Does my son need to know the letter names to be able to read?

Dear Carrie

Does my son need to know the letter names and sounds to be able to read? 

I have a son who will be 7 soon. We have been working on letters and their sounds since he was 3 years old. We have used Leap Frog videos, Reading Eggs, Star Fall, online games – but he doesn’t retain them at all. He knows how to spell his name which has two E’s and two T’s.  However, if I ask him to write those letters, he doesn’t remember them. This is true for most letter names. Last night I was pointing to letters on the keyboard and asking him what they were. I would point to the T, and he would say “E”.  So, then I would point to the E, and he would say “E”. It was this way with most of the letters. At this point, I have no idea how to help. He knows his letter sounds. But, what if he doesn’t know his letter names? I guess my question is, does my son need to know the letter names and sounds to be able to read?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Stumped on Letter Names and Sounds”

Dear “Ms. Stumped on Letter Names and Sounds,”

Children do not need to know letter names in order to read. So, I would focus more on learning the letter sounds instead of the letter names and letter sounds both. Learning both names and sounds can be a challenge to keep straight! Of course, later it helps to know the letter names in order to spell, to copy, to alphabetize, and to use the dictionary. However, to read only the sounds are needed.

Using a formal curriculum will help systematically teach letter sounds.

Next, I am wondering if your child has had any formal curriculum that actually teaches the letter sounds and reviews them on a daily basis? The reason I ask is that all of the online options and videos you mentioned are great, but in order for the sounds to really stick (for quite a few kiddos), many different senses are needed to be employed and much practice is needed. This doesn’t mean that drill, drill, drill is the needed method. It just means that regular practice with the sounds in a variety of ways will make all the difference.

Once you begin phonics, keep going and don’t take breaks.

Once your kiddo starts to pick up the sounds you keep on going, making sure you are not pausing and taking breaks. Phonics is one of those things that once you begin, it helps to keep some steady practice going until kids really grab on. We took the last three summers off with my last little guy during the process of teaching him phonics. I cannot tell you how much I regret that! It was at a time when he really needed to keep on going, but I was just so busy writing that I lost steam with the phonics.

Commit to working on phonics 10-15 minutes daily for five times a week.

So, one thing that I would encourage you to do is either commit to really beginning phonics (and learning letter sounds) formally. Then, know you’re in it for the two-year haul until most of the phonics is learned. Or, wait until you are ready to be more committed. I am not saying that you need to commit vast quantities of time to phonics daily, but I am saying that 10-15 minutes daily (5 times a week) is needed on a regular basis to truly see progress.

Phonics instruction requires teaching and interaction.

Phonics is one of those areas that also requires a teacher. It requires interaction and the teacher and child sitting together and sharing the words, books, letter sounds. It is work, but it pays off. We did The Reading Lesson here in a stop and start fashion that really set us back. After we finished it completely, I had to pull out an old phonics program I had here and go almost completely through that simply to build fluency and to review (because we had stopped The Reading Lesson over two different summer breaks on two different years, which made remembering everything really tough for my little one).

Consistency is key!

I could have probably gone back through The Reading Lesson all over again. However, I just didn’t want to redo it all again. So, I share this to let you know that amount of teacher time spent steadily teaching phonics can make a big difference. I am convicted of that anew, and I did not take phonics off off ever again with my youngest! He progressed, but I could see that if I’d taken another summer off all of his slow but steady progress would have been lost…again. With my older three, I was much more consistent early on in teaching them phonics. What a difference that made!

It is also possible that your son has this as an area of struggle for other reasons. We won’t know that for sure right now unless you have already devoted several years steadily teaching him phonics five times a week with no progress made. So, I would recommend choosing a phonics program and sticking with it! Then, let’s see what happens next!

Blessings,
Carrie

Choosing DITHOR Book Pack and Student Book Levels

From Our House to Yours

Choosing DITHOR Book Pack and Student Book Levels

Each of Heart of Dakota’s (HOD’s) Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR) book packs includes a range of reading levels within each set of books.  Specific reading levels are also noted individually for each book. The Level 2 Book Pack includes books ranging from 3.0-4.1 (third grade through fourth grade first month).  Moving on, the Level 3 Book Pack includes books ranging from 3.5-5.1 (third grade fifth month through fifth grade first month). Progressing on, Level 4/5 Boy Book Pack includes books ranging from 4.0-5.7 (fourth grade through fifth grade seventh month). Similarly, the Level 4/5 Girl Book Pack includes books ranging from 4.0-5.6 (fourth grade through fifth grade sixth month).

Level 2 Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 2 Book Pack has shorter chapters, a larger font size, and some pictures. The Littles is read for 10 days and is one of the Fantasy book selections. It has a reading level of 3.0, making it one of the easiest books in the Level 2 Book Pack. There are 73 pages in The Littles, so students read about 7 pages a day.

The Secret School is read for 15 days. It is the Realistic Fiction book selection. It has a reading level of 4.1, making it one of the hardest books in the Level 2 Book Pack. There are 153 pages in The Secret School, so students read about 10 pages a day.

Level 3 Book Pack Samples

In general, the Level 3 Book Pack’s chapters begin to get longer. Likewise, the font size begins to get smaller, and there are very few pictures. Louis Braille is read for 5 days and is one of the Biography book selections. It has a reading level of 3.8, making it one of the easiest books in the Level 3 Book Pack. There are 75 pages in Louis Braille, so students read about 15 pages a day.

Owls in the Family is read for 15 days. It is the Humor book selection. It has a reading level of 4.9, making it one of the hardest books in the Level 3 Book Pack. There are 91 pages in Owls in the Family, so students read about 6 pages a day. You can see the font is much smaller, the sentences longer, and the sentence structures more complex. This is why students are assigned to read less pages per day.

Level 4/5 Boy Interest Book Pack Samples

In general, the 4/5 Book Packs have longer reading assignments, very few pictures, smaller font size, and are thicker chapter books with higher vocabulary and more mature topics. For example, in the Level 4/5 Boy Interest Book Pack, Buffalo Bill is read for 15 days. It is the Folk Tales selection. It has a reading level of 4.0, making it one of the easiest books in the Level 4/5 Boy Interest Book Pack. There are 182 pages in Buffalo Bill, so students read about 12 pages a day.

The Black Stallion is read for 15 days. It is the Adventure book selection. It has a reading level of 5.3, making it one of the hardest books in the Level 4/5 Boy Interest Book Pack. There are 197 pages in The Black Stallion, so students read about 13 pages a day.

Level 4/5 Girl Interest Book Pack Samples

In the Level 4/5 Girl Interest Book Pack, Freedom Crossing, for example, is read for 15 days. It is the Historical Fiction selection. It has a reading level of 4.6, making it one of the easiest books in the Level 4/5 Girl Interest Book Pack. There are 148 pages in Freedom Crossing, so students read about 10 pages a day.

Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran is read for 15 days. It is the Nonfiction book selection. It has a reading level of 5.6, making it one of the hardest books in the Level 4/5 Girl Interest Book Pack. There are 167 pages in Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran, so students read about 11 pages a day.

Choosing Between Book Pack Levels

In general, we would say err on the side of choosing that which is easier if between two levels.  The DITHOR Teacher’s Guide and Student Books will add challenge; we don’t want the books to be at a challenge level, but rather at a level that the student can read fairly well on his/her own.

Choosing Which Genre Your Student Will Read First

Heart of Dakota lists the reading levels for each book on its website, in its catalog, and on its Optional Book Recommendations paper sent with your order. Genres can be done in any order, so starting with the easiest reading level for a struggling reader makes good sense. Starting with whichever genre or book your student is most excited about for a strong, yet dispassionate reader makes good sense.  If you have an average reader who enjoys reading, starting with the first genre (or any genre) makes good sense. Keep in mind the range of reading levels is intentional – not too big, not too small. Students’ reading and comprehension will gradually improve throughout the year. The range of reading levels Carrie carefully picked accommodates for that growth.

Choosing Which Level of DITHOR Student Book to Use

As far as the DITHOR Student Books, the 2/3 Student Book includes assignments every 2 to 3 out of 5 days, has less writing, and gives students a good foundation in genre study and in story elements.  The 4/5 Student Book includes assignments every 3-4 out of 5 days, has more writing, and is assuming students have had some formal literature study of the genres and the story elements, building upon this foundation.

In general, 2nd and 3rd grade students need to do the 2/3 Student Book.  Fourth grade students who have not had formal literature study of the genres and story elements or who are not accustomed to writing more do one year in the 2/3 Student Book and move to the 4/5 Student Book in fifth grade.  Fourth grade students who have had formal literature study of the genres and story elements and who are able to write more place in the 4/5 Student Book.  Reading levels of book packs do not need to match Student Book levels.  So, for example, a student who is an avid reader who does not write as well or who has not had formal literature study may use the 4/5 Boy or Girl Book Pack with the 2/3 Student Book.

In Closing

I hope this helps you with choosing which level of book pack and which level of student book you’d like to use with your younger student(s). If I look at a book inside and outside, know the total number of pages in the book, and know how many pages my student would need to read each day, I can usually choose what level is best for each of my sons. I hope you find the same to be true for you and find this to be an encouragement!

In Christ,

Julie

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.

Blessings,

Carrie 

Summer is a great time to encourage reading!

Teaching Tip:

Summer is a great time to encourage reading!

While it is important to take time off during the school year, summer is a great time to encourage reading. The long, lazy days of summer just beg for you to curl up with an ice cold glass of lemonade or iced tea and a book!

How can you encourage your children to read this summer?

One way to encourage your children to read this summer is by example. If you read this summer, and your children see you reading, they will be encouraged to read! One way we have done this at our house is to set aside time as a family to read.

Have a family “reading time.”

Last summer, we set aside 30 minutes in the evenings after dinner as family “reading time.” We gathered together in our living room with our individual books and read silently. We set the timer, and when it rang… we were done. At the end of reading time, sometimes a few family members shared something about what they’d read. But mostly, we just read. We enjoyed this time so much as a family that we carried it into our school year!

These days we steadily get to reading time about 4-5 nights a week. Sometimes the boys don’t want to take time out of their busy schedules to read. Yet, when we do take time to read, all of us seem to end up enjoying it. My husband and I really look forward to reading time. I finished several books this year I never would have found time to read had it not been for reading time!

What types of books will tempt your children to read this summer?

Summer seems to be a time for a different kind of reading. If you’ve ever walked through a book store in the summer, you will notice tables of books labeled “beach reads.” These are books that are easy to read on a beach or outdoors somewhere. They often are absorbing books you can take breaks from, return to, and easily be caught up in again. Books like this also work well for the family “reading time” I described above. Sometimes “beach reads” have a lighter, more carefree feel to them. Other times they have a brisk and thrilling pace. Overall, they are enjoyable, easy to read, and have simpler phrasing and diction. They are books that are just less work to read.

Series books work well for summer reading.

Summer can be a great time for series books. Series books often have the “beach read” feel. They have simpler phrasing and diction, have similar plots, follow a definite pattern, and require much less work to read because you already know the characters. Plus, if your child gets invested in a series, he/she can just keep on reading from one book to the next. Of course, not all series books are good. Many are not. So, you’ll have to use discernment to discover the series books that are acceptable for your family.

Take time to cultivate the habit of summer reading.

Time spent cultivating the habit of summer reading is time well spent. We’ve discovered our children curled up reading on the couch, reading in their beds, reading in the bath, and reading late at night. They started a book during “reading time” and just had to know what happened next! Try a family reading time and see what you think. Who knows, you may find yourself burning the midnight oil to find out what happens next in your book too!

Blessings,
Carrie

Use coupon code JUNE-LIBRARY for 10% off the Beyond Little Hearts Classic Set!

Library Builder

Use coupon code JUNE-LIBRARY for 10% off both variants of the Beyond Little Hearts Classic Set!

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 JUNE-LIBRARY on our website for the entire month of June to save 10% on the Beyond Little Hearts Classic Set. To view all of the books in this set, just click here!

This set of books contains nine read-aloud titles, one for each genre of literature that is scheduled in the storytime part of the plans in  Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory. Each book is used for 20 days of the plans.

How is the Storytime part of the plans in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory used throughout the year?

(From the Introduction of Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory):

Storytime
Daily storytime sessions are based on literature that is read aloud from the
following nine genres: Biography, Adventure, Historical Fiction, Fantasy,
Mystery, Nonfiction, Humor, Realistic Fiction, and Folk Tale. Each type of
literature is read aloud for 20 days, except for Folk Tale which is read aloud
for 10 days.

The instructions and activities are written to be used with any literature.
This flexibility allows you to use your own discretion in selecting literature to read aloud to your students. The structure also allows you to select the
pace at which you’ll complete your read aloud selection.

Each 5 day unit in the guide includes the following reading activities in coordination with the read-aloud assignments:
*1st Day: introduce and study different types of literature
*2nd Day: model narration to foster comprehension
*3rd Day: identify and analyze a different story element for each genre
*4th Day: relate personally to one Godly character trait, compare
Biblical and book characters, and select one area to improve
*5th Day: practice narration by retelling the story in a variety of ways

Use coupon code JUNE-LIBRARY to save!

To apply this month’s savings, just enter coupon code JUNE-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