There were five minutes before centers were over, so I called Jason (my lowest reader) back to my table. I often stole a few minutes here and there to practice reading, because I was worried about the lack of progress we were making.
“I lamb apples. I love bananas. I look grapes,” he started. “Hold on, does that make sense? Let’s try again.” Jason rushed through it a second time. After being asked to try a third time, he gave up in frustration.
I’m beginning to understand why he doesn’t get much practice at home. It’s too frustrating for his mom. I’m frustrated, and I’ve been through all of the reading classes and *supposedly* know how to help him. How’s she supposed to know where to even begin with a kid who has no interest in putting any effort towards learning to read?
Have you ever tried to help your child with reading? It can be painful. Bless their hearts-they try hard. And reading is difficult. But so is helping a beginning reader.
Your child may be easily frustrated, or simply refuse to work for you. (Kids always work better for their teacher.) Here are 4 ways you can help your beginning reader grow in confidence and become a better reader.
1. Sight Words
Sight words get a bad rap, but they are important to your beginning reader. They are usually words that don’t follow a phonics pattern so they aren’t easily sounded out such as come, does, or who.
Sight words can also just be common words that appear a lot in beginning readers such as like or see.
We call them sight words because these are words we just memorize, or in other words, your child will know them by sight. There are many ways to learn sight words that are way more fun than flashcards.
Sight words are a great way to boost your child’s confidence and make reading books a little easier. It’s frustrating to have to sound out every single word you come across, and kids are encouraged when they know some words right away.
Learning to read can be frustrating and difficult for your child. It’s important to make it as fun as possible so your child will fall in love with learning. This means avoiding hours practicing flashcards.
Here are some exciting ways to introduce sight words. Always introduce one at a time. We talk about the word, look at it, use it in a sentence, and then move on to some of these activities below.
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- Posters: My favorite way to learn sight words (or letters, shapes, numbers…anything!) is to make small posters of them and hang them in areas your child frequents. The sight word “we” might be posted on his bedroom door, “the” might be taped to the fridge, “can” might be on the bathroom mirror. When your child goes to this area, they must read the word before they can do anything else. For example, if they want a drink from the fridge, they must read the word on the refrigerator first. Remember to move the posters around so your child doesn’t learn that the fridge is ‘the’.
- Stamping: Kids love to stamp. If you have letter stamps, have them stamp the sight words. You can either write words out for your child first, or have them stamp it from memory as you say it.
- Using different textures: Show them the word, and have them write it with their finger in sand, paint, shaving cream, play-doh, with wikki stix, or finger paint.
- Chalk: Write (or have your child write) sight words on the driveway. Have them hop from word to word as you call it out.
- Fly Swatter: Tape flashcards up on the wall. Hand your child a flyswatter and have them swat the words as you say them.
- Board Games: There are many many benefits to playing board games with children. Board games teach social skills, teamwork, empathy, taking turns, and any academic skills that are part of the game. To make any board game academic, add a deck of sight word cards. Everyone must read a sight word before they take their turn. Your child must look at your card and check you to make sure you are reading the card correctly. After all, you might not remember your word. Click here to find a list of our favorite board games.
- Scavenger Hunt: As you introduce the words, go on a scavenger hunt around your house to see if you can find words. Look in books, recipes, magazines, anywhere there are words. Keep a list of what words you find. You can also do this in the grocery store as you are shopping, in a restaurant in the menu on car trips looking at road signs and billboards…
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2. Where to Begin
Your child won’t just sit down one day and be able to read beginning readers. Most likely, getting to the point they can read an entire book on their own will take a lot of determination and hard work. In the beginning, it is ok (and encouraged) to share the responsibility of reading.
- First, have your child read only the words he/she knows. Look for sight words and other familiar words in books.
- Next, read every other page. It is important to give your child a break from all the hard work of sounding words out and figuring out what the book says so they can still enjoy the story.
- Finally, they should be doing most of the reading. If your child gets stuck, use the strategies below to help them figure out the words.
3. Reading Strategies
Your child will come across words they don’t know. If reading instruction has begun in your child’s kindergarten classroom, it is important to follow the reading strategies your child’s teacher has been teaching. Always feel free to contact your child’s teacher if your child can’t tell you what the strategies they’ve learned are.
If reading instruction has not begun yet, feel free to use your own strategies. There are all kinds of different ways to help kids figure out unknown words. I teach kids 4 simple things to do when they come to an unknown word. I keep it to 4 so kids will remember to use all of them. Here are my 4 favorite strategies to use with beginning readers.
- Look at the picture: A lot of times with beginning readers, the text will be predictable, and the picture will show the unknown word.
- Predictable text follows a pattern such as “I like apples. I like oranges. I like bananas.” If your child has been practicing sight words, they already know the word ‘like’ and ‘I’, and the picture will help them with the unknown words.
- Say the first sound
- Sometimes pictures won’t tell you exactly what word is written. The same picture may be used for ‘jacket’ and ‘coat’. By saying the first sound you will likely be able to figure out the word.
- Stretch the sounds out
- My favorite thing to tell kids for this one is to say all the sounds without stopping your voice.
- Go back and reread. Does it make sense?
- We read for a purpose. We don’t read because we have to, we read because we want to understand the story. If what we are reading doesn’t make sense, we probably have read a word wrong and need to go back and fix it.
4. Keep It Fun!
We want kids to love to read. Cultivating a love for reading will take a little extra work, especially when the task of reading is difficult…and that’s where creativity comes in.
- Find different ways to read. There are many different ways to read. Switching up your routine will keep your child interested.
- Choral Read: Read with your child. Make sure they are really reading though, don’t let them just listen to you and repeat what you say.
- Take Turns: Alternate who reads each page or sentence. This will give your child’s brain a break from all the hard work it’s doing, and allow them to enjoy (and comprehend) the story.
- Read in different places. Kindergarteners love this simple change in routine.
- Take pillows and blankets and read in the bathtub.
- Make a fort in your living room and read in your fort.
- Make a tent in your bed and read in your tent.
- Flashlight read. Go in a dark closet or wait until nighttime and read with a flashlight.
- Take a beach town and read outside.
- Get comfortable in mom and dad’s bed.
- Make a cozy spot under your kitchen table.
- The possibilities are endless.
- Read to someone other than mom or dad.
- You can read to grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, dog, stuffed animal…anyone who will listen.
- Allow your child to choose books that are interesting to them.
- For the child who loves sharks, grab shark books. They will be more determined to work hard if they have a book they actually want to read.
Hopefully, by using the simple tips in this post, you can avoid being stuck like Jason’s mom, and your child will grow into a confident reader.
Reading with a beginning reader can be painful, frustrating even. Learning to read is an enormous task for such young children, and give (yourself and your child) lots of grace. You will get further with them when they love reading.
Thank you for working so hard to help your child learn to read. They are lucky to have such dedicated adults in their life who love them so much. This will not be easy, take deep breaths and remember you’ve got this!
If you liked this, you’ll love:
Best Books for Kindergarteners
6 Ways to Teach Subitizing and Strengthen Number Sense
7 Ways to Work With a Beginning Writer
What are your favorite ways to help beginning readers?
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