Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers, Part 2

Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers, Part 2

A Homeschool Mom’s Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers

This is Part 2 in a series to help homeschool moms equip their struggling readers for reading success.  In this second part, I am going to share with you one simple tool to help struggling readers at home.  If you have not read Part 1, please do so.  🙂

Like many homeschool moms, when I began homeschooling my girls almost 10 years ago, my first goal was to make sure my oldest daughter could read.  It seemed that all of her preschool-age friends were getting ready to go to traditional kindergarten and soon I was dodging questions from their respective mothers.

“Why are you homeschooling her?”

“Aren’t you worried about socialization?”

“Public school was good enough for me, so its good enough for my kids.”

My First Educational Goal

In response to the inquisition I experienced from well-meaning mom friends, I naturally became a little internally defensive.  Like many ladies who make the decision to homeschool their children, I began my homeschool journey with a specific goal in mind.

I MUST TEACH MY KID TO READ.

This was my mantra.  I figured that once I taught her to read, I would feel a little more at ease as I navigated the homeschool skeptics.

Searching for the Perfect Reading Program

In my effort to teach my oldest daughter how to read, I perused the local homeschool store.  I am so fortunate to live in an area where homeschooling is very popular.  The community of homeschool families is HUGE and so yes, we have a local homeschool store that could rival Target in its ability to suck me in for hours.  It is a haven of books, beautiful boxed curriculum, phenomenal art and composer study materials, maps, Bibles… math manipulatives… it is a homeschoolers dream!

This post contains Amazon affliliate links.  If you purchase any resources that I recommend using my links, I may receive a small commission from Amazon at no cost to you.  I will not ever recommend any product that I do not stand behind fully.  Thank you for your support so I can continue to offer as much free content as possible to mommas like you and me.  🙂

Mountains of Books

I cannot count the number of hours I have spent sitting on the floor of the local homeschool store surrounded by mountains of books.  Honestly, those memories are heavenly.  Anyway…

Needless to say, I searched and searched for the perfect reading curriculum because I was determined that my daughter would read.  I had to accomplish that goal and fast.  No, my motives were not pure, but God is merciful and I have learned better now.

Ultimately, it wasn’t an expensive boxed reading curriculum that ended up being the key to effective reading instruction for my daughter.  Nope.  It was a $15 paperback book that opened the world of reading to both of my girls.

Interestingly,  both of my girls (and their momma- aka Me) have since been diagnosed with ADHD.   I did not realize this at the time because I was of the belief that ADHD was a “fake” diagnosis.  I believed that my solid Christian parenting-style would eliminate any unwanted  hyper, impulsive and distracted behavior in my children.  Ugh!!! That is an entirely different story that you can read about here.  So sorry for that rabbit trail… like I just mentioned… ADHD.

Just be aware that my girls both have attention-based learning issues and one of them has been diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder.  APD is an auditory disorder in which the child has normal hearing ability but the brain is unable to accurately process and distinguish that auditory information.  This can hinder reading and language development.  You can read more about Auditory Processing Disorder here.

Back to that amazing reading program that I soon discovered.  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons was the program that I was able to use with my hyper and highly-distracted girls.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

This book offers highly effective reading instruction for children with special learning needs.  Quite frankly, I think it is a great remediation resource for older children who are struggling with their ability to decode and blend words.  The goal of this book is to get the ball rolling per say.  Decoding skills and fluency are developed quickly using this method.  Reading comprehension methodology is not specifically addressed.

100 Easy Lessons uses an instructional strategy called the SRA DISTAR Method.  Prior to being introduced to this Instructional Book, I had no familiarity with the method despite my education training in graduate school.  However, I found the logic and reasoning behind the teaching method to be absolutely fascinating and extremely effective for me as an instructor and for my children as students.  The PARENTS GUIDE at the beginning of the text is extremely important to read as it explains the logic and reasoning behind the program.  For geeks like me, it is also mesmerizing.

The DISTAR method (Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) is a very methodical teaching program.  It has been shown to be an extremely effective and simple tool to help struggling readers.  This methodology was used to develop the 100 Easy Lessons program written by Siegfried Engelmann over 40 years ago.

Modified Alphabet System

The system uses a modified orthography system (fancy way to say the alphabet symbols used to represent speech sounds).  This alphabet provides visual clues to indicate which sound is associated with the letter as it is used in a printed word.

For example, the letter symbol “e” is modified slightly depending upon its positioning and therefore, its use in a word.

  • The “e” in “led” is says the short e sound.
  • The “e” in “like” is silent and therefore has no sound.  It is therefore shown in a smaller text size in order to cue the student to it’s silent role in the word.
  • The “e” in she is long and says its name (which is noted with the macron above the “e”.)

The smaller size of the “e” indicates the “silent e.”    All silent letters are initially introduced in a smaller font to point out that the letter symbol makes no sound.

In the initial lessons of the book, the modified alphabet are used as a scaffolding technique (extra supports to help the learner).   These visual cues are extremely helpful for children with special learning needs.

They are gradually removed as the child begins to fluently recognize (whether consciously or not) the letter patterns and sounds.   The logic is that as the modified letter symbols are gradually dropped, the student is able seamlessly transition to reading and decoding using traditional letter symbols.  The child’s brain has incorporated the letter patterns and their usage and no longer needs the extra visual cues.

Mom-Friendly Teaching

100 Easy Lessons uses scripted step-by-step instructions for the teacher.  This may seem to be stifling to the teacher.  However, the scripting is one of the many reasons that instructional tool is effective for kids with special learning needs.

The modeling provided using the script, is verbalized aloud to the student.  The letter sounds and words are easily repeated by the child.  The child follows the visual text both with his eyes and his pointer finger.  Quick progress and smaller incremental goals are achieved which is ecouraging to child and teacher.

Minimalism Limits Distractions

The 100 Easy Lessons pages are very minimalistic with no pictures and very little color.

On the surface the text may appear dry and boring.  Again this is one reason why the system is so effective for children with special learning needs.     Highly distractible children tend to become overly stimulated with lots of visual input .

These students are set up for success.  The eyes are focused on the text only.  The text does not have to compete with the visual input of  illustrations.  (This is not to say that illustrations are not of extreme value.  They are so incredibly valuable.)

The goal is to teach students the basics of reading (phonemic awareness, decoding skills and growing fluency skills).  Therefore, limited visual input is a benefit during specific and direct instruction.  Once the basics of reading have been mastered and the child requires less mental effort to decode words, the addition of illustrations to books is less of an issue.

Minimal Time Commitment

The lessons are extremely short (no more than 20 minutes a day).   The lower time commitment makes learning to read very manageable for both the child and teacher.  When I used this system with both of my girls, I often broke up the lessons into 10-minute sessions.  I would break up the lesson into a short 10-minute session in the morning and a 10-minute session before lunch.

The point is that this book can be modified to fit the mental capability of the student.  If the student is older the student may be capable of more than one lesson per day.

Regardless, I highly recommend modifying ANY curriculum into smaller chunks of time when necessary.  I especially receommend  shorter lessons with your younger children and any child who struggles with executive functioning.

Short but consistent lessons over time is so effective.  Forcing longer lessons is more likely to lead to a resistant and frustrated student.  That leads to a dead end.  A child’s level of interest and motivation is one of your greatest weapons when teaching your child any subject area.

Please save yourself from the mistake of “forcing” your student to work through longer lessons when they clearly have reached their limit.

This will only create more resistance to engage when it is time for your next lesson.  A frustrated child leads to a frustrating teaching time.  Frustration within the brain of a child only leads to mental shut down.  Forced instruction when a child is mentally shut down is a certain guarantee that nothing taught is retained.  It is not worth it.  Trust me.  I have made that mistake.

Unfortunately, in our culture, we have believed a lie that says more is better.

This is not always the case.  I argue that longer lessons are definitely not effective with students who struggle with learning differences.   When learning a non-preferred subject area, I always recommend shorter and manageable lessons.

Additionally, I highly recommend reducing anxiety in your child by preparing them IN ADVANCE for what is expected.  Before your lesson, clearly tell your student your expectation of reading time over the next 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  Time length should be based on child’s capacity at that time.  If a child knows what to expect and when to expect an end point, success is more likely.

Whatever you do.  Follow through on your end time.  If you set the expectation that you are asking for 10, 15 or 20 minutes, stop at 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  Be a trustworthy coach to your student and cooperation is more likely to follow.

Final Recommendations

Overall, I highly recommend Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for the beginning reader as well as for older students who are struggling with traditional phonics-based lessons.

As mentioned earlier,  the lack of  illustrations usually targeted to a younger audience is removed which reduces the older student’s potential feelings of embarrassment and shame  when using introductory level reading instruction.

Additionally, the book can be modified for older remedial students in that more than one lesson can be addressed each day if appropriate.

The scripted lessons, while some may intitially find stifling, are so helpful for the homeschooling mom or dad who may be nervous about his or her lack of reading instruction experience.  The book can also be used by parents wanting to supplement reading instruction over summer vacation.

Bottom line… Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons is very user-friendly, requires no prep time for the instructor, is extremely well-priced (around $16), and is extremely effective for a multitude of students.

Don’t Forget… Every Child is Unique

I will say it once, and I will continue to repeat myself… Forgive me.

Children are not all the same.  Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons using the DISTAR teaching method has been proven extremely effective with many children.  However, it may not be a fit for you or your student for one reason or another.

My goal is to bring to the forefront a variety of teaching tools and methods that can be implemented depending upon your child’s wiring.  Check out this post on the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction which has shown incredibly helpful for children who may have dyslexia.  

Praise the Lord for options as we educate our children.  They are a gift but they are many.  

What about you and your student?  What areas of reading skills does your student struggle in?  Phonemic awareness?  Decoding skills?  Fluency?  Reading Comprehension?  Send me your concerns and I will do my best to address them in the coming weeks.  I really want to hear from you.  Please reach out.  🙂 lindsay at a heartforallstudents dot com  

You’ve got this, Teaching Mom!

Help for A Struggling Reader, Part 1

Help for A Struggling Reader, Part 1

Help for Your Struggling Reader

Lately I have had several moms approach me about tutoring their children because their children are “struggling” with reading.   Often times these moms have children with special learning needs. Sometimes mom doesn’t know of a specific diagnosis of a learning disability.  However, they do know one thing. The traditional approaches to reading instruction are not effective and they need help.  What about you?  Do you need help for your struggling reader?

When asked for reading tutoring, I typically respond with a specific question, “What exactly is your child struggling with in regards to reading?”

  • Does your struggling reader understand phonetics and have the ability to decode (sound out) words?
  • Is he struggle with reading fluency?
  • Can your child understand what he has read (reading comprehension)?

The entire process of reading has multiple component skills that ultimately work together to produce a truly literate reader.  These skills are like building blocks. Each one building upon the other.

Reading is more than correctly decoding written words.

Here is the deal that is often overlooked.  Reading is much more than just being able to sound out words quickly.  Often times when our children are able to “read” aloud we think that reading has been accomplished.  However, that is not necessarily the case.

The components of reading include:

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Decoding
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension

I really believe that understanding the basic elements of reading will help homeschool moms like yourself help your struggling reader.  Let’s take a look at reading piece by piece and see how it equips you to see your child’s reading journey differently.

 

Letter Tiles App

Pre-Reading Skills-Phonemic Awareness

One of the first reading skills is something called “phonemic awareness.”   Words are all made up of units of sound called PHONEMES.  When a child starts to recognize that all spoken words are composed of individual units of sound, he is developing the skill of Phonemic Awareness.

When a child can hear a word such as BUG and is able to identify the three sounds: Buh, short U, and hard G sound, he is demonstrating this skill.  Using the word “BUG” the child drops the initial /B/ sound and replaces it with an /R/ sound to say RUG.   The ability to perform this exercise is showing further phonemic awareness.

Phonemic awareness is a  foundational skill to reading.   If you believe you need help for your struggling reader, I would recommend playing with words aloud to see if he can hear the different sounds that make up words.   A great option for parents to use with these children is the All About Reading Pre-Reading Program or another multi-sensory approach.

 

All About Learning Press

Decoding or Sounding Out Words

(Phonics)

When a child looks at the letter sequence D-O- G (visual input). He initially produces the sounds “D”- “short O”- “hard G.”  Once he pieces together the sounds, he says the word DOG.   This skill is referred to as DECODING and the process of decoding involves:

  • PHONICS: the sounds assigned to printed letters or combinations of letter symbols (using visual, auditory & verbal senses)

When seeking help for your struggling reader, it is important to assess your student’s phonics skills.  Phonics is the sounds that are represented by printed letters or combinations of letters.  For example, in the English language, the letter A is represented by four possible sounds:

  • the short a sound as in CAT,
  • the long a sound as in CAKE and
  • the “ah” sound as in ALL.
  • the “uh” sound as in ABOVE

All letters in the English language have sounds associated with them. Some have one specific sound and others have more than one sound depending on letter combinations.

Going back to our DOG example, the student will walk through the following steps as he decodes the word:

  • Determines that the letter symbols represent three separate sounds
  • Creates the sounds individually “d”-“short o” sound- “hard g” sound
  • After making the individual sounds out loud, the student puts the sounds together in his own mind. (Note that when the child speaks the sounds aloud that he is also “hearing” the sounds in his own voice.)
  • Finally, he blends them together so as to clearly say the word DOG

This process is decoding.

Fluency

As the decoding skill becomes second-nature, the goal is for the child to become faster in his ability to recognize familiar letter patterns and words.

Using our DOG example:

  • Eventually, the student will see the three letter symbols, D-O-G, and immediately know and verbalize the correct word.  He verbalizes the word aloud effortlessly and moves on to the next letter sequence with speed and confidence.

The ability to read with speed, proper inflection and confidence is what is termed “FLUENCY.”

Comprehension

As you seek help for your struggling reader, you will begin to tease out where your child’s reading weakness lies.  If she is strong is the previous two elements, it may be a reading comprehension issue that is causing her to struggle.  Reading comprehension is the component of reading that many children successful with the first three steps often become stuck.

The ability to comprehend or understand what was just read is quite consistently an area where many students hit struggle.  Students frequently struggle with the comprehension skill in the early years of reading.

It is not surprising that this skill would lag behind the other reading skills.

  • Understanding what is read requires that a child identify how to pronounce a word correctly using his relatively new decoding skills.
  • Once properly spoken aloud, your student must move to the next word and has to maintain the previous words in his mind (working memory) in order to process them as a whole sentence.
  • The extent of a child’s vocabulary obviously impacts her ability to understand a story line

Clearly, when we think about learning process is not as simple as it may seem on the surface level.  If your child is struggling with one of the earlier reading skills, it makes perfect sense that understanding the storyline would be much more challenging

All About Learning Press 20 Best Tips

So what do you do for your struggling reader?

Now that you have an idea of the component skills of reading, it is time to figure out which area your child is struggling with and then proceed from there.  Check out Part 2 of Helping Your Struggling Reader for a suggested outside-the-box tool that may be a great fit for your child.

Most importantly, know this.  One of the best things you can do to enhance your child’s reading journey is to read to him.  Read high-interest books outloud to your child without any expectation of having your child read to you.  Expose him or her to ideas and stories that are captivating and appealling to your specific child.  The memories you will create by sharing story will bless your entire family while also providing your child with an appreciation for books as a form of entertainment.    Check out the Favorite Family Book List below.  🙂

Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

So many sweet moms fear when their child is struggling to read well.   Today we are discussing our struggling readers, students with dyslexia, and the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction.  We are blessed to have a guest post written by Karee Atkinson, a mom with a heart to equip children to learn well.  She is also a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor and is just one of several dyslexics in her family.  As an educator who grew up with dyslexia and is also raising several children with dyslexia, she is the perfect person to share more about equipping struggling students with alternative reading instruction.

Take it away, Karee!!!

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & A Mom Who “Gets It”

As a mom of kiddos with dyslexia, and as an adult with dyslexia myself, I understand the confusions and often contradictory information parents are given to help their child.  So let me start with my three guiding principles as a mom and that I use now as a tutor.

  1.  This is my child, I believe this child was sent to me and I am one of the two people (along with my husband) who has the most concern, love and hope invested in this little one.  I welcome and need the input of other partners in this process like tutors, teachers and friends. But at the end of the day, this is my child.
  2. There is no “one” solution for every child because every child is different.  If you find a solution that works for you, great!  And celebrate when someone else finds a solution, even if it is different from yours.
  3. To help any child improve in reading and spelling you need to also spend time building self-esteem and confidence.  

 

The Orton-Gillingham Approach For Dyslexia

The Orton-Gillingham method helps those with dyslexia beautifully.  While Orton-Gillingham was created to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, this approach can help all struggling readers.  This approach to reading instruction is also known as to as OG and Structured Literacy.

Let’s review some of the lingo around reading.   

Phonological awareness:

    • Ability to manipulate sounds. A deficit in phonological awareness is one of the two main deficits associated with dyslexia. 
    • The book “Equipped for Reading Success” by Dr. Kilpatrick is my favorite resource for phonological awareness. It gives you tests for PA as well as interventions for phonological awareness.  These tools can (and should) look like play to the child you are working with. 
      • I cannot stress enough how much struggling readers of all ages need phonological awareness activities from either a tutor, teacher or a parent! 

Knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds letters represent

The next thing OG is going to explicitly address is knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds the different letters make.  If you have a struggling reader, chances are they are not firm on the letter sounds.  Letter sounds need to be explicitly taught. 

    • For example the word “Wasp” is not pronounced /w/ /a/ /s/ /p/ because the “wa” makes a /w/ /o/ sound.

Spelling rules and phonics 

So far,I bet most of you are with me.  It’s easy to see the need for this type of instruction for any beginning or struggling reader.

Understanding these additional reading variables greatly assists with reading instruction.  

  • Knowledge of syllable division/syllable types 
  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Semantics

dyslexia, orton-gillingham, reading, learning disability

Syllable division and morphology are personally my favorite things to teach.  If you have a reader who has leveled out at a 3rd to 5th grade level, struggles with these 2 principles are probably part of the problem. 

I didn’t understand how to spell many words until I received this training as an adult.   I have always been a strong reader, but my spelling and grammar is still weak.  Weak spelling and grammar skills are hallmark characteristics of an adult with dyslexia.  Honestly, once I was trained in OG, I became a little frustrated that I hadn’t learned this earlier. Understanding how syllables impact sounds and spelling was an awakening for me.  When memorization was my only tool, spelling was incredibly difficult.  

Morphology is also a key component that adds meaning to the way words are spelled.  Morphology is just a fancy term to describe how suffixes and prefixes change a word.  Think metamorphosis… the changing caterpillar and butterfly.

Another fantastic way to add meaning to how words are spelled is structured word inquiry.   Check out this great video about this new and growing field.   Structured Word Inquiry.

Letter Tiles App

Syntax & Semantics Round Out a Solid Reading Program

Syntax and semantics are the two final components of the OG approach.  These help us understand how to get meaning from written language. 

You may be asking yourself the following question:

“Don’t most reading programs have some of these elements? Then why is OG so much more effective?”   

Yes!  Many programs do contain similar components. However, if reading supports don’t contain ALL of these components, please don’t use them!! 

A strong reading program should have all these elements. 

 

What Makes Orton-Gillingham Effective for Dyslexia?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is effective for our dyslexic students because of the way it presents the information.  It uses a multisensory and learner-driven approach.  Additionally, OG teachers and tutors are trained to be laser-focused on the specific needs of the student.

Success

If I am doing my job as a tutor, a child should always find success in our lessons.  Lessons are hand-crafted to meet the needs of that student. They are also very, very explicit in teaching how letters, sounds, syllables and morphemes all work together.  Each lesson should circle back to previously learned material.  A student should never encounter a letter combination or spelling rule they have not been taught in any of the review segments of the lesson. 

Paced for the Specific Student

Lessons are paced to the student’s mastery, so we do not move on until the new information is mastered and the student is finding success.

Multi-sensory

Diagnostic

OG lessons are diagnostic.   This means that if a child is struggling with a concept or a word, we loop back to that again.  If I see a strength in the way the way a student grasps new information, that strength will be incorporated into all future lessons.

Ultimately, an OG approach is systematic, cumulative, explicit, multisensory, diagnostic and most important of all… focused on success.

Orton-Gillingham Certified Tutors

If time, money and distance are not a roadblock, choosing a Certified Orton-Gillingham instructor is ideal.  Certified tutors have hours and hours of training, ongoing professional development and are continually mastering their craft.  

If finances are a roadblock, do not give up!!

When I started my journey in Utah there was not a single OG Certified tutor in my state with openings for a child.  Not one. 

What did I do? 

With my first child, I paid for a tutor for three years.  Later, his school agreed to train teachers and aids in the SPIRE program.  We made the decision to enroll our him to the school. Was the ischool nstruction as good as the private tutor?  No. But was my child progressing and happier, yes!   

Family History of Dyslexia & Parent Tools to Support Their Students

We often hear that dyslexia runs in families and my family is no exception.  It’s not surprising then, of my four kids, we have an official diagnosis of dyslexia for three of them.

The reality is that I have navigated dyslexia in many ways.  Through my own schooling, in finding tutors for my kids,and  by advocating for other children to receive appropriate reading instruction.  

Eventually, when I realized that all of my kids would need reading tutoring, I decided to tutor them myself.   The cost for three dyslexic children to receive effective reading support, I had no other choice.  There are always options. 

If you are do end up supporting your own kids without formal OG training, I strongly suggest the programs Sonday System, Barton, or Reading Horizons.  

Believe in Your Child

Most importantly, believe in your child.  Their future is not limited in any way if they believe in themselves. There are so many tools and supports available (a blog for another day). 

Remember, you are the parent and this is your child. There are days we all feel fear and are just overwhelmed.  At the end of every day though, your love for your child will help you find the path they need to be successful.  Always make sure that your children spend time building upon their strengths and not just facing down their weaknesses.  

Karee received a B.A. in Political Science from Brigham Young University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Utah.  Karee worked as a lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers and as a trainer for the Utah State Department of Health, before deciding to be a stay at home mom.   Karee was a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia Utah, grassroots movement driven by Utah families concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within public schools.  Karee now lives in South Carolina with her tribe of dyslexics including herself, her husband, one son and three daughters.  I work as a Orton-Gillingham tutor for kids with dyslexia and is in the process of becoming a Certified OG Tutor.

To contact Karee about her services: dyslexiasolutionsfortmill@gmail.com or  call her at 801-455-2402 

Auditory Processing Disorder: 10 Ways to Help Your Child

Note from Lindsay

Yes and Amen!!  If Karee had written nothing more than the last paragraph, I would be happy.  Moms, you have amazing children and God has a plan for each of them.  He has blessed them all with gifts and talents and a purpose for this life.  Allow them to explore their gifts… and always encourage them with your confidence in their abilities.  If your child is struggling with reading or has dyslexia, the Orton-Gillingham approach should be the game-changer you are looking for.  🙂

One last thing for you homeschoolers out there.  My absolute favorite reading and spelling curriculum out there is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach and is also a very affordable and user-friendly option.  All About Learning Press is a phenomenal resource for reading instruction.  I would HIGHLY recommend their materials for any mom wanting to equip her child with a solid foundation of reading and spelling instruction.  I have used All About Spelling for both of my girls as well as several students that I have privately tutored in the past.  Cannot more highly recommend this company.

For more help with your struggling reader and alternative reading instruction information, check out my series on Reading Instruction for Struggling Readers.

Update: January 8, 2020

I am so excited to announce to my readers that All About Learning Press now has what looks to be an amazing app for our children!  I am so excited to try it with my little man.  From All About Learning Press:

Our Letter Tiles app lets you build words, divide words into syllables, and hear the sounds of the phonograms. Just choose your program from the menu (All About Reading or All About Spelling) and select which lesson number you are currently teaching. The appropriate letter tiles for that lesson will appear, making it easy for you to teach and easy for your student to learn.

I cannot wait to download this to my boy’s Ipad.   Any way I can sneak in learning without him knowing is a win in my book!  Yay!

 Click the image below to learn more about this incredible resource to add to your child’s reading and spelling tool belt!  

Letter Tiles App

Grab Your Free Behind the Behavior Bundle!

End the chaos and confusion! Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.  Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.

All About Learning Press
Reading as a Family: The Benefits & Favorite Family Book List

Reading as a Family: The Benefits & Favorite Family Book List

Reading Aloud TO Your Children Throughout Childhood

Because I am a storyteller by nature, sharing stories with others brings me incredible joy. With this in mind, I am obsessed with reading as a family.

A trip to the library or bookstore is exciting for me because I love books. Looking through all the book covers, flipping through pages of text and images lights up my day. Book -lovers are famous for hoarding books in their Amazon carts. Likewise, my Amazon wish list is loaded with over 500 book titles that I dream to one day read.

Most importantly, my greatest joy is when we are reading as a family. Honestly, some of the sweetest times that we have had in our homeschool is our time enjoying books together. When I think back over the past 9 years of school, my heart swells the most when I reminisce about our times sharing a story together.

“Sharing Story” Memories

All in all, there is nothing I get more excited for each day than the time when we “press pause” and begin reading as a family.

  1. Those beautiful spring days when my girls and I would read for hours while relaxing on the screened-in porch.
  2. Or the freezing-cold winter snow days when we would all curl up on the couch and get lost in Narnia.
  3. Reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales while the girls sat at the kitchen island eating breakfast.
  4. Reading Hop on Pop with my 5 year-old son while at the kitchen table
  5. Or exploring the anatomy of spiders and butterflies with him through books
  6. And with my girls, hanging out in one of our rooms late at night, reading devotions together
  7. Heck, even reading from our Science book is amazing!

I simply love reading anything with my family.

Flexibility is Key When Reading As a Family

Regardless of where we are or what season we are in, we can always find a reading spot and a good story to share.

During our Read Aloud time, the girls (and my son, who is now interested in listening in), draw or doodle. My oldest went through a Rubik’s Cube phase as well. She would manipulate that Cube the entire time I read to them. However, she was always engaged in the story line despite the “distraction.”

Recently, it has become common within the homeschooling community to create shared experiences through books and stories. It is important to realize that reading aloud as a ritual and natural habit of school and home life is incredibly beneficial. Thank you, Ms. Sarah MacKenzie, at the Read Aloud Revival for sharing this passion with the world. (I highly recommend you check out her podcast!)



Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Children as Family

By and large, reading aloud TO your children provides many benefits:

  • The exposure to beautiful and well-written language
  • Similarly, exposure to ideas and principles that are common in higher-level literature
  • Even more beneficial, developing a love for books as a form of entertainment (no screens!)
  • Additionally, for those with Auditory Processing Disorder, reading aloud gives your child opportunities to develop the skill of listening and visualizing
  • family cohesion and bonding
  • a natural set-up for the school day
  • much needed mental break after more laborious school tasks (math, reading, writing)
  • Sharing stories creates conversations that may not otherwise occur
  • the list goes on.

While eating dinner with my family a few weeks ago, we had a conversation about our favorite books that we have read throughout the years.

My Family’s Top Memory-Making Books

Without further delay, here is our list of favorite books to share as a family. Hope you enjoy!

C.S Lewis



Undoubtedly, this is one of C.S. Lewis’s best books ever! The story of Aslan and Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy is a classic story that can be read over and over again.



Are you noticing a theme? We love C.S. Lewis. Consequently, we believe the entire Narnia Series is phenomenal! Every story of the land of Narnia is filled with rich concepts and language and yet so intriguing for all ages.

Beverly Cleary



Who doesn’t love Ramona? For one thing, she is hilarious and quirky! Her antics are always getting her into trouble. Keeping this in mind, our young readers can often relate to her questions about life. We love Ramona! As a matter of fact, we have read them all multiple times. This is a classic series for all ages.



Once we find an author we enjoy, we tend to stick with them. As a matter of fact, according to my 13 year-old daughter, the Henry Huggins series, “is like Ramona Quimby except its Henry. Its fun to read about Henry and his adventures with his dog.” 🙂 Without doubt, Beverly Cleary will always be a favorite author in our home.

Kate DiCamillo



I held a book club for my middle daughter and some friends last summer. We read Flora and Ulysses and had a blast. Lots of beautiful comic-version illustrations. The book is NOT a comic, but it is about a little girl who enjoys comics and squirrels. Fun!!



To reiterate, we love our favorite authors. In addition to Flora and Ulysseys, Because of Winn Dixie is another favorite by Kate DiCamillo. It is such a sweet story about a young girl who lives with her father. In spite of her mother’s recent departure, Opal adjusts well under the circumstances. One morning, she befriends a precious mutt and many quirky townspeople. Above all, they enjoy adventures. Sucked us all in and was an easy, relaxing read!

Katherine Applegate



This is an intriguing story about a gorilla living in a mall. Given that the animals live in captivity, there are scenes that are pretty disheartening. Thus, more tender-hearted children may want to skip this. The relationship between Ivan and a baby elephant is precious. hat he can Sweet story.

Elizabeth George Speare



My oldest and I absolutely LOVED this book! There is a major romance component that is simply magical. For this reason, I would recommend this book for 5th grade and up. Historical fiction at its best!

This story follows the journey of a beautiful young lady who is suddenly living in Puritan New England. She befriends a lovely woman whom the townspeople refer to as a “witch.” In the long run, our protagonist shakes up the town. The story is amazing!

 



As mentioned previously, Elizabeth George Spears is an amazing historical fiction writer. Accordingly, the Sign of the Beaver does not disappoint. It is based in the newly colonized Americas. story follows a young boy left alone to fend for himself in early America. Despite this, he develops a friendship with a Native American teen. In short, this story is phenomenal.

Clara Dillingham Pierson

Clara Dillingham Pierson wrote a series of phenomenal children’s books based upon various natural settings including farm animals, creatures found in meadows, forests and water. Included in the series are Among the Night People, Among the Meadow People, Among the Pond People, Among the Forest People, & Among the Farmyard People. These stories are amazing read-alouds and are incredibly well-written literature.



From time to time, my oldest daughter has experienced insomnia. In fact, at the age of 7, her insomnia lasted for about a year. I couldn’t let her suffer alone in the dark of night. Consequently, I would lie on her floor and read this series aloud to her from my Kindle. As horrible as the insomnia was, God did create a sweet memory for us through this shared series. In light of that, this series has a special place in my heart!

James Baldwin



This is a collection of classic stories told in a highly engaging format.

When short on time, Fifty Famous Stories Retold is a great choice. Throw it in the car in the event that you become stuck in traffic.

The Shared Stories Challenge

Even if you haven’t developed the habit of sharing stories aloud as a family, give it a try.

In light of all of the benefits of reading aloud as a family, why not give it a shot? Choose a title and read it together over the next month (or two). Even five minutes together in story will create a safe and cozy memory for your family.

Let me know if you are trying this Shared Stories Reading Challenge. Read aloud and don’t force your kids to read. In the hopes that you may instill a love of books in your children, I encourage you to read to them.

Now that we have discussed the benefits of reading aloud as a family, check out my series on different reading instruction strategies for kids who learn differently.






Follow me on Pinterest, Friend. 🙂

What about you? What are your favorite books? Comment below.

Grab Your Free 4 Steps to Meltdown Recovery Cheat Sheet!

 

Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.

Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.

Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.

My Top 3 Phonics Resources for Parents & Kids to Enjoy

My Top 3 Phonics Resources for Parents & Kids to Enjoy

Top 3 Resources for Phonics Fun at Home

As a homeschool mom, I have had the blessing of being home with my kids to educate them. Of our homeschool experiences, I would say that my top accomplishment with my girls (I have yet to teach my son) is teaching them to read. Over the years, I have used a ton of different phonics resources and curriculum in my homeschool.

As I am circling back to basic skills with my son who is now 5, I am pulling out materials that I used with my girls. Over the past few years, my son has developed a fascination with all-things letters and numbers. Because of this, I have been propelled to explore many more early learning resources.

 All Parents are Teachers

You don’t have to homeschool your children to reap the joy that comes with teaching your children. The following phonics resources for parents and children to use at home are very user-friendly. Each option will allow any parent the opportunity to enhance the education of his or her kids in a fun and engaging way. Formal instruction is greatly enriched when mom and dad are a part of the process. The following three phonics resources for parents have proven to be some of our favorites. Hope these are helpful! 🙂

Need For “All-Things” Letters

As mentioned earlier, my son is absolutely in love with letters (and numbers).  He has been obsessed with the alphabet since he was 2 years old!  Now, to be fair, my son has severe special needs which have impacted his brain cognition in specific areas.  Namely, he has been diagnosed with a pretty significant speech delay which has impacted his ability to communicate well. His brain differences have also given him the ability to hyperfocus which we hope to harness as a gifting (as opposed to a detriment) for his success.

My son’s inability to verbalize his thoughts contributed to severe meltdowns which started when he was around 15 months old. You can read more about my son’s severe developmental and behavioral issues here. What is so fascinating, however, is how God has created our brains in such an intricate and brilliant way. As such, there are parts of my son’s brain that are and have been extraordinarily advanced and strong.  His long-term memory is one of these areas.

Keeping It Real

I point out his strong long-term memory because when he was about 2 years old he became enthralled with letters. I was often running to and from various doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions and classes for my older girls. My to my son’s disapproval, he was often strapped into his car seat. Long gone were the days when my life revolved around nap time. Unfortunately, my sweet boy was miserable almost “24/7” due to developmental delays. Add to that his aversion to the car and one can easily understand that he was not a happy passenger. Ultimately, I had to come up with a plan to ease the pain of our daily drives throughout town.

Fortunately, I pulled out my secret weapon. Yep, I used that 2007 Honda Odyssey’s greatest feature… the built-in DVD player. Then I popped in my tried and true Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD.  Yes, I am keeping it real here.  My son was 2 years old and was secured in a car seat for extended periods of time.  Being the youngest, he had to roll with our schedule.

Yes, he had screen time in the car.  (It is my own feeling of insecurity coming out here so I feel the need to justify the screen time… oh well.) I was determined, however, to expose him to content that would actually benefit him in some way. Enter in the Leap Frog Letter Factory series.

Leap Frog Letter Factory Series



These DVDs are educational screen time at its best.  I had been introduced to this little series about 9 years ago when I was teaching my oldest to read.  She had hit a wall in her motivation to read (probably because she was too young to have mommy pressuring her to read).  In first-time homeschool mom desperation, I headed over to my local homeschool store to seek advice. Thank God for the precious veteran homeschool moms who worked there to help us rookie mommas. One of these ladies lovingly educated me on the need to know when to “back off” of a young child.

“She is so young.  Give her a break and make learning fun.”

She gave me some great suggestions having to do with magnetic letters and magnetized white boards.  She then suggested the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD as a fun way to reinforce all that my daughter had learned through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

I took that sweet lady’s advice, and took a step back from the formal instruction.  My daughter and I played with magnetized letters, read fun books (think Dr. Suess) and while in the car, I popped in the Leap Frog DVDs.  Both of my daughters ended up loving these, so when my son came around 4 years later, it was a no-brainer to use them again. However, he surprised us with his retention of the content.  This DVD series originally began with the Letter Factory DVD.  (There are more in the series now that are also fantastic. ) The Original Letter Factory DVD is an adorable story about a little “boy” (frog) who wants to nominate his father for “Dad of the Year.”  He needs to write a letter about his dad and so enters the Letter Factory to learn the letters of the alphabet as well as their sounds.  Every letter of the alphabet is introduced through song, chants, and fun alphabet characters.  Imagine a large, red, uppercase A who is regularly frightened by others.  In response to his fear, the Letter A screams, “Aaaah!”  My son enjoyed repeatedly acting out the scenes from the movie. He thought it hilarious to incessantly scream “Aaaah!”  In advance, I apologize for any excited screaming that may occur while showing this DVD. Ha!  My son learned all of his short and long letter sounds by the age of two because of this series.  Short sounds are introduced in the Letter Factory DVD and the long vowel sounds are introduced in the Talking Words Factory DVD.  It was in this order that I introduced them to my kiddos.   

Leap Frog Has Expanded

The Leap Frog Series has since expanded their DVD series to include many more options and story lines to engage and support your child’s early learning. They also have mathematics and number-based DVDs that are fun and effective as well. Because I recommend The Letter Factory and The Talking Word Factory in that order, I linked to those separate DVDs individually. Leap Frog currently does not have an option to purchase these two titles together in a set. Fortunately, purchasing them individually will cost approximately $13. Such a deal. This Leap Frog Mega-Pack set of DVDs contains more DVD options that you may find useful when you have completed the first two DVDs.  

Multi-Sensory

I cannot more highly recommend the Leap Frog DVD Series for preschool age children. These DVDs will be helpful for any children who may be struggling with identifying letters and letter sounds.  The use of imagery allows the child to receive information visually, while the use of song and rhythm activates the musical part and auditory areas, and of course, the child singing along is another benefit as the child is using the speech area to do so.  Using multiple areas of the brain to receive and process information is key to retention of new information and Leap Frog Company does a great job to provide this type of learning.  Click below to purchase the DVD Series.  (I receive a small commission when you purchase through my Amazon link.  This helps me in providing more free content on my page.  I appreciate your support.) However, I will only ever recommend high-quality products that I have used and found effective.  

Melissa and Doug Alphabet & Number Sticker Set

In my son’s season of letter obsession (numbers as well… but that will be another post), I searched high and low to find the most fun and engaging resources to continue his love of letters.  Eventually I came upon this fabulous and thorough sticker set of ABCs and Numbers from Melissa and Doug.  My son was over the moon when he opened this Amazon package one fall afternoon.  There are many sheet of letters designed in a variety of themes.  Primary colored letters, pastels, animal prints and even varying fonts and sizes.  I love that Melissa and Doug included the use of different fonts because some children become so fixated on what is a “correct” letter symbol.  This helps mom or dad or grandma or big sister (you get the idea), help a child identify letters that may look a bit different depending upon font used.  The Melissa and Doug Large Alphabet and Number Sticker sets are great for letter recognition, sound recognition if used to spell words (highly recommend actually using the letters to spell), and also the use of stickers is a wonderful fine-motor activity. I used to spell my son’s name on a large piece of paper and then had him identify the letters, peel them and stick them on top of the hand-written letters.  You can have your sweet kiddo choose his own words to stick and spell.  

Melissa and Doug Letter & Number Stamps

The Melissa and Doug Company is an educator’s dream company.  They do a fabulous job or creating quality educational products that can withstand the beatings that often come from being primarily used by young children. This set of alphabet letter and number stamp set is another tool (but my son thinks they are a toy).  He loves using the stamps to “spell” his name and the names of our family members.  Another reason that I particularly like these stamps is that the set includes some basic punctuation marks (periods, question mark, etc.) and numbers.    Having these punctuation marks available allows the educator to introduce the basic structure of a sentence and therefore, can be used for years. The numbers are an added bonus for obvious reasons. The child also works on his or her fine motor skills when using these stamps simply by the specific grip that he or she must employ in order to hold, ink and imprint the stamps on paper.  The options are endless with this Melissa and Doug Alphabet & Number stamp set:

    • Practice Letter Name Identification 
  • Practice Letter Sound to Letter Symbol Correspondence 
  • Word Building by Copying 
  • Spelling By Sound (once simple sounds are mastered) 
  • Number Recognition 

All in all, these 3 tools are just a few of my favorite resources to use when teaching beginning phonics, reading and spelling. 

All About Learning Press

 

ABC Crafts for Uppercase Letters-468x60All About Reading Pre-reading I have to give a shout-out to All About Learning Press who does a phenomenal job breaking down the spelling and reading process step-by-step to accommodate children who learn differently. I have used their All About Spelling materials and absolutely LOVED it for both of my girls. I have also used it in my tutoring with children who are struggling with traditional reading strategies. I am so excited about using their Pre-reading program with my son and had to share. This company has so many phenomenal articles and resources to equip learners of every age and stage. Can’t wait to get started with them! 🙂 These resources have been instrumental in my children’s literacy journey and I hope they prove to be helpful for your family! 🙂

 

What about You, Friend?

How about you?  What are your favorite preschool and early elementary phonics, reading and spelling tools? 

Grab Your Free 4 Steps to Meltdown Recovery Cheat Sheet!

 

Deepen your parent-child relationship.

Equip your child with  tools to navigate BIG emotions in a healthy way.

Empower your unique child to live a life of confidence and purpose.

Create peace & joy in your home and ENJOY your child.