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

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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?

“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!


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Suanna Sears

    I’ve had a child or two who have struggled a little too, and I would keep the books I knew they could read well where they were easily accessible to the child. At reading time I would read a couple pages of the emergent reader to my child and then have them either reread the pages on their own or read 1-2 pages on their own. Then the next day I would have them read the same pages to me. The repetition seemed to help with their fluency and when a word stumped them I would tell them the word and remind them of the rule, pretty soon I could just remind them of the sound if needed. They soon had improved greatly and after reading a few of the emergent readers like this they were able to do them better on their own.

    1. Excellent tips, Suanna! Thanks for sharing what has worked well for you and your children!

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