Google+ Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas: My Child is Learning to Read, Now What? - 7 Tips to Encourage Your Beginning Reader

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Child is Learning to Read, Now What? - 7 Tips to Encourage Your Beginning Reader

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Your child is learning to read. It's thrilling;  it's cause for celebration. It can also be a bit frustrating, but it doesn't have to be. Here are seven tips to help you nurture and encourage your budding reader.
1. The most important thing to remember is that reading is not magic! It does not happen overnight. It is a skill that your child is learning. It is a process that takes time, practice, and nurturing. In learning to read, your child is uncovering more than just phonics (letters and letter sounds), though that is important. Reading is a process that involves three main components: the text, the reader, and the context, and in order for the reader to construct meaning, all three pieces have to work together.    
Beginning readers are also working on fluency, or reading text in a fluid, natural way. They are not merely sounding out words, they have to understand them as well. Readers have to comprehend what the story is about from the words they are reading. Beginning readers are learning about characters, setting, plot and about using visual cues to help them with difficult words in context. There are so many important skills being developed by a beginning reader besides just sounding out words. Fully becoming a reader requires time, developmental readiness, nurturing, immersion in books/written print and of course lots of practice.  
2. Don't force it!  A beginning reader is NOT ready to tackle large chapter books, yet. That's okay. Giving a child books they can not read will only frustrate them (and you!). The last thing you want is to turn them off of reading. As a teacher, I made use of the 5 Word Rule - if a child has difficulty reading 5 or more words on any given page (meaning they can not decipher it alone) then the book is too difficult for them to read at that time. I do this with my kindergartener and it works well for us. She feels much more confident being able to read through a page without struggling with every word. It's perfectly okay to want to challenge your child, just be careful not to overwhelm them. When a child is too focused on decoding or sounding out each word on a page - they lose sight of what the story is about. We do not want to hinder comprehension.  The ultimate goal is to help your child become a fluent, independent reader who understands what he or she reads.

3. Find books that are appropriate to your child's reading level. This is not always easy with new readers who are just starting out but it is so important. Remember what I mentioned earlier about reading being more than just sounding out words. It is about comprehension - understanding what is being read. Imagine reading a book in a language you do not know. You may be able to sound out some of the words but do you truly know what you are reading? Would you enjoy it? Would you continue to read the book? That's what it is like for a beginning reader who is reading a book beyond their level. The joy in reading comes from the actual story - the characters and the plot coming alive in your imagination. Reading on level is crucial for comprehension. If you need help with this ask your child's teacher for recommendations or visit your local librarian.
4. Let your child have a choice in the books he/she reads. We all have preferences in what we like to read, children are no different. If your child is into science they might enjoy early non-fiction science readers. Maybe they are animal lovers and would like books with animal characters. While it is important to expose children to many different genres of books, it is also important that they read books of interest to them for pleasure. It is one of the best ways to encourage reading for fun and motivate children to become readers.
5. Read with your child. We read together nightly and both my girls look forward to this time.  It is one of my favorite times of the day as well.  Each book is a mini-adventure that we share together. Now that my kindergartener is reading, she looks forward to reading a book to us (her little sister, her dad & me) each night.  She feels such a sense of accomplishment after reading to us. It is wonderful. It would be easy to stop there and call it a night. I urge you not to stop there, but rather read to your child as well. 
When you read to your child, you model all those things we want new readers to learn about fluency. Have your child sit right next to you and follow along as you read. I like to point to each word as I read with my finger, letting them see the printed word as they hear the spoken word. They see how I pause after a period, raise my voice when there is an exclamation mark, etc. Referring to the text or text features while reading is called print referencing, and Amy from has a wonderful article on print referencing that really points out why this such a good practice. She shares  its benefits and simple how to's that you can begin using the very next time you read with your child!
I also take the time to ask questions about the plot, to discuss the characters and the setting. I am fostering their reading comprehension as we read together. All of this helps nurture your young readers into becoming not only fluent readers but fully competent readers who understand what they are reading. You are ensuring your child can ask and answer questions of who, what, when, where, how and why when they read - an essential skill that they will need and use as readers. 

6. Help develop their reading foundation.  There is no denying that a child needs to work at phonics and sight words. The english language has many, many rules and then there are the exceptions to those rules. That is a lot for a child to learn. The good news is that they do not have to know it all now - it happens over time. It does however make reading easier for a child when they have a solid base upon which to build on.
It does not require endless drilling, and flashcards upon flashcards. So, what do you do to help them learn these phonological rules and sight words? I won't pretend to have all the answers, I don't. I do know that practicing word families, phonetic rules and sight words in complete isolation does not always lead to having a child use/recognize them outside of the context of that type of drill activity. I have seen this in the classroom and with my own daughter. That is why while I certainly review these concepts through various games and hands-on activities to reinforce/practice them, I do not rely on those methods alone.
When I read aloud, I often stop at sight words or other words that I know my kindergartener can read and I let her read them for me. It's a quick and easy way to practice, while not stopping the overall flow of the book.  If we come across a sight word my kindergartener does not know while she is reading, I inform her that it is a sight word and I tell her what it is.  I often make a mental note of the ones she does not know, so we can review them with a game or other activity at a later date.
When my daughter gets stuck on a word, I do not just tell her what it is. I encourage her to look at it parts. I ask her to think about what the word starts with, what it ends with and if there any blends she recognizes, etc. I do this as long as it does not impede the flow of the book. Ultimately, you do not want to hinder their comprehension of the story by taking a long time to sound out a word. This is usually not a problem because we read books that my kindergartener is capable of reading so there are not many words she gets stuck on on any given page. I can not stress enough how important it is to have your beginning reader reading the right book for them!
Sometimes, it's okay to just let it go! I do not correct every mistake made while reading. For example, if my daughter reads mom when the word is actually mother - I let it go.  That is not going to hinder her comprehension of the story. On the other hand, if she reads the word gold instead of the word good - I ask her to go back and re-read the sentence. That kind of mistake can hinder her comprehension of the story and it won't make sense. Most of the time, she finds her own mistake when she looks at the sentence for the second time. These mistakes commonly occur from reading too quickly and assuming what the word at a quick glance versus actually slowing down and reading it.
By doing these types of things while we read, we are not only putting our phonics and sight word lessons to use in context but I am also teaching her how to tackle an unknown word when she comes across it while reading. A skill, I want to foster so that she can eventually do it on her own - without me. I am also encouraging her to ask questions while reading, to make sure things make sense and that she is comprehending the story. These are invaluable tools for good readers.

7. Be a reading role model! One of the best ways to encourage beginning readers is to set an example. Let your children see you reading - for fun. I am an avid reader. My girls know this about me. They see it. We have lots of books in our house and they are readily available to both girls. I want them to not only be good readers, I want them to enjoy reading so books are part of our daily routine. We do not only read for work, school or practice - we read for the fun of it.
There is so much more I can say on this topic. It is something I am truly passionate about. I know how hard learning to read can be for some children and their parents . That is why I plan to share more with you regarding reading, early literacy and how to nurture your budding readers.
For now, I leave you with some resources I'd like to share on this topic from some amazing websites and some of my go-to teachers/bloggers/moms. I hope you will save these links for when you have time to sit and really read through them. They are full of wonderful information, straight forward tips and useful links to even more resources.

The International Reading Association's Parent Resources has some great brochures for parent's on supporting your beginning reader.

ReadWriteThink has so much great info on reading and language arts in their Parent & Afterschool Resources section. 
Learning During Read-Alouds: Improving Frequency by Teach Mama - this post explains what it means for a child to be a fluent reader and shares some tips on how to help your child improve their fluency.
Questioning and Connecting During read-Alouds - also by Teach Mama brings home why it's important to encourage (and model) a child's questions in relation to the text they are reading in order to aid comprehension and help them connect with what they are reading.
Allison from No Time for Flashcards shares some great early literacy resources/links in her post - Raising Readers - Reading Resources and her post on Raising Boys Who Want to Read is full of great tips (for any child - not just boys!) on how to nurture & encourage book lovers from an early age.


This is my *Favorite* Post from 2012! To see more favorite posts from other bloggers visit our awesome Very Best Kids Activities of 2012 Blog Hop.


  1. Love this post, reading to children and teaching them to read is one of the most rewarding things!

    1. I agree! I feel just as excited (maybe more!) as my daughter when she reads a book.

  2. Awesome! Great job... I think you are going to help a lot of people with this one!

  3. FANTASTIC!!!! is it okay for me to share a link to this article with my grade one parents?!?!?! :)

  4. Great Post! I tweeted it and gave you +1
    Marcia Murphy :)

  5. Great post! Can't wait to see your post on books for beginning readers.

  6. In my opinion as a former high school English teacher, this is an EXCELLENT resource for parents! Parents NEED to be involved at this stage, otherwise it creates issues down the line for the upper level students. Showing your kids how to tackle a book in this way is awesome! You could even try modeling a "Reader's Notebook" while working with her--create the notebook with her to personalize it, etc...then, when you're reading, if she stumbles on a word for example, write it down, and then you can go back and tackle it at the end and then have her write a sentence using the word in her notebook and then some kind of thought about it. By doing this, you're teaching her how to interact with the text--she is more invested, so she will learn more. She will carry this skill with her and can use it later in school when reading more difficult texts like social studies and science. This is something that our entire district used from k1-high school and our ELA scores were the highest in the state :). GREAT JOB, MAMA!!! Teachers love moms like you!!!

    1. ...and of course, because you are a teacher :) See, I'm exploring your blog, lol

  7. great post, B! I just shared on FB. :)

  8. These are great tips! I'm not a teacher and was so stressed when Little J started reading. He was only 4 and I was so worried I would do something wrong. Fortunately, he had great teachers that helped us.

  9. Great tips and resources. Thanks for putting this in one place. I also tweeted about it.

  10. Great tips! Thanks for sharing with the Afterschool Blog Hop =)

  11. This is such a great post, particularly your points about not pushing too hard! I hope you'll consider adding it to our I Can Read meme that goes up in March.

    PS - I posted it on my page and tweeted, too!

  12. Thanks for sharing such wonderful tips. I have learned some of these things the hard way, I wish I would have had a resource like this a couple of years ago.

  13. What wonderful information! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!! I hope you will share with us again this week!

  14. Oh thank you for this very detailed and informative post! Very helpful indeed!

    Thanks for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!


  15. Great tips, I'll definitely apply this with my children. Thank you very much.

  16. BTW, I pinned this post, hope that was okay


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