Learning letter sounds and shapes is exciting!

Teaching Tip:

Learning letter sounds and shapes is exciting!

Learning the letter sounds and shapes is an exciting time for a child. It is a time when the “code” of reading and writing is unlocked. It is also a stage when children begin to realize a whole new world is opening up to them.

Do you have a child who is learning the letter sounds/shapes for the first time?

If you have a child learning the letter sounds/shapes for the first time, it is a good idea to keep in mind the varying ways children learn. For many kiddos, phonics instruction needs to encompass auditory, visual, and bodily kinesthetic activities. This means instruction needs to involve more than just a child’s eyes and ears. It is often helpful for learning to involve the body as well.

Often we expect children to learn letter sounds and shapes from passive activities.

Often we expect kiddos to pick up and retain letter sounds/shapes from watching letter-based shows (which is a passive activity). Or, perhaps we expect our kiddos to learn letter sounds and shapes by playing letter-based computer games. Even though this is a less passive activity, it is still mainly eye and ear based. While there is nothing wrong with these types of activities, it is good to pair them with something less passive. Often there is improved retention of letter sounds and shapes if we actually involve a child’s whole body in the learning process.

How can learning the letter sounds and shapes be a bodily-kinesthetic activity?

Little Hands to Heaven uses kiddos’ large and small motor skills in conjunction with their eyes and ears to learn letter sounds and shapes. The guide incorporates a wide variety of bodily activities to get kiddos moving and learning at the same time. For example, kiddos trace large masking tape letters on the floor by tiptoeing on the outline of the letter. As they trace the letter, they say the letter sound. When they reach the end of the letter…they jump off! Kiddos also glue cereal pieces, raisins, or marshmallows on marker outlines of letters. Or, they may trace a letter outline on construction paper using an ice cube or paint. Through a corresponding finger play each week, kiddos learn hand motions to signify each letter sound. As a flashcard for the letter is shown, kiddos say the sound along with demonstrating the corresponding hand motion. These are just a few of the activities in Little Hands to Heaven that make learning a whole body experience.

What if your child already knows the letter sounds?

Even if your child already knows the letter sounds, he/she will still benefit from the activities in Little Hands to Heaven. This is because these activities are also designed to hone large and small motor skills. The exercises in the guide also strengthen eye tracking skills needed for reading. All of these skills are a great help as children begin to read and write!

No matter what type of learner you have, Little Hands to Heaven is designed to address their needs.

Since Little Hands to Heaven was written with all types of learners in mind, it encompasses all learning styles. This means that no matter what type of learner you have, Little Hands to Heaven was written for you! Taking only 30 minutes each day, Little Hands to Heaven is a Bible-based readiness program that takes no planning or preparation. Designed for ages 2-5, Little Hands to Heaven will help you create wonderful memories with your child using fun learning that seems like play! If you have little ones, consider Little Hands to Heaven today!



Books make wonderful Christmas gifts!

Teaching Tip:

Are you bombarded with gift ideas this Christmas?

With the upcoming Christmas season quickly approaching, it is easy to get bombarded with gift ideas.  Toys, clothes, digital gifts, and games are often the gifts advertisers target for children.  As a momma of boys, I am always looking for a gift my sons will love. 

Books make wonderful Christmas gifts.

One thing I often forget in the search for the perfect gift is that books make wonderful Christmas gifts.  Books are not expensive and can be reread or passed down to another child to be read again. Books rarely “break” like toys do.  They are not outgrown as easily as clothes.  Books do not go out-of-date quickly, so they can be picked up and enjoyed long after Christmas is over.  Plus, reading is something a child can do alone! Only one person is needed to enjoy a good book.

Warning:  As gifts, books do not usually get an overly enthusiastic response from the recipient.

When my boys open books as gifts, they aren’t always overly enthused with them (even though my boys are avid readers).  Other gifts typically get a more enthusiastic reaction.  However, once Christmas is over, and the other gifts have lost their luster, the books come off the shelf.  

After Christmas, I often find my boys cuddled up in blankets…reading.

Once the busyness of Christmas is over, my boys are often cuddled up in various rooms of the house reading… reading… reading.  I discover them late at night in their beds…reading, begging to be allowed to read just one more chapter.  I find them in the bath…reading. I hear them talking to their cousins about the book they are reading.  This warms a momma’s heart!  

Don’t forget to spend time choosing great books for gifts!

So, next time a birthday or Christmas rolls around, don’t forget to spend some time choosing great books for your kiddos’ gifts.  While not expensive gifts, they affect your kiddos’ minds and hearts far beyond many other gifts! Just remember, the joy that comes from a book as a gift often comes AFTER the excitement over other gifts has passed.



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!



The generous man will have friends of widely different types

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

The generous man will have friends of widely different types, because he is able to give large entertainment to men of many minds, and to meet them upon many points.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Vol. 4, p. 105)