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Parents, You CAN Teach Your Littles to Read (Here's How)

As a teacher who specializes in reading, the first thing I always try to do is empower parents. I want to give parents tools to help their child achieve this one superpower, because it is through reading that most knowledge is gained. I recognize that as a specialist I get one to two hours with a student one-on-one each week - that is nothing in comparison to the parent! Therefore, my first job is to help you help your student. And since I've been talking so much about the importance of reading I thought I'd give you some awesome tools to accomplish this! Here is the first thing you need to know:

If you can read well, you can teach reading. How?

Begin with phonics and sight words.

Every letter or combination of letters make a sound. If a child comes to you with an unknown word do not give them the answer! Give them the tools to learn how to decode it on their own. Here are some resources that I use or that trusted individuals I know have used:

  • Phonics Pathways by Dolores Hiskes

  • The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington

  • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Elaine Bruner, Phyllis Haddox, and Siegfried Engelmann

Once phonics is mastered, teach fluency.

Fluency has three main components: accuracy, appropriate rate, and inflection. There are key pieces to each of them:

  • accuracy - reread, practice, reread, and practice. If mistakes are made, go back and reread and practice in order to read it correctly. The discipline of rereading is one that needs to be taught, because readers want to give up too easily. Begin this early.

  • appropriate rate - not too fast, not too slow. However, depending on the situation, events being described, the feelings be relayed, etc. the rate might change. For example, a reader might read quickly if the narrator is excited or slowly if the character is sad.

  • inflection - teach their voice to match emotions, punctuation (i.e. voice goes up for a question mark), and not in monotone.

There are many tools for this and I'll share them with you, but the most important thing I can tell you here is to read with excellent fluency as you read to them. They will automatically begin to mimic you as their teacher!

Fluency Resources:

You cannot teach fluency without affecting comprehension and vocabulary, still those are the skills to focus on building next.

Once a reader has mastered phonics and is a fluent reader, begin to focus on comprehension skills and building vocabulary. This is a lifetime pursuit, so your job is to give them the tools to accomplish the process of thinking through the text on their own.

Comprehension: Teach readers how to think before reading a text, while reading the text, and after reading the text. You want them to use punctuation to stop and think about what they've just read, to ask questions, to predict, to relate their own experiences, to discuss what they already know about the topic, etc. Most of the time this is accomplished through read alouds and discussion, seriously, it is as simple as that. Why do I argue so adamantly about that? How often in our book discussions do we pull out a worksheet? Don't get me wrong, worksheets have their place in order to practice certain skills, but most of the time I try to implement real life opportunities to practice these skills. Still, if you're needing a more guided lesson, you're in luck I probably have something for you....

  • Visit my store for the lessons I use to teach comprehension here.


  • This is the #1 thing I will share with you in regards to vocabulary instruction - teach your readers how to use a dictionary! Unfortunately, this is becoming a lost skill. Teaching nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and how the word is used in the sentence to best find the meaning of a word is not a skill my 7th and 8th graders always possess. Yet, my 2nd grader has mastered it. Teach guide words, pronunciation guides, etc. etc. This is my lesson plan for this activity: Dictionary & Thesaurus Skills

  • The second most important skill in regards to vocabulary is context clues. (Depending on the moment I'd go back and forth between dictionary skills and context clues for that #1 spot.) Students need to know the different types of context clues and practice using them in order to determine the meaning behind an unknown word. Here is a resource for this: Context Clue Lesson for Junior High Students

  • Teach prefixes, root words, and suffixes. I enjoy these resources: Greek and Latin Roots - Keys to Building Vocabulary by Timothy Rasinski, Nancy Padak, et al. and The Critical Thinking Word Roots Level 1 & 2 School Workbook by Cherie A. Plant

  • I love doing Timothy Rasinski's word ladders and most of my students also enjoy this word game. It's a fantastic warm-up activity!

  • My vocabulary resources that contain games, a spelling procedure, and specific vocabulary lessons are here.

P.S. Any resource by Timothy Rasinski (my go-to expert in reading) has been excellent!

After all of this and your student is still struggling, that's why I'm here! My job is to come alongside parents and struggling readers to help pinpoint where they struggle and then provide a personalized plan based on those specific needs. It is my life's work to help a reader overcome whatever struggle they face. Especially because they need to know that all readers struggle, it's the good readers that implement a whole host of tools to help themselves. My job is to simply give them the tools to help them overcome that struggle with or without me.

If that above paragraph applies to you, contact me. I'm here to help you overcome reading woes.

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