What parent's heart doesn't sink when they hear their young child struggling to read? An immediate response is to jump in and say the word to keep the story flowing. That works for the short-term … but doesn't really solve the problem of why your child is struggling.
Here are three simple ways you can help a struggling young reader gain skills and confidence:
- Practice lowercase letter identification and sounds. If a child is confusing letters, she won't be able to sound out words. It's best to focus on lowercase letters because they are the print used in books. You can practice together by using flashcards, or having your child print the letters. Once she can easily identify the letters, focus on the letter sounds.
- When your child has mastered letter identification and sounds, help him blend the sounds together. The best way to do this is with "word family" words. These are words that rhyme. For example start with the word "at." Once your child knows "at," add different beginning letters to make new words. Put the letter "b" in front of "at" to make "bat" "c" for "cat," "h" for "hat," etc. You can use many short vowel and long vowel words for this practice. Some examples are, "am," "an," "it," "up," "ate," "ike," etc.
- Once your child can identify word "family" words, put them together to make simple sentences like, "A fat cat sat on a mat." Write the sentence for your child on a notebook page, and have your child illustrate what the sentence says. Then have her read it back to you. Keep writing simple sentences, using other word family words, on pages of the notebook. Have your child illustrate each sentence. When the note book is full, your child will have a great word reference tool.
Reinforcing the progression of, "letters make words, words make sentences, and sentences make stories," helps your child understand the natural flow of reading.