Teaching Kids to Read For Dummies

Teaching Kids to Read For Dummies

by Tracey Wood

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You’re thinking of teaching a child to read. What a great idea! Now all you need is exactly the right blueprint. This easy-to-follow book is written with two people in mind; you, and the child you’re thinking of teaching. Mother and children’s reading specialist Tracey Wood gives you all the down-to-earth, honest information you need to give a child


You’re thinking of teaching a child to read. What a great idea! Now all you need is exactly the right blueprint. This easy-to-follow book is written with two people in mind; you, and the child you’re thinking of teaching. Mother and children’s reading specialist Tracey Wood gives you all the down-to-earth, honest information you need to give a child a happy, solid start with reading.

Teaching Kids to Read For Dummies is for parents of young children who want to give their kids a head start by teaching them to read before they enter school or to supplement their children’s school instruction, as well as teachers and caregivers of young children. Filled with hands-on activities that progress a child from sounds to words to sentences to books, this friendly guide shows you how to:

  • Prepare a child to read
  • Sharpen his listening skills
  • Correct her errors graciously
  • Choose the right books
  • Have kids read out loud
  • Find help if you need it

Whether the child you want to teach is two or twelve; fast paced or steady; an absolute beginner or someone who’s begun but could use a little help, this empathetic book shows you how to adapt the simple, fun activities to your child’s individual needs. You’ll see how to make activities age appropriate, how to add more challenge or support, and how to make gender allowances if that’s relevant.

Plus, you’ll discover how to:

  • Lay the foundation for good reading skills
  • Tell the difference between a reading delay and a reading problem
  • Help your child build words from letters and sounds, advance to short and long vowel words, and conquer syllables and silent letters
  • Select entertaining workbooks, recycle them, and make up your own reading activities
  • Get your child ready for sentences
  • Keep your child reading — with others or on his own

Complete with lists of word families, phonics rules, and reading resources, Teaching Kids to Read For Dummies will help you make learning fun for your child as he or she develops this critical skill!

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…endless information…split up in easy-to-digest chucks…. As easy as ABC, then…” (Junior, December 2004)

“…an intensive aid…manageable chapters…” (BBC Parenting magazine, October 2004)

“…a whopping 336 pages full of useful text…” (Junior, October 2004)

Product Details

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Read an Excerpt

Teaching Kids to Read For Dummies

By Tracey Wood

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-4043-2

Chapter One

The Wonder and Power of Reading

In This Chapter

* Taking a look at the reading process and when to do it

* Meeting letters, words, and the weird stuff

* Reading as a family affair

* Getting help

Not long ago, I lived in a house nestled in a quiet wooded hillside. Sometimes, I sat in the garden soaking up the great outdoors, but more often, I'd be gathering the clothes and kitchen implements my children had sneaked outside. My children lived in a fantasy world of wizards and spells inspired by the children's books they read every night. They found all sorts of unlikely capes and wands to help them enact their parts. As I gathered their broomsticks and bowls of potion, I often felt guilty. The man next door, retired with grown children of his own, liked to head outside, too; quietly, with coffee and newspapers. My kids' tremendous hullabaloo must shatter his peace, I thought. One day, my neighbor stood on his verandah and saw me. He beckoned me over. "I've been wanting to talk to you," he said. "I call your girls the princesses. They play such fantastic games! I love listening to them. They're so spirited and imaginative, you should be very proud." Yes, exactly, I thought! What a discerning neighbor! What fine kids! What a mom!

Reading is wonderful and powerful. It can turn little girls into princesses and back gardens into enchanted forests. When yourchild can read, he gets to experience and work through all sorts of situations, fantastic or real. He can live other lives and go to other places. He gets a broader view of life. And, as if this broad perspective weren't enough to convince you of the importance of teaching your child to read, there's the more mundane, but no less important, truth that good readers get better jobs.

Understanding the Process

Here's where it all starts! I'm about to plunge you into the world of sounding-out, sight words, suffixes, and much more. You get masses of information and advice, but it's going to be fun. This chapter gives you a quick overview of everything that's coming up. Here, I squash this whole book down into a few pages, leaving out whopping chunks so that you have to read the rest of the book!

You're a good reader. You're reading this book, so you must be. You probably don't remember when or how you started to read. It was all so long ago and, as far as you know, it just happened. Well, that's where my vantage point comes in handy for you. I know that reading didn't just happen for you, at all. Even though I wasn't there, I know that you put together a whole collection of skills to reach that final end:

  •   You got the hang of sounding words out.

  •   You learned some words so well that you knew them by sight.

  •   When you looked through books, you used a lot of contextual cues to fill any gaps you had.

  •   You stuck with books because you were a successful reader and had fun reading.

    So, now I've told you a bit of your life history. And better still, you're more ready to help your child learn to read than you were a couple of minutes ago. How's that? Well, now you know that to be a reader, your child has to acquire some reading skills and have fun doing it.

    A lightning tour of sounding out

    Sounding out is the backbone of reading. You can sound out most text, so children have to learn how. You may think that sounding out (called phonics in schools) starts with "a is for apple," but that's not strictly true. In school, children are taught that "a is for apple," but before that, and largely at home, you've already started your child on phonemic learning. At home, when you sing songs and chant rhymes and poems, you're building phonemic awareness. You're showing your child that words and sentences are made of different sounds, and you're helping her hear those sounds. And that awareness is the most important precursor to reading. When your child identifies the small sounds in words and sentences, she's wired up to attach those sounds to letters later on. Great, isn't it? All this time, when you've been talking, singing, and rhyming, you've been your child's first, and perhaps most important, reading teacher.

    If you play the sounding-out version of "I Spy with My Little Eye" with your child, give yourself a pat on the back. By saying things like, "I spy with my little eye something beginning with muh," you're focusing your child's attention on sounds. I rank this activity as the number one game for helping your child with phonemic awareness. Check out Chapter 3 for more on phonics.

    A peep at sight words

    In this book, I also give you a quick overview of how your child gets to know some words by sight. A few years ago, learning words by sight meant using a "look and say" method. Parents or teachers showed kids flashcards and, as long as the children saw the flashcards often enough, they were expected to remember those cards. But it turned out that the "look and say" method wasn't as great as people had thought. In fact, it wasn't very effective at all. Kids couldn't remember dozens of words only by the way they looked. None of us can remember large amounts of information unless we have some help. We need little memory joggers, and the information we're trying to absorb must mean something to us, too. So, the sight words I talk about in this book aren't "look and say" words, they're words you get to know by sounding out and using contextual cues until you have instant recognition of them. I go into detail about sight words, and give you some fun activities to play with your child, in Chapter 11.

    Sight words occur so often in any text that your child has to get to know them by sight. Otherwise, he's constantly stopping and starting when he reads and doesn't understand a thing he's reading. Sight words are words like they and were. They're all over the place, so you should introduce your child to them before you dive into any stories.

    A word or two about contextual cues

    Readers use contextual cues all the time, at the same time as sounding out and getting to know sight words very well. The term contextual cues looks pretty imposing, but, in fact, it describes something so simple that you do it almost unconsciously. Using contextual cues to read means using pictures and the meaning of the text that you've read so far to figure out any words or bits of text that you don't know. Your puzzle-solving brain does this process pretty instinctively. So, don't be alarmed by the juicy term contextual cues - it just means reading around a thing, and hole-filling, which your brain naturally does.

    What next?

    When a child starts to read, she needs to understand how to sound out, recognize common words by sight, and read around and between the lines. How can your child master these three things? You can help her practice

  •   Sounding out

  •   Getting to recognize sight words quickly

  •   Doing guided reading (meaning she reads, you guide)

    You have all that you really need to know about the process, for now. If you want to know more about words like grammar, comprehension, and decoding, check out the nearby sidebar, "Getting the better of jargon." But if you've had your fill of terms like phonemic awareness, move on to the next section, "Getting Excited about Reading."

    Getting Excited about Reading

    What's exciting?

    Rhymes, recipes, songs, jokes, stories, the Guinness Book of Records, comics, computer games, board games, puzzles, activity books, letter tiles and blocks, video tapes, cassette tapes, and themes. What do I mean by themes? I'm talking about themes like bugs, space, ghosts, fashion, fairies, dogs, cats, horses, battles, lizards, dinosaurs, engines, trains, cars, sports, pop culture, heroes, and television characters.

    Kids are interested in so many things that you can easily get them excited about reading. You can immerse your child in things she's interested in, and then you can either share them with her or be close by, enjoying your own great read. Anything and everything you do matters. But make choices to fit your life and be consistent. Set time aside every day for being a reading family. You don't have to read a book each day, if that's too much for your schedule, but maybe you could visit the library every week so that you always have books in your car. Maybe you could play tape stories before bed. And maybe you could make sure that you have a good book on your own bedside table.

    Picking the Right Time to Start Reading

    Each child is unique. Some start reading earlier than others, some do it with more ease than others, and a few seem to do it early with hardly any help at all. You have to feel your way when it comes to picking the best time to introduce your child to sounding out and identifying words by sight. Even so, you shouldn't wait too long to begin. Most kids start to read around a general time, and here are some hard facts about when that is:

  •   Most children start to read between ages 5 and 7.

  •   Children make their best progress with reading in kindergarten and first grade.

  •   If your child hasn't started to read by age 7, you need to give him extra help.

  •   Some children start to read before age 5, but only some.

    I often talk at schools. When I've finished giving my riveting presentation, I invite parents to ask me questions. I always get asked this question: "My child doesn't seem to understand the letters, what should I do?" When I ask the child's age, the parent usually tells me her child is 4 years old.

    Parents of 4-year-olds get especially worried. If you're a parent of a 4-year-old (or younger), show your child the letters so that she's familiar with the way they look. Have her trace over the letters so that she gets a feel for writing them. Practice talking about the first sound in words and grouping words with the same sound together, like box, bag, and butter. Enjoy a lot of stories, rhymes, and songs. If your child does all the things I've just mentioned with ease, she's probably ready for you to start showing her how to blend letters together to make words. But don't rush her. If she loses interest along the way, take a rest. Instead of hurrying ahead, prepare fertile ground for starting again a few months down the track. Here's a list of easy things you can do:

  •   Play sound games like "Simon Says" and "I Spy with My Little Eye."

    Simon Says is a listening game. You give your child instructions and she listens for the odd one out. She has to follow all instructions that start with "Simon says" but not instructions that don't start with "Simon says." Say things like, "Simon says put your hands on your head; Simon says turn around once; Simon says rub your tummy; Scratch your knee." If your child scratches her knee, you get to say "Ah ha! Simon didn't say it!" All players stay in the game, even if they get caught out. And you speed up your instructions as players get better. For more fun, have kids who are caught out run once around the garden (or to a tree, door, or suchlike) and then rejoin the group.

  •   Sing songs.

  •   Chant rhymes.

  •   Read books (to her), and more books, and more books.

  •   Listen to tapes of songs and stories.

  •   Read alphabet books.

  •   Play with alphabet puzzles.

  •   Let her see you reading your own books, magazines, or newspapers.

    Making Friends with the Alphabet

    Singing songs, chanting rhymes, and reading stories to your child probably seem like chicken feed to you. You take all that stuff in your stride. But you may not be so sure of how to introduce your child to the alphabet. Exactly what should you do? How can you make it sound like fun? Should you buy any of the thousands of "foolproof" products you see advertised?

    In Chapters 3 and 4, you're going to read a lot about the alphabet. For now, let me give you the secret of the alphabet, in a nutshell: Your child probably recognizes letters as being letters. He's watched Sesame Street, has seen a lot of letters, and knows that they're called letters. He can probably name some, too. But he probably hasn't gotten the hang of the fact that letters represent the sounds we speak. This understanding of the alphabet really helps your child master reading.

    Teach your child that letters are the written form of words by explaining it as I just have and by consistently using a letter's sound, when you can. If you see the word bread, say something like, "That word is bread, and this letter is buh (pointing to the b). Buh starts Brian and bacon, too. Where else would you see it?" Chat like this for a while and then make a b poster.

    A b poster is a poster full of things that start with the letter b. Start by buying a blank poster and then gather your materials. You can simply use markers, or you can add pictures cut out from magazines, too. Chat to your child about buh things (belt, Ben, bench, black, bun, beans, breath). Have him draw them. Help him write b at the top of the poster or next to every picture he draws. Add borders to make the poster look extra good and pin it on your wall.

    To teach your child the alphabet, you need to

  •   Chat about rhymes. ("I put my coat on the boat," "I saw a pig wearing a wig," or "I can dig because I'm big.")

  •   Point out everyday letters, like the first letter in street and shop signs, headlines in newspapers and magazines, and words in books.

  •   Play with magnetic letters, letter tiles, letter cards, or letters you've written individually on pieces of card. Say, "Find me duh, like in David, Donna, and dentist."

  •   Take an interest in your child's letter books, puzzles, and games.

    You don't need to buy elaborate learning materials because your child can understand letters, and enjoy the experience, with everyday chat and simple play.

    If you do buy alphabet books, some are better than others. Funny ones with clear pictures are especially good, but kids like straight forward apple, balloon, cat type books, too. I love the book Phonics 1: Alphabets by Mandy Ross and Neal Layton. Alphabets uses funny rhyme and alliteration ("Molly has a monster on her mat") and has cute-as-can-be illustrations. My favorite page reads, "Unwin has an umbrella bird in his underwear."


    Excerpted from Teaching Kids to Read For Dummies by Tracey Wood Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

  • Meet the Author

    Tracey Wood, MEd, is a children's reading specialist. She has been teaching children to read and advising their parents and teachers for 20 years.

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