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Learning to Read- A Parent's Survival Guide

Does learning to read seem different then it did when you were in school?
This is the place to be if you want to help your child learn all of the skills that good readers can do!
You will find songs, videos, activies, and strategies that will help your child learn good reading skills. It will also help you to know how to reinforce good reading at home! 

Things Good Readers Do

Make Connections-

Ask Questions-

Make Predictions-


Monitor and Adjust Your Speed-

More coming soon!

Quick Ideas for the Busy Families…

 Click on any of the following areas for more information, ideas, and activities. 

Phonemic Awareness (rhyming, beginning and ending sounds)

Practice rhyming words.  Child should be able to identify a rhyme and produce a rhyme.

Practice beginning sounds.  Play “I Spy” something that begins with /sound/.




Make an ABC book.  Write a letter on each page and cut out pictures from magazines that begin with that letter.

Practice writing letters in shaving cream, salt, pudding, etc.



Sight Words/

Write or say a sentence using the new word.

Practice “rainbow” writing.  Write the word in different colors.

Highlight/find the words in a story.

Put the words on post-it notes around the house.




Comprehension Cards:  pick a card and ask the questions on the card.

Ask your child to retell the story in their own words.




Practice repeated readings:  read a poem and reread it to improve fluency.

Listen to books on tape/cd from the library.  Follow along with a copy of the book.




Read aloud to your child/listen to your child read daily.

Take your child to the public library.



Websites (Dolch word lists and games  (Storia)  (Tumble Books)



Phonemic Awareness




Phonological Awareness at the Word Level

  • Counting Words- to increase your child’s ability to count the number of words heard as an adult reads.
    • Example- “How many words do you hear in this sentence? ‘Someone has been eating my porridge’.”
  • Identifying Missing Word from a list-this activity increases your child’s ability to identify the missing word in 3-5 words heard.
    • Example- “Listen to the words I say. ‘Jack, cheese, beanstalk.’ I’m going to say them again.  Tell me which one I leave out. ‘Jack, beanstalk.’ Which word is missing?”
  • Identifying the Missing Word in a Phrase or Sentence- This activity will increase your child’s ability to identify the missing word in a sentence that is read by an adult.
    • Example- “Tell me which word is missing the second time I read a sentence. ‘She peeked through the keyhole.’ Listen again. ‘She peeked through the ____.’ Which word is missing?”
  • Supplying missing words as an adult reads – This activity will increase your child’s ability to supply a missing word in a sentence that is read by an adult.
    • Example- “Fill in the word I leave out in the sentence. ‘Someone’s been sleeping in my _____.”
  • Rearranging Words- This activity increases your child’s ability to arrange words heard in the correct order.
    • Example- “Put these words in the right order: ‘the wolf bad big’.”



Phonological Awareness Activities at the Syllable Level-

  • Syllable Counting- to increase your child’s ability to count the number of parts or syllables in a word.
    • Example- “How many parts or syllables to you hear in ‘Goldilocks’?”
  • Syllable Deleting- To increase your child’s ability to drop a part to a word.
    • Example- “Say ‘upstairs’ without ‘up’.”


  • Syllable Adding- to increase your child’s ability to add a part to the word.
    • Example- “Add ‘room’ to the end of ‘bed’.”
  • Syllable Reversing- to increase your child’s ability to switch syllables or word parts around.
    • Example- “Add ‘some’ to the end of ‘body’.” (body some) “What do you think the word was before we switched parts?”
  • Syllable substituting- to increase your child’s ability to delete a syllable in a word and replace it with another syllable.
    • Example- “Say ‘milky white.’ Instead of ‘milky’ say ‘snow’.”



Phonological Awareness at the Phoneme Level

  • Blending Sounds Together- To increase your child’s ability to blend sounds together.
    • Example- “Put these sounds together to make a word: /k/  /short A/  /t/.”
  • Matching Initial Sound-to-word- use this to increase your child’s ability to identify one of two sounds with which a word begins.
    • Example- “Does ‘goat’ start with /g/ or /m/?”
  • Substituting initial sound in words- increase your child’s ability to replace the initial sound in a word with another sound.
    • Example- “We’re going to substitute sounds in words. Say ‘went’ Instead of /w/ say /b/.  What’s your new word?”
  • Substituting final sounds in words- Use this to increase your child’s ability to replace the final sound in a word with another sound.
    • Example- “We’re going to substitute sounds in words. Say ‘fat.’ Instead of /t/ say /n/. What’s your new word?”
  • Identifying all sounds in words- Increase your child’s ability to identify all sounds in monosyllabic three-sound words.
    • Example- Tell me the sounds you hear in ‘____’.” (e.g., “nose”)


Red Rakes, Purple Pigs- Use your child’s knowledge of colors to help them learn beginning sounds.  First, help your child make a color wheel.  Draw a circle, and divide it into 6 sections, like a pie.  Color the sections in this order: red, purple, blue, green, yellow, orange.  Make picture cards by cutting out a picture whose name has the same beginning sound as each word- for example, a rake for red, a pig for purple, a blanket for blue, gum for green, yam for yellow, and an olive for orange.  Ask the child to name each color on the wheel and then place the picture with the same beginning sound next to that color.  Children who are more advanced can find their own matching pictures.


Alliterative Anecdotes- Make up and recite the beginning of a sentence in which almost all the words start with the same letter.  Then invite the child to make up the end of the sentence, continuing to use words starting with that same letter.  For example, you might start a sentence “Seven silly sailors sang,” and the child might end it with “seven salamander songs.”



What’s the Letter? Begin by pointing to an object in the room or a picture in a magazine or book.  Say the name of the object, and ask the child to name it’s beginning letter.  Continue to offer the child new items for letter guessing, or invite the child to choose an object and give you a turn at guessing.  To increase the difficulty of the game, instead of naming the object, offer 2- or 3- word description of it and ask the child to say the first letter of its name.  The more unusual the items chosen for the game, the more interesting the game can be! 


Climbs Every Mountain- Give active children a goal to reach as they practice beginning sounds.  First make letter cards by printing letters on index cards.  Make a “mountain” by stacking blankets in a big mound on the floor.  Put letter cards in the folds of the blankets all the way up and around the mountain.  Challenge the child to climb the mountain by identifying each letter on the way to the top and saying a word in which that letter stands for the beginning sound.  



In the Bag- Reinforce your child’s knowledge of sound-letter relationships with this activity.  Give your child a paper bag on which you have written a target letter.  Have your child fill the bag with objects that start with the letter on the bag.  For example, if Pillar’s bag has a p on it, she might find a pencil, paper, paperclip, playing card, picture book and so on.  You might make an alphabet word wall to record your child’s findings.  Guide your child to notice each word’s initial letter and sound.


Sorting by Beginning Letter Sounds- Select several pictures of objects that either do or do not start with the sound of the letter you are working with (avoid objects that start with the target sound but not with the letter) Name each object and have your child decide whether the object starts with the sound of the targeted letter.  Have the child place all pictures that start with the target letter under a printed version of the letter.  As a more difficult task have the child sort several pictures according to several initial letter sounds.

What’s My Beginning Letter? - Give your child 3 or 4 letters for which they are beginning to learn the letter sounds. Hold up a picture, name it, and ask the children to find the letter that it starts with in their group of letters. Remind children who struggle with this task to use the mnemonics if they need to, by saying something like: "Think of the sound that you hear at the beginning of the word I say. Then look at the pictures and think about which one starts with the same sound as the word I said. Then look at the letter that goes with the picture and you'll know which letter to choose." As the children become more proficient with this exercise, ask them to write the beginning letter for the word on a piece of paper instead of picking the letter out from a set of alternatives. ("If I wanted to write the word tub, what letter would I write?") Having the children write the letters is a more challenging task and translates more directly into writing activities.


Secret Scavenger Hunt-You need: Pictures or objects/ chart paper and letter tiles (optional) Activity: Select sorting category. For example, pictures that start with M, S, R, L, and T. hide about 10-15 pictures around the room.  Assign your child a letter/sound to start with. Let your child quietly look for the objects that begin with their letter. When finished have them come to a meeting place and write them on a piece of paper. 




All Aboard! – Use children’s love for imaginative play to learn how to recognize and identify the shapes of different letters.  Help your child create a train out of shoeboxes or another container that is convenient for you.  Have your child line up their toys and place a letter card by each one.  Explain to your child that the letter cards are the animals’ tickets.  In order for their toys to board as “passengers,” your child’s job is to be the conductor and identify the letter on each of the toy’s cards.


Newspaper Letters- This activity exposes the child to print in which letters and words are very important.  Give your child a page from a newspaper, magazine or any other paper with print, and ask your child to search for a particular letter.  Every time that letter is found, have your child put a circle around it with marker.  You may limit this to upper or lowercase letters, or search for both.  Try different letters, and have your child note the frequency of some letters (such as E) compared to others (for example, X).


ABC Concentration- Being able to recognize if two letters are alike or different is an important reading skill.  Shuffle 10 letter cards (5 pairs of matching letters), and lay them out face up in 2 rows.  Invite the child to put the 5 pairs of matching letters together.  As a variation, make I set of matching upper case letters and another set of matching lower case letters.  You can also increase the number of cards used.


Alphabet Song- Sing the alphabet song to start or end your day.  As a variation you could also write the letters on paper and have your child to point to each letter as you sing.


Letter Tic-Tac-Toe- Play tic-tac-toe with a phonics twist.  Make a tic-tac-toe board on a sheet of paper.  Write a different letter on each of the nine squares of the board.  Next cut two sets of square markers, 5 of one color and 5 of another color that will fit in the tic-tac-toe squares.  Give each child one set of markers.  The first player then chooses a square.  In order to put a marker there, the child must name the letter in the square.


Fitting Letters- Using index cards, make 26 alphabet cards.  Write an upper case letter on one half and a lower case letter on the other half.  Randomly cut the cards between the letters (using notches, angles, zigzags, and curved cuts), and then mix them up in a single pile.  Have your child match the upper and lower case letters together.  They will know they got it correct when the two pieces fit together, you can start by using a few cards and then gradually increase it until they play the game with the entire pile.


Letter Necklace- Use 6-8 index cards.  On the first card, write a letter.  On each of the other cards, the child should make a picture of an item whose name begins with that letter.  Or you could have your child cut out magazine pictures of objects that have the same first letter and glue or tape them on the cards.  When your child has completed the cards, punch 2 holes at the top of each one.  String the yarn through the cards, keeping the letter card in the center.  Have the child name the letter and the pictured items.  Put the stringed cards around your child’s neck so that they can wear them like a necklace.  Fasten the ends with a paperclip.


Letter Mobile- Have your child choose a letter.  Draw it on construction paper, and cut it out.  Punch a small hole in the top, attach a piece of yarn or string, and hang it from the hanger.  Have your child collect items and pictures of items whose names begin with the same letter.  For example, choosing the letter C, the child might find a paper cup, a cookie cutter, and a picture of a cat.  Hang the items on the mobile with string or yarn of varying lengths.


Tall, Small, or Tail- Did you know that all lower case letters can be grouped into one of these categories?  Spread the lowercase alphabet cards on the floor or table. Pick out an example of a “tall” letter (such as b), a “small” letter (such as a), and a “tail” letter (one that goes below the baseline such as g).  Use the letters to start three piles.

Answer- “small” – a,c,e,i,m,n,o,r,s,u,v,w,x,z.  “tall” – b,d,f,h,k,l,t.  “tail”- g,j,p,q,y.


Letter for the Day- Not sure what to do, say, wear, or eat on a particular day?  Let this activity help you out.  You will need a calendar.  Ask your child to randomly pick a letter of the alphabet for each square that represents a day of the month.  Each night, ask the child to think of things that could be done the next day beginning with that particular letter. For example, with the letter Bb you could bounce a ball, bake or blow bubbles.  You could also eat butter, bread or a banana, or wear something blue, brown, or black.


Sight Words


Sight words are words that good readers should easily recognize without having to “figure them out”. These are the most common words you see in newspapers, school books, library books and magazines. 



30 Fun Ways to Practice Your Sight Words at Home

1. Use yarn or string to form your words.
2. Read a story.  See how many times you can find your words.
3. Print your words with your fingers five or more times in flour, salt, or sugar.
4. See how many times you can write your words in one minute.
5. Write three or more sentences using each word.
6. Use coins to form your words.
7. Use your favorite snack to shape your words and then eat them.
8. Tape-record yourself saying and spelling your words.
9. Print the words on someone's back using your fingers. Have the person guess the word.
10. Form your words out of small objects such as coins or buttons.
11. Use colored chalk to write your words on the sidewalk.
12. Spread peanut butter on bread.  Add raisins to form your words.
13. Use cooked spaghetti to form your words.
14. Stamp your words using assorted stamps and colors.
15. Form your words out of alphabet cereal.
16. Use colored crayons or markers to copy your words in as many different color combinations as possible.
17. Draw your favorite character saying your words.
18. Paint your words using watercolors or finger-paint.
19. Find the letters of your words in a newspaper.  Cut out the letters and spell your words.
20. Use bread or cookie dough to shape your words and bake them.
21. Use beans, pasta, or rice to form your words.  Glue them to construction paper.
22. Read a letter from the mail.  Look for your words and list them.
23. Write three or four words that rhyme with each of your words.
24. Fold a sheet of paper in fourths.  Write your words one time in each square and decorate the squares with art supplies.
25. Write a message to someone using your words.
26. Tic-tac-toe spelling.

27. Put words on Post It notes around your house. When you walk by, ask your child to say the word. 

28. Write silly stories using sight words

29. Create sight word books *included in packet

30. Sight word games *Roll, Say, Keep*






Act out / Charades

Choose words from the dictionary or current books your family is reading. Write the words on note cards or small pieces or paper. Take turns acting the words out while other guess. This is a great way to build vocabulary development as a whole family.



Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are a great way to increase vocabulary and thinking skills while assessing your child’s background knowledge. Many websites are available that include child-related crossword puzzles based on books, movies and television shows.  




Divide the group into two teams. One person from each team sits in a chair. Those two people receive a card with a vocabulary word. The first person gives a one-word clue to his/her team. If no one from the team can guess, the second person gives a clue to his/her team. This alternates back and forth until someone from one of the teams guesses the word, or until a specified number of clues have been given.




Divide the group into two groups. Give each group a list of words. The groups each draw pictures - but no words - on the board/paper so that the people in the other group can guess the words or expressions they're trying to represent.






Before, During and After Reading

Talk about what you’re reading. This “verbal processing” helps your child remember and think through the themes of the book. Ask question before, during and after reading.

Example questions:

Before: “What are you interest in about this book? What doesn’t interest you?”

During: “What’s going on in the book? Is it turning out the way you thought it would? What do you think will happen next?”

After: “Can you summarize the book? What did you like about it? What other books does it remind you of?” 




DLTA- Directed Listening Thinking Activity

To engage a child in text…  

Read the title to your child and ask what the story might be about.  

Read the first page or paragraph.

Ask your child if they still think the same as they did earlier.
Continue through the text - predicting, reading, and reacting to their predictions.
After the story focus on words and phrases which your child did not know or understand. 



Directed Reading-Thinking Activity

Predicting what the author will say, reading to confirm or revise those predictions, and elaborating responses

Before reading a book with your child ask them to predict what may happen in the story by using the title and the cover of the book. Read the story to your child or allow them to read it to you then discuss their predictions. Have them find the picture or text that supports their prediction. Encourage them to journal their predictions and supporting facts.




To draw or write thoughts or reflections about books read.    

Read the book then draw or write thoughts about the book read. Answer who, what, where, when, why and how or relate the characters to personal life situations.  


K-W-L: What we Know, What we want to know, What we learned.

To tailor to the child’s knowledge level and to recognize what the students want to know. 

(example page included)

On a long piece of paper; divide it into 3 sections.  Label each section: 

* what we know
* what we want to know
* what we learned

Help your child answer what we know about the new topic. Write all the responses down in the first column. Help your child think of what they would like to know about the topic. Write all those responses down in the second column. After you and your child have research the topic; ask them what they have learned, writing all responses down on the chart in the 3rd column. Compare the want to know and learned to see if they met their goals. 




Quickwrites and Quickdraws 

Before:  to activate prior knowledge
After:  assists in clarifying meanings and arranging information.
Read a book or poem to your child. After reading encourage your child to draw or write on the topic for 5-10 minutes.  Encourage them to focus on interesting ideas, make connections to the topic, and to own lives, and reflect on their reading or learning. 



Story Boards

To work with story structure for comprehension.   (example page included)  

Using paper, fold the paper into three sections. In each section of the paper, draw pictures of the beginning, middle, and end. Write sentences about each picture drawn, describing what it is about; making sure to think about the “wh” questions.


Story Maps and Frames – (example page included)  

To work with story structure 


*Beginning, middle, end--to examine plot. 


*Venn diagrams for comparisons. 

Compare one character or setting to another

Write the characteristics that are similar and different between the characters or settings


*Story Web for main topics

Choose topic and write in center of web

Write related topics off of the main topic including words describing characters, setting, plot…


*Story Pyramid (An Educator's Reference Desk Lesson Plan)

Fill in the pyramid with the information asked for below. 

On line ____: 

  1. write the name of the main character 
  2. two words describing the main character 
  3. three words describing the setting 
  4. four words stating the story problem 
  5. five words describing one event in the story 
  6. six words describing a second event 
  7. seven words describing a third event 
  8. eight words describing the solution to the problem 



Games to play with “wh” questions

All games are to be played after reading a book or poem:

  1. Roll, Say, Keep – place the cards on the game board when die is rolled ask or answer a question based on the “wh card”
  2. Pick a card from the stack and ask another family member a question relating to the card and story
  3. Pick a card to answer about the story in the journal
  4. Place cards in a large circle (based on musical chairs) stand on a card and when the music starts move around the circle. When the music stops the card the person is standing on is the question they must answer. Pull one card out each time so that the person who does not have a card is out of the game.







What is oral reading fluency?                    


Oral reading fluency is the ability to read, speak, or write easily, smoothly, and expressively.  A fluent reader is one who reads and understands what he or she is reading quickly and with minimal effort. Fluency skills should increase as learners progress from beginning to advanced readers and writers. Fluency enables learners to read and write with more understanding. 

     At the primary level, we often monitor fluency using the DIBELS assessment. DIBELS assesses how many words a student can read per minute.



Choral Reading           

Choral reading is a great way to model good reading to your child. When you are choral reading, you read together with your child. You can read poems, recipes, short stories, newspapers, etc.. Students may read individual lines or stanzas alone, in pairs, or in unison. Choral reading, sometimes called "unison reading," requires repeated readings of a particular passage and it gives practice in oral reading. It is especially well suited to rhymes, poetry, and lyrics. As part of the activity, parents can also read to help set the pace, as well as model proper pronunciation. The poems or passages can be "performed" for family and friends. 


Echo Reading 

Echo reading is another favorite of ours because it allows children to practice proper phrasing and expression while building oral reading fluency. In echo reading, the teacher or parent reads one sentence or paragraph (length can vary) at a time while the student follows along in the text with their finger. Once the adult pauses, the student echoes back the same sentence or paragraph following along with their finger so that you can be sure the student is actually reading and not simply copying you. The guided practice and support of the echo reading structure instills confidence in students aiming to develop greater reading proficiencies. 

Parents, have a reluctant reader at home? Use this method as a way to get hesitant readers to practice with you at home. We have found that stubborn readers have a tendency to let their guard down when you practice with them using the echo reading method. 


Ways to Help Your Child Become a Fluent Reader:                                                              - Louisiana Components of Effective Teaching /

1. Continue to read aloud to your children.  Even when they can read by themselves, it is important for them to hear a more fluent reader read.  You can share reading time with your children by taking turns reading parts out loud or by participating in choral readings where you read together. 

2. If you have older children, encourage them to read with and to help your younger children with reading.  You learn best when you have to teach someone else.  If your children are only children or around the same age, try to have them volunteer in programs where they read with younger children. 

3. Instruct children about how texts are put together.  Talk to them about titles, headings, pictures, etc. and what you can learn from these.  

4. Help children to generate questions about what they have read. These questions should deal with the what, how and why of the things they have read.  Children should know the purpose of the story or article, the main characters or whose point of view it is, the action, and how the author goes about putting everything together.  In addition, they should ask can I trust what I have read--why or why not? 

5. Assist children in using clues from what they have read to predict what might happen next in a story or to make an inference about something an author hints at but doesn't say in an article.  

6. Discuss what your children have read with them.  Don't simply focus on comprehension questions; in addition, ask their feelings about what they read, what stood out to them and why, what they liked and didn't like and why and if the text reminds them of something else. 

7. Encourage your child to write in response to reading.  They can keep a journal of reading responses with thoughts about the reading including what they learned, what they liked or didn't like and what happened in what they read.  They can also include any unanswered questions after reading. 

8. Have your children read out loud to you.  If they make errors, do not correct them as they are reading and let small errors go.  Repeated errors or errors that can affect comprehension should be corrected by bringing the child back to the mistake and asking him or her to read it again. If the same error is made, review what it was and discuss the mistake with the child.  If the child corrects him or herself, the reading should continue on from there.  

9. Model good reading for your children.  Share what you read with them or read what they are reading.  Talk to them about the things you find important in what you read and why.  Show them how you form opinions about reading and how you use clues in the text to help guide comprehension.  

10. Read yourself.  Children will imitate you and will be more likely to read and read well in a house filled with all types of interesting books. 

11. Create a special reading area for your children. Let them make decisions about how it should be decorated and what should be contained there. 

12. Incorporate reading into your everyday life.  Show your children and share with them what you read during the day.  Also, use any opportunity for reading:  an outing, learning about an illness, learning about an activity or pet, etc.  Complete the reading beforehand then discuss the event and the reading afterwards. 

13. Try not to criticize your child's reading choices.  If they love comic books, get a book about illustration or about the illustrator of their favorite comic strip.  Whenever possible, use their interests to guide their reading choices and give them some power in making decisions about what to read. 

14. Use a child's love of television or movies to your advantage.  Pair books and related movies together then have your child compare and contrast the two. 

15. Remember that reading on a computer is also reading.  Select good reading sites from the internet that you and your child can participate in.  In addition, use books on tape if your kids like to listen. 

16. Offer praise whenever your child reads.  Do so in a realistic fashion and in a way that your child will appreciate it.  You can use special certificates or reading hugs, as appropriate. 

17. Encourage your child to analyze and to critically think about what he or she reads. One way to do this is to have the child identify the purpose, audience and voice of the piece.  Use two pieces of writing about the same topic but which have a different purpose, audience or voice to show how two pieces of writing can be very different based upon what the author thinks the reader needs or wants to hear. You can also use two different types of writing with the same theme--for example a short story and a poem about love--then have your child compare and contrast them.