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February 12, 2013



Wow, that was really helpful. It seems like a confirmation of what I have been doing with my daughter. I'm currently working on learning to read with my daughter and it is often difficult because she gets very upset anytime something is too hard. Right now we are reading BOB books, which are specifically geared towards that very early reading stage. It is really important that I keep what we read simple for her so the challenge is not overwhelming. Things got a lot easier when I started giving her a piece of candy (like an m&m or a jelly bean) for each page she finishes. Before things often got pretty negative, but with the candy she is much more willing to keep trying. Still, even with the candy, when she starts getting frustrated I know it is time to call it quits. Sometimes we only get through a couple pages, sometimes we get through the whole book. I am starting to see a real pay off as she is getting less and less intimidated by reading. She will even read easy words on her own now - like store names and words on her books, which she was not willing to do before. Patience, patience, patience I think is the key. When I get frustrated (which is easy to do) I just send the message to her that reading is something scary. But, now that I'm keeping it more positive she is less intimidated and more willing to practice, which in the end is what is going to get her to where she can read on her own.


These are great tips, and some I never would have thought of. Like going through the book before actually reading it, I'm going to have to try that one with my first grader!

reading mom

Great post. This is so important. Here are some things that have worked for me:

Start early. Like, really early. Babies love to be read to. Not so your kids can be genius kids, but just because hey, then they get to read sooner, and reading is fun. Toddlers enjoy those phonemic awareness games. Not in an intense way, like my-toddler-will-get-into-Harvard, but just because they are fun. Four-year-olds can know both the alphabet and their sounds. They can blend sounds. They can, when bribed with alphabet fruit snacks, form words.

Take responsibility for your own child's reading success. I feel like it's my job, not the school system's, to make sure my kids know how to read. My kids have had great teachers, but I feel like it is my job to make sure they know how to read, not theirs.

Find their gateway books. For one child, he was doing all right with Bob readers, but his reading just exploded when we discovered Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books. He read them to himself over and over, and that gave him confidence to move to other books. Another child didn't get out of picture books until he discovered the Magic Tree House series, and that was the catalyst for him to really advance. Find what they love, the book that will give them internal motivation to read, because reading is fun.

And finally, I have to include this, because I feel like it's my reading secret weapon, and I know some of your blog readers are LDS: I think the Book of Mormon is the best learn-to-read text ever, once kids can start sounding out words. I took a teaching reading class at BYU where they talked about this; some grad student analyzed it once and found that, with the exception of the Isaiah chapters, the proportion of sight words to new words is near-perfect for early readers. You wouldn't think that, but I've found that since four, five, and six-year-olds are still acquiring language anyway, it's not as hard for them as it could be. Two verses a night per kid; more than that is too much for us right now. But I watched my six-year-old go from stuttering through 1 Nephi to reading fluently and with confidence by Alma.

And my official comment disclaimer: I have not had kids with learning disabilities or other challenges, and the things that work for me may not work for your kids, and you just have to do what works.

C baker

How about "teach your kids the 70 phonograms used in English writing in a direct and systematic way, show them how to chunk up words, and accept that despite what many people seem to believe, the vast majority of English words can be sounded out once you understand phonics?" English orthography is complex, but it isn't actually impenetrable, and you can use nothing but sounding it out to learn to read and spell. Anything else is really confusing the issue.

C baker

Incidentally, as far as "nobody knows why laugh is spelled that way", I don't like lying to children. Many people know why laugh is spelled that way, and that is because when the word was first written down the gh at the end indicated a specific sound we don't have in English anymore. Over time we started saying that word with an /f/, but we kept the old spelling.

Somebody is bound to claim that six year olds don't need this knowledge, but there are many things six year olds don't need to know that we teach them anyway, things such as which dinosaur is which or what the order of the planets is. As a general principle, I find that a knowledge of etymology is very helpful in learning to spell. For example, one has a notoriously silly spelling. In the past it was spelled as it was said, but a local sound shift that changed initial o to wuh (I give up on ipa here) gained popularity for that word only. However, we retain the older pronunciation in words like only and alone, and the spelling is kept in the word none as well. By linking all these words with etymology, it is easier to remember the funny spelling of one, like a mnemonic. Two is connected inextricably with twin and twice. Why not point that out explicitly rather than just shutting off curiosity with "gosh, nobody knows, who cares?"

Genevieve Ford

Don't forget to limit TV time, and when your kids do watch TV, stick with PBS kids shows including Super Why, Sesame Street, and the Electric Company, which teach some great basic skills. The Letter Factory by Leap Frog is sold at my local elementary school because it is such a good way to help people catch up if they haven't gotten enough alphabetic exposure before kindergarten.


Confidence is absolutely key! So true, especially with my boys!!


This is a really great post! My sister doesn't like to read and I really try to push her to. This could help me a lot! Could you post a list of books gets kids to read? That would be great! Boxcar Children seem to be working for my sister so far.

Ashley R.

One thing that I do once kids are getting the hang of reading, is: I am enthusiastic about reading. Then they know that I love to read, and they are more motivated to read big books sooner.


Im an elemetary ed major in college, and this blew my mind! just last week i was helping kids read. I did stuff like "sound it out" and "thats just a hard word: it's ___." This is so wonderful, and I cant wait to use it tomorrow at school!
Thanks soooo much!!!!


I agree. I volunteer last year to help elementary kids who were having trouble with reading. I found that they had the skills they needed; they just needed someone to encourage them in an environment free of pressure. They positive feedback I was able to give one on one helped the students I worked with advance quickly and catch up with their classes. Reading should be fun. That's why reading with kids at home is so important. Reading at school can be stressful when you know you're being graded and expectations seem high. At home, things can be more relaxed.


And don't forget to come to the library! :) And keep it fun, because kids who enjoy the whole reading experience are more motivated to read. That's where reading to them from birth helps so much. You want to them to think of reading as something they really want to do, not a chore.

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