a Phonics versus Whole Language reading war. Each side has strong advocates, yet many children still emerge from schools unable to read. Meanwhile, scientists have been busy trying to identify the missing puzzle piece of how children learn to read. Here's some good news: Research indicates that 90 to 95% of all children can learn to read at grade level with proper intervention. You can make a profound difference in your child's ability to read by spending fifteen minutes per day with your son or daughter, using information provided in this website, playing games and reading good books together. So let's begin to help your child improve in reading!
1. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, "Executive Summary," of The 1998 National Assessment for Educational Progress Reading Report Card for the Nation, NCES 1999-500 (Washington, D.C.: March 1999).
Auditory Skills and Tri-Method InstructionA Weak Link is Auditory Skills Researchers have been looking inside children's brains while they do literacy tasks. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) they discovered that poor readers showed differences in brain activities than those who are literate. Some important brain areas are underactivating. A common weakness is in auditory discrimination skills. For example, many poor readers do not "hear" differences in letter sounds. To them, the five short vowels sound almost exactly alike. This causes poor readers to expend more effort for less return. They have a harder time rapidly and accurately recalling letter sounds. Inefficient letter-sound recall makes it more difficult for these children blend letter sounds to make syllables or words. Finally, their brains are inefficient in recognizing and recalling words. But their brains work well in other areas, which explains why they can be bright, yet functionally illiterate. The good news is that children's brains are not etched in stone. Auditory skills and letter sound memory can be strengthened. Your son or daughter can become a good reader with your help. The Tri-Method Instruction to Literacy Success In a perfect world, children would learn how to read using a combination of three methods of instruction: auditory training, phonics, and whole language. It's clear from research that using one of these methods will help only a few children. In fact, using two out of three methods will still leave numerous children illiterate. However, when auditory training, phonics and whole language are merged, literacy rates increase significantly. Hopefully, you will see all three methods reflected in curriculum and used in American classrooms soon.
Learning to ReadLearning How to Read Begins in Children's Ears Most people think children learn how to read through their eyes. But reading is actually learned through the ears. Parents lay a foundation for success in reading by talking to a child, reading books to her, and playing auditory games such as rhyming. The more books you read, the bigger her vocabulary becomes. A bigger vocabulary allows her to recognize lots of words while she reads. If you've read books to her about cheetahs and warthogs, it's more likely she can read those words when her teacher gives a homework assignment about the Serengeti Plains. Learning to Read, Reading to Learn What is the normal sequence for children learning how to read? From birth to age three, children listen to lots of words spoken and learn how to talk. Children, aged three to four years old have growing vocabularies, and they learn how to rhyme. In first grade children are taught how to blend letter sounds together to "sound out" words and memorize sight words. They begin reading simple sentences. Second and third graders learn how to read "chapter" books and read fluently with comprehension. Every once in awhile a parent says to me, "My son can't read because he's lazy." I don't agree with that. A child who can't read is missing important auditory tools: He can't rhyme She doesn't know the short vowel sounds-caused by her inability to hear differences in short vowel sounds. (Short vowels: a-apple, e-elephant, i-igloo, o-octopus, u-umbrella) He can't put word parts together to make words-a skill used in sounding out new words. She has slow recall of letter sounds. She sees letter w and can't remember what it says. These traits are common to most children who struggle in reading. These are not traits of "laziness" but of auditory and memory deficits. Do the following games and activities to fill in your child's auditory gaps which in turn will improve his reading skills.
Teaching Alphabet SoundsHelp Your Child Improve Auditory Skills by Teaching Alphabet Letter Sounds In order to read, every child must know the sounds of the alphabet letters. He must be able to recall them quickly - he sees the letter and says the sound without hesitation. 1. Test your child's knowledge of alphabet letter sounds by using the provided Alphabet List. Point to each letter and ask your child to, "Tell me what this letter says." *The alphabet list has no pictures, so your child has to rely totally on memory. *You are asking your child to tell you the letter sound, not the letter name. *Write down letter sounds that he or she misses. This is a good place to begin fixing your child's auditory gaps. 2. If your child needs to learn most of the alphabet letter sounds, help her create her own Alphabet Book. Staple some pieces of paper together and ask your child to draw pictures of items that begin with the sound of each alphabet letter.
3. You can also teach alphabet letters and letter sounds by using an Alphabet Chart with pictures. *Be sure to point to each letter as you are saying the letter name and letter sound. *Review the alphabet chart once a day and pretty soon your child will be able to point to each letter and say the sounds himself! *I have an alphabet chart tacked on the wall at kid-height of my son's bedroom so he can look at it. 4. When you are teaching a letter sound, be careful not to add an "uh" sound at the end of the letter. For example, letter s should sound like a snake hissing, with no throat sound. Letter s says 'sss,' not 'suh.' If your child learns letters 'c', 'a', 't' as sounding 'kuh,' 'aah,' and 'tuh,' those sounds will not come together to say cat!
Children have different learning rates. Your child may need lots of direct instruction to learn the alphabet sounds. Don't forget, he will learn letter sounds more quickly with a short daily review.
Teaching How to RhymeHelp Your Child Improve Auditory Skills by Teaching How to Rhyme Knowing how to rhyme will help your child read word "families" such as let, met, pet, wet, and get. Notice that rhyming words have same sound endings but different beginning sounds. Some words don't look the same: ache, cake, steak but they rhyme. To teach your child how to rhyme, play a game. Body Name Game How to Play: Begin by modeling how to rhyme. Point to parts of your body, say a rhyming word and your child should say the body part. This puts rhyming into her ears with a visual cue (pointing). If you point to your nose and say rose, she will automatically say nose. 1. Tell your child, "We are going to play a rhyming game. Rhyming words have the same sound endings. I'm going to point to something on my body, and say a word. You're going to say the body part that rhymes. Okay?" 2. Give her two examples: "I'm pointing to my leg, and I say beg. You say leg. I'm pointing to my nose. I say rose, and you say nose. 3. Here's a list of body parts and rhyming words: deer-ear go-toe put-foot bye-eye see-knee bear-hair fin-chin band-hand peek-cheek farm-arm feel-heel
5. When your child is able to do this, turn it around. Point to your knee and your child will say a rhyming word such as bee or me! When your child rhymes body parts, play this game: 1. Say, "I'm going to say a word and you'll tell me as many rhyming words as you can. I say bee." Your child then says words such as "he, she, we three, free, or agree." 2. Choose one-syllable words that are easy to rhyme with such as had, rat, man, fall, ten, red, big, fill, hop, dog, bug and sun. All of these have multiple words that rhyme.
Improving Short Term MemoryHelp Your Child Improve Her Short Term Memory by Playing the "I Went to the Market" Game This game helps improve your child's short-term memory. She will have to remember several sounds in the correct order to sound out new words such as, fr-o-g put together says frog. How to Play: 1. Read this short poem to your child: Johnny went to the market. Johnny went to the store. But when poor Johnny got there, he forgot what he went there for. Momma gave him a list. Momma gave it to him twice. And what Momma wanted was a big bag of rice... 2. Now say, "Momma wanted a bag of rice and carrots." 3. Your child repeats that and adds another item, "Momma wanted rice and carrots and a cake." 4. It's your turn. "Momma wanted rice, carrots, cake and a tulip." Take turns until someone gets an item out of order or forgets an item. Make it fun by adding items such as a football or alligators. 5. Another version of this game is to highlight a letter sound. Let's say your child doesn't know w sound. Play this game thinking of items that begin with w such as, "Momma wanted a walrus, walnuts, wink and a wand."
Putting Sounds TogetherHelp Your Child Put Sounds Together to Make Words by Playing "Connect Three." This game will help your child connect sounds to make words. This skill is used when he sounds out new words. How to Play: 1. Tell your child, "I'm going to say three sounds. I want you to put the sounds together and say a word. For example, I say c-a-t and you say cat. I say d-o-g and you say dog." This is a little tricky on your part because you have to think of words that can be said in three parts. Words such as me or go won't work. Longer words such as party can be par-t-y or p-art-y. You might want to practice ahead of time to say words in three parts. I have trouble thinking of words, so I usually look around the room for good ideas such as l-am-p or win-d-ow. 2. Here's a list to get you started: begin with nouns-things that can be visualized and advance to words that don't create mental pictures. m-o-m b-ir-d h-o-t h-i-m d-a-d s-u-n gr-ee-n c-a-n d-e-sk pi-zz-a dr-in-k w-i-ll br-ai-n mo-n-ey c-ol-d a-n-d tr-e-e c-am-p st-o-p b-u-t y-ar-d t-en-t w-i-n fr-o-m
Getting Back into Books and Real Stories Since the goal is improving your child's reading skills, we need to get her into books. Choose four words from a short reading selection (one page of a book) and say each word in three parts to your child. Ask her to put the words together. Now help her find those words on the page, and read them together. You are making a connection between the words she put together and what they look like in print.
Reading SelectionsWhat is a Reading Selection? A common mistake that adults make is to insist that a child read a whole book. It is far better to help a child reread a short selection to excellence. A short selection is one or two pages from an easy book or one paragraph from a higher level book. If the selection is on the correct readability level for your child, he should make no more than one or two mistakes per twenty words. Any more than that will cause him frustration and will actually block his reading progress.3 Don't make him read it cold turkey either or he'll sound like a car starting up on a winter morning - bumpy and hesitant. We don't want your child to practice bad reading. That's why you want to do the following: 1. Read the short selection to him twice. 2. Read the same selection with him twice. 3. Finally, ask him to read it by himself twice.
To, With, and By is a fabulous repeated reading technique that will catapult your child forward in reading skills.4 It will help him learn and apply sight words more quickly, helps him to practice fluent reading and improves his comprehension-all the important skills of reading. Some parents say, "But she's memorizing the selection!" Well, when was the last time you used phonics to sound out words while reading? Phonics is used as a last resort when bumping into unknown words such as cruciate ligament. When reading you usually recognize words by sight. Phonic skills are necessary to jump-start the process of learning to read. But reading by using sight words is more efficient. You might be thinking, "My child isn't getting enough practice if she isn't reading a whole book." My answer is, your child gets excellent practice when you do To, With, and By in a short selection. A little bit of good reading is a lot better than a whole lot of bad reading. Have I convinced you to do To, With, and By? Your child might not be thrilled at first. However, once she gets the hang of it, her attitude will improve and her reading skills will skyrocket.3. Edward Fry, How to Teach Reading: For Teachers, Parents, Tutors (Laguna Beach: Laguna Beach Educational Books, 1995), 20. 4. Barbara E. R. Swaby, Journey Into Literacy: A Workbook for Parents and Teachers of Young Children (Colorado Springs: Swaby Books Publisher, 1992).
Phonics vs Whole LanguagePhonicsPhonics is one method of teaching children how to read. Children are taught how to "sound out" new words by learning the following items: Consonant letters sounds: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m...