Help for Struggling Emerging Readers

From Our House to Yours

Help for Struggling Emerging Readers

Do you have an emerging reader who is struggling? If so, take heart!  There are some simple things you can do to help your struggling emerging reader! Before we get to a few practical reading helps, you should rule out a few common causes for early reading struggles. First, if your child hasn’t had a vision test recently, now would be a good time to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. One of our sons was quite far-sighted in one eye and near-sighted in the other. So, glasses made all the difference in his reading!

Second, if your child hasn’t had a hearing test recently, now would be a good time to schedule a hearing exam. A tympanogram can identify hearing concerns that a normal doctor’s checkup might miss. Tympanograms are quick, easy, and accurate. A tympanogram identified mild hearing concerns in one ear and severe in the other ear for one of my sons. Fluid in his ears was the problem. Likewise, my nephew had the same results. Both were able to take antibiotic to get rid of the fluid in their ears. Both were also on to reading better in no time!

Brush up on phonics to help struggling emerging readers.

If your child is struggling sounding out words while reading the Emerging Reader’s Set books, you may just need to brush up on phonics! Explode the Code workbooks are inexpensive, fun, and easy to add to your child’s homeschool day. Your child can start with Level 2 or 3, doing 1-3 pages a day. These workbooks are witty and take just 5 minutes a page to do. They are a great way to brush up on phonics while still continuing to read the real books in Heart of Dakota’s Emerging Reader’s Set! Heart of Dakota recommends the workbooks rather than the online version. The mind/body connection of writing in the workbook supports better retention than answering online via a keyboard or touch screen.

If your child never completed a formal phonics program from start to finish, you may need to set aside the Emerging Reader’s Set and work through Sound Bytes phonics. This phonics program is more ‘grown-up’ and is intended for older children. It targets higher level skills and doesn’t feel babyish. Furthermore, it fills in any gaps a child who has not been through an entire phonics program may have.

Have your child trail his/her finger under each sentence while reading.

When children first begin reading, there is only one word or one sentence on a page. As children begin to read emerging reader level books, there are more sentences on a page and pictures too. Sometimes children simply lose their place when reading. They look at the picture, and they are lost. Where were they? Now the page is just a sea of words. For this reason, having children trail their finger under each sentence as they read along works well. Eventually, they’ll stop this. However, if they are losing their place while reading, it is a quick transitional tip that works wonders!

Use the supplemental emerging reader options.

If you have a beginning reader doing the Emerging Reader’s Set (ERS) who seems to just be unable to read the next book, this tip for you! Carrie has extra supplemental books, and they are noted for every unit in the ERS schedule. These supplemental books are at the same approximate reading level as the ERS book scheduled in that same unit. So, for example, if your reader gets stuck on the reading level of Unit 15, simply go to the library to check out the supplemental books from Units 1-15. Then, just read through them slowly. Before you know it, your child will be over the hump and onto the next ERS book!

In Christ,


Customize Your Children’s Reading with Heart of Dakota

From Our House to Yours

Customize Your Children’s Reading with Heart of Dakota

I have three sons I’ve taught to read using Heart of Dakota’s guides. Though they have all progressed through the guides in order, I’ve always loved I can customize their reading. This has been wonderful! I have been able to choose the reading and the pacing of that reading to fit each child best. So, while they each progressed through phonics, the Emerging Reader’s Set, and Drawn into the Heart of Reading, their reading was customized to fit them each the best.  Because reading instruction is not tied to a guide’s daily plans, unit themes, or months/seasons/holidays, it can easily be customized without getting your child off-track in your main Heart of Dakota guide!  Let’s see how!

Customize Your Children’s Phonics

With Heart of Dakota, phonics is not tied to any other subject area. The Reading Lesson (TRL), Reading Made Easy (RME), and Sound Bytes are all phonics programs Heart of Dakota recommends. However, any phonics can be used with Heart of Dakota. Phonics is recommended to be done during Little Hearts for His Glory (LHFHG) and/or Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory (Beyond). So, you can customize by choosing which phonics program to use, by choosing when to begin, as well as by choosing how many years to do phonics. You can even further customize your children’s phonics by choosing to use the download or not with TRL. Likewise, you can customize by choosing to use the workbooks or not with RME. So, lots of ways to customize your children’s phonics!

Customize Your Children’s Emerging Reader Set

The Emerging Reader’s Set (ERS) is the next step up in reading after phonics. The ERS provides a carefully planned out list of interesting, well-loved books that gradually increase in difficulty. A schedule for reading these books and engaging questions written specifically for each book is included in both Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory (Beyond) and Bigger Hearts for His Glory (BHFHG).  This 14-book set begins with one of two children’s Bibles. The Early Reader’s Bible is the easier reading level, and The Beginner’s Bible is the harder reading level. Supplement titles of books are also listed for each unit to match the ERS progression. So, customize your ERS by choosing to use it with Beyond or BHFHG, by choosing which level of Bible to use, and by choosing whether to use the supplemental titles or not!

Customize Your Children’s Independent Reading 

Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) is the next step in reading after the ERS. DITHOR is a reading option in Beyond Little Hearts through Missions to Modern Marvels (MTMM). So, you can customize when your children begin DITHOR. There are three different DITHOR Student Book levels: 2/3, 4/5, and 6/7/8. So, you can customize your children’s level of instruction and amount of written work. There are multiple levels of book packs, including Levels 2, 3, 4/5, 5/6, 6/7, and 7/8. So, you can customize your children’s level of reading. There are also girl and boy interest book packs for levels 4/5, 5/6, and 7/8. So, you can further customize your children’s reading by interest.

There is also a Sample Book Ideas list. As any book can be used with DITHOR, this list gives a dozen or so choices per level per genre. You can customize the books your children read using this suggested list.  Or, you can choose ANY book, using what you have on hand or using your library! Just make sure the book you choose matches the genre you are teaching. If you choose your own books, you can also customize the reading pace. Choose either to read one, two, or three books to read over the 15 days of reading each genre. Now, that’s a LOT of awesome ways to customize your child’s reading!

In Christ,

December Library Builder: Save 10% on the Drawn into the Heart Level 3 Book Pack!

Library Builder

Use coupon code DECEMBER-LIBRARY for 10% on the Level 3 Book Pack for Drawn into the Heart of Reading!

We are excited to continue our Heart of Dakota Library Builder book set promotion! On the 1st Wednesday of each month we will be promoting one of our book sets with a 10% coupon code. For this month’s special, use coupon code DECEMBER-LIBRARY on our website for the entire month of December to save 10% on Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 3 book pack. To view all of the books in this set, just click here!

How is the Level 3 Book Pack used in Drawn into the Heart of Reading?

(From the package description in our online store):

“These optional book packs are to be used after the ‘Emerging Reader Set’. They are for use with children who are ready for chapter books with fewer pictures and are ready for more advanced reading material. Average second graders should follow the Emerging Reader’s Schedule. The Level 3 book pack is for use with Level 3 of Drawn into the Heart of Reading. These books are for average to advanced Level 3 readers.

In these levels, your child will read the chosen books out loud to you for a total of 15 days for each genre.  Each book in the package has an approximate reading level noting the grade and month next to it.  Use this information to choose the set that best suits your child’s reading level. Please keep in mind, these specific titles are not needed, but each book was very carefully chosen as an excellent reading selection for the noted reading level.

Our book sets were created to save you time and to help you find quality books at the right reading level. This is one of the keys to a successful reading experience for your child. You are welcome to use your own book selections if you prefer. Drawn into the Heart of Reading truly works with any books you choose.”

Use coupon code DECEMBER-LIBRARY to save!

To apply this month’s savings, just enter coupon code DECEMBER-LIBRARY on our website when you check out! We hope these books will be as treasured to you as they are to us!

Have a great rest of the week!
Heart of Dakota

PS: If you’d like a more in-depth look at what using Drawn into the Heart of Reading looks like in your home, have a look at this article!

Do you have a new reader who is just finishing phonics?

Teaching Tip:

Do you have a new reader who is just finishing phonics?

If so, it’s good to know kiddos often “finish” phonics with varying levels of confidence and skill as readers. Some kiddos finish phonics and are able to read almost anything. Other kiddos finish phonics struggling slowly through the texts provided in the phonics program. If you happen to have a struggler, today’s tip is for you!

Is your reader struggling after finishing phonics?

We had a struggler situation with our fourth little guy after finishing phonics. This was a new situation for me. Our other boys pretty much took off after phonics and were ready for the Emerging Reader’s Set right away. With our fourth little guy, I had stopped phonics instruction over the summer (two different summers), simply because I was so busy writing. This “stopping and starting” took a toll on his readiness to read when he finished phonics. Our son also had tubes in his ears during this time, which we finally had taken out due to fluid in the tubes. This meant he wasn’t clearly hearing the sounds when learning to read either. So, when we finished phonics, he was still struggling to read.

Struggling readers often lack confidence and are easily overwhelmed.

Struggling new readers often lack confidence. Even if they can sound out words, the sheer number of words on a busy page of text is overwhelming. Tiny print with few pictures makes struggling readers never want to open a book again! This means it is important to get a struggling reader excited about reading, so he feels like he can do it.

How can you help a new reader build confidence and fluency?

To build confidence in a struggling reader, choose “real” books that are very easy and that he CAN read without struggle. Make sure these books have less text and colorful pictures. Place these books in a shoebox. Then, have your child read a book from the box at least once daily to you or another adult.

What kind of easy readers could be put in the “box”?

To decide what books to put in the box, take note of what your child can read without difficulty. Often this can be an eye-opener. Don’t worry if you have to back way up to build fluency! We had to back up to the super easy readers with our son for awhile. For example, we headed back to the “Shared My First Reading” and “My First I Can Read Books.” These books come before the Level 1 readers. They are books like the easier “Biscuit” series and “Mittens” series. We also used some Level 1 and above books, but they were the easier looking ones. While these specific titles are in no way needed, I share them to get you thinking. Often our little ones are overwhelmed by too much text on the page. Yet, with books that are too simple, they are missing the thrill of reading a cohesive story with beautiful pictures. So, these books fill that gap.

What about using the “Bob books” or other controlled readers?

My son had the Bob books and many other controlled readers in his room, but he wasn’t excited about them. He thought the stories didn’t make sense. Truly, he was beyond them maturity-wise, even if they were the right reading level practice-wise. My other boys liked the Bob books. My oldest really loved them! However, my other boys read the Bob books when they were much younger. Age definitely plays a role as to when the Bob books or controlled readers will be a good fit.

Reading aloud picture books also helps restore the joy of reading.

In looking to restore excitement in reading, it also helps to read aloud beautiful picture books. With my fourth little guy, I realized we had not been reading aloud picture books very often like we did for our other boys. To remedy that, we began reading one beautiful picture book aloud to our son each night. Then, he read one of his easy “box” books to us. This helped his enthusiasm for the written word to grow more.

How does reading easy books help your child grow as a reader?

As your child reads easy books, he gains confidence, reinforces sounds, and begins to enjoy reading. By setting apart books your child can read easily, you are selecting those that will be enjoyable to read without much work. What was the result at our house? My little one started taking his box of books in the car to read on the way as we went places. He started reading with his box next to him in his bed. He took his box downstairs to read when he had free time. He asked for more Biscuit books and more Mittens books and read them all when they came. He enjoyed reading and wanted to read. He was even ready for the Emerging Reader’s Set in a couple of months.

What should you do when your child struggles with a word?

If my son didn’t remember a word, I tried to have him sound it out. If that didn’t work, I restated the rule, ” Remember ‘ou’ says…”. If he was reading bigger words, I’d cover up part of the word with my finger to show the word in manageable chunks. Then, I would have him read each part and put it together to make the whole word. If he guessed, I’d repeat what he said, and ask, “Does that make sense?” Ultimately, I had a goal not to let him get frustrated and to make reading fun! 😀

Having a box of books the child can read is a great strategy for readers who don’t struggle too.

Placing books kiddos can read into a box or a cube just for them is a strategy that can be applied to many different ages. It sets apart books that really can be read by the child no matter what his stage of reading. This keeps children from frustration with books that are way too difficult. Since our school books push kiddos into higher level material, it is good to keep free reading books at an easier level. No one likes to be pushed to peak performance all of the time. Some things should be easier!



How we use the Emerging Reader Set

Heart of Dakota Tidbit:

How we use the Emerging Reader Set

Did you know that the Emerging Reader set of books is the same exact books in both the Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory guide and the Bigger Hearts for His Glory guide? There are not two different Emerging Reader sets. We have the schedule for this set of books in the Appendix of both guides, but it is the exact same schedule in both of them.

Here is our progression for reading:
Phase 1 – Phonics
Phase 2 – Emerging Reader Set
Phase 3 – Drawn Into the Heart of Reading

We only do one phase of reading at a time, so once your child is all done with phonics, we move her into the ER set. Once she is all done with the ER set, we move him/her into DITHOR.

Have a great weekend!