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,

Julie

Should I go back to teach skills my struggling reader may have missed?

Dear Carrie

Should I go back to teach skills my struggling reader may have missed?

I’ve homeschooled for three years and have a 9 year-old doing Bigger Hearts. This is our first year with Heart of Dakota, and I love it! My son has unfortunately always struggled with reading. He just seems to have missed something. Previously we used first grade MFW phonics and then Time for Learning. My son reads slowly. Sometimes he sounds out words and sometimes not. He runs his finger underneath the words but passes the next word before finishing the previous word. Fluency is not there, but he does comprehend well. He read as far as Prairie School in HOD’s Emerging Reader’s Set. I do all of Bigger Hearts. Sometimes I do R & S English orally and sometimes written. He loves writing in cursive and always does well on his spelling words. We do the writing on the Science lab, and he LOVES our read-alouds!

Last year, he scored at a reading level of 2.4 on the Peabody Test, and that was at the end of the 2nd grade. I also own Sing, Spell, Read, Write and thought I’d try that. Looking ahead to Preparing Hearts, I don’t think he’ll be able to read what he’s supposed to read. I’m just worried that I missed something starting with Bigger Hearts and that whatever I missed won’t get covered in Preparing. So, here is my question! Do I need to go back and teach whatever I may have missed not doing prior to Bigger Hearts? If I do need to go back, do I do that now? We are in Unit 20 of Bigger Hearts, and summer will be here soon. Carrie, I respect and appreciate your opinion and look forward to some help. Hubby and I are at a loss.

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me Decide If I Should I Go Back to Teach Missed Skills ”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Decide If I Should I Go Back to Teach Missed Skills,”

Thanks so much for taking time to share about your son. From what you’ve shared, I’d say that it is possible that your son has never actually gotten to the 2nd grade phonics-instruction level. What I mean is that by doing MFW 1st grade and then switching to Time4Learning, it is pretty likely that your son got a solid introduction to typical first grade skills, but may not have gotten through all the phonics he needs to know in order to read well. In actuality, phonics instruction typically runs through K, 1st, and 2nd grades (increasing in difficulty and adding sound combinations as you go). Kiddos often don’t need to take all three years to go through all needed sounds, but they do need to go through all the needed sounds and know them before “graduating” from formal phonics instruction.

Your son may have missed typical ‘2nd’ grade level phonics instruction.

With this in mind, as your son changed phonics programs mid-stream, he probably missed the typical “2nd” grade level of phonics instruction. Since you own Sing, Spell, Read, Write, you could go from the beginning of that program (skipping much of the writing and doing the singing, spelling, and reading or whatever pieces help him learn and practice using the sounds). Just make sure to go through all needed sounds to the very end of the program. Or, if that feels too lengthy (which to me it would, since it is a full K-2nd grade program), you could instead choose any 2nd grade level phonics/reading program and take him through just that level for the rest of his phonics instruction.

There are many second grade level phonics programs to choose from to get the skills he missed.

There are many second grade level phonics programs to choose from to get the skills he missed. However, I’d lean away from those that will bog you down with a lot of writing (and spelling). Instead, just worry about getting the phonics down. He’ll need more than just drilling the sounds, as he’ll actually need to read controlled books or stories that practice those new sound combinations. This is why it would be good to have a second grade program for that. Bigger Hearts will cover your needed writing, copywork, spelling, and English skills. So, you’re truly looking for a reading only type program and only for the last chunk of sounds more typical to 2nd grade.

Reading Reflex is an excellent resource to go back and help with missed reading skills too.

Another thing that you could look into is a book called Reading Reflex. It is helpful in making sure kiddos have all the sound pictures/phonograms they need to read well. It takes a different approach than a purely phonetic approach, but we used it during my school teaching days for third/fourth grade to help kiddos who were struggling as readers, and it does work.

Third/fourth grade is a common time for children to first need glasses, so I’d make an appointment to rule this out.

I would definitely get your son’s eyes checked too. Third and fourth grade are the most common years for a child’s eyesight to take a turn and for him/her to need glasses, and this often gets missed. This could be another huge factor in your son’s reading. I’d make an appointment for him as soon as possible to rule this out.

Keep moving forward in Bigger Hearts, but work only on reading when you take your summer break.

Next, I wouldn’t stop your daily pace in Bigger Hearts. It sounds like your son is handling all of the other areas well except for the reading. I’d just keep going doing a day in a day. I know you’d mentioned you will be on your summer break soon. I would work on only reading for the summer. Then, in the fall, I’d pick Bigger back up where you left off. Don’t worry about Preparing Hearts right now. Kiddos can change so much over time, and even if you took no summer break from Bigger, you’d still have a minimum of 14 weeks left (which is 4 and 1/2 months, or half a calendar school year). With any kind of a break, you’re 6 months away from finishing Bigger now. That is a long time in the world of kids!

A Few Thoughts on the Emerging Reader’s Set

Finishing at a 2.4 Reading Level would put him at the beginning of the Emerging Reader’s Set. If he made it all the way to Prairie School, that’s quite good! That is where many kiddos begin to hit a bump in the road, as the text gets longer and harder and the pictures begin to go away. One thing that has helped my kiddos at the Emerging Reader’s Level is to practice reading their pages to themselves (reading it aloud) before they come and read to me. This gives them confidence, allows them practice time to sort out their words they’re not sure of, cuts down on missed words, and makes their reading time with me more enjoyable.

When you finish your formal tour through phonics, I’d pick the Emerging Reader’s Set up again. You may have to back up to get him reading more confidently in the Emerging Reader’s Set, so you’ll have to weigh how far you want to back up. Also, it would be good to add in any of the extra books suggested for each week. These are great for practicing missed skills more on a similar reading level.

Blessings,
Carrie

“A Helping Hand” Between Phonics and the Emerging Reader’s Set

Dear Carrie

“A Helping Hand” Between Phonics and the Emerging Reader’s Set

My 6 year-old son is four pages from finishing The Reading Lesson! We are so excited! However, he still has struggles with reading. I’m not sure about having him move into the Emerging Reader’s Set (ERS). He gets frustrated REALLY easily when he has to sound out a word and gets it wrong. Then, he just starts randomly guessing words that might fit the picture. He tried reading the first story in the Early Reader’s Bible and missed about 5-6 words. Should I dive into the ERS – but take it slowly? Or run through another phonics program quickly? He already has BOB books and a few other books, but he definitely doesn’t have a love for reading just yet. It doesn’t help his little sister is reading almost everything in the house. He just needs a helping hand between TRL and ERS! What do you suggest?

Sincerely,
“Ms. Please Offer a Helping Hand Between Phonics and the ERS”

Dear “Ms. Please Offer a Helping Hand Between Phonics and the ERS,”

I’d be glad to offer a helping hand here! We had a similar situation with our fourth little guy after finishing HOD’s The Reading Lesson (TRL). This was a new situation for me. My other boys pretty much took off after phonics and were ready for the Emerging Reader’s Set (ERS). This was not the case for my fourth son!

Things That Probably Didn’t Offer a Helping Hand for My Son

Looking back, there were probably a few things that didn’t offer my son a helping hand. I had stopped over the summer with phonics instruction (two different summers) while using The Reading Lesson, simply because I was so busy writing. I know this took a toll on my last little guy’s readiness when he finished phonics. He also had tubes in his ears, which we had taken out in the summer (due to fluid in the tubes). So, I don’t think he was clearly hearing sounds either. With my years of teaching spent helping kiddos learn to read, I knew all kiddos were different as to how much “phonics” they truly need and how much time it would take them to grow into being able to read real books. So, all of these things were definitely playing a role too in my little guy’s readiness to read.

Placing ‘real’ books in a special shoebox and reading nightly from them was the best ‘helping hand’ for my son!

The thing that really helped get my little one excited about reading (which I somehow forgot along the way) was to place “real” books that are very easy and that he could read without struggle in a shoebox and have him read to me or his Dad nightly from the box. I also realized that we had not been reading aloud picture books to my last little one very often (like we did for our other boys). So, we read one book to him that was a hard picture book nightly, and he read one book to us. This helped his enthusiasm for the written word to grow too.

Though Bob books fit practice-level-wise, he was beyond them maturity-wise.

My little one had the Bob books and all of the other “little” 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 good reading practice level-wise. My other boys liked the Bob books. In fact,  my oldest son loved them! But, the older boys in our family read them when they were much younger. The Bob books were not the “helping hand” he needed. Once I took note of what my little guy could truly read without difficulty, I realized we had quite a ways to go in building fluency.

Backing up to easier readers for awhile was a ‘helping hand’ that built confidence!

He didn’t need another phonics program, he just needed a helping hand by having time with me (or dad) reading the really easy readers to build confidence. So, we backed up to the super easy readers for awhile. For example, we headed back to the “Shared My First Reading” “My First I Can Read Books” (which come before the Level 1 readers). These would be books like the easier “Biscuit” series and the “Mittens” series. We also used some Level 1 and above books, but they were the easier looking ones.

Little ones can be overwhelmed by too much text on a page, so simpler books give a ‘helping hand’ to fill that gap.

For example, some other books that worked for us were Mouse Soup, Wake Up Sun, Oscar Otter, Sir Small and the Dragonfly, Why Benny Barks, Grizzwold, Sammy the Seal, Danny and the Dinosaur, Pie Rats Ahoy, Hiccups for Elephant, My Dog Talks, Thomas and the School Trip, Clifford and the Big Leaf Pile, The Lion and the Mouse, the easier Little Critter books (like When I Get Bigger, Just Me and My Puppy, Merry Christmas Mom and Dad, All By Myself, The Trip, etc.). While these specific titles are in no way needed, I share them to get you thinking that often our little ones are overwhelmed by too much text on the page, and they are missing the thrill of reading a cohesive story with beautiful pictures. So, these books give a “helping hand” to fill that gap.

By placing easier books in a special box, we are setting apart books that will be enjoyable to read.

As they read the easy books, they gain confidence, the sounds are reinforced, and they begin to enjoy reading. By placing books they can read in a box or a cube, we are setting apart those that will be enjoyable for the child to read without so much work. My little one started taking his box in the car to read on the way as we went places. He started reading with his box next to him in his bed. Soon, he began to take his box downstairs to read when he had free time. Then, he asked for more Biscuit books and more Mittens books and read them all when they came. I was thrilled that he was enjoying reading and wanting to read. In a couple of months, he was was more prepared and ready for the ERS. I’m glad we took a couple of months to build skills to begin strong.

How to Give a “Helping Hand” When Sounding Out Harder Words

When he didn’t remember a sound, I tried to have him sound it out, or I restated the rule… remember “ou” says… When he read bigger words, I’d cover up part of the word with my finger(s) to show the word in manageable chunks. Then, I’d have him read each part and put it together to make the whole word. When he guessed, I’d repeat what he said, and ask, “Does that make sense?” I tried not to let him get frustrated and to make the reading fun!

This ‘helping hand’ strategy of placing books in special box could be applied to many different ages!

I think this ‘helping hand’ strategy of placing books kiddos can read into a box or a cube just for them is one that can be applied to many different ages. It sets apart books that really can be read by the child at whatever stage of reading he/she is at and keeps them from frustration with books that are way too difficult. I also try to remember that our Heart of Dakota school books push the kiddos into higher level material, so it is good to keep the free reading books easier. No one likes to be pushed to peak performance all of the time. Some things should be easier! Try these giving a ‘helping hand’ tips and see if it helps your little one!

Blessings,
Carrie

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!

Blessings,

Carrie