SchoolFamily Voices

Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.

Help Your Beginning Reader Become a “Decoding Detective”

 To increase reading levels, beginning readers need the confidence to decode new and unfamiliar words.  A simple way to do this is by building on words they already know.  Teach your beginning reader the fun of becoming a “Decoding Detective:”


  • To sound out a new word, encourage her to look for the “little words inside the big word.” For example, if she’s stuck on the word “together” break it into small parts.  With your finger cover the “gether” part of the word and have her say “to.”  Next, with two fingers cover the “to” and “her” parts and have her sound out “get.” Then, cover the “to” and “get” parts, for the word “her.” Blend the three little words, to-get-her, for the new word “together.”


  • Look for the pattern in sight words.  If he knows the word “the” build on that word.  “The,” with an “n” becomes “then,” “the,” with an “m” becomes “them.”  “The,” with a “re” is “there.”  “The,” with a “y” is “they.”  When she knows the sight word “could” look for the pattern to learn “would” and “should.”


  • Look for “word family” words and show her how to change the word with a new beginning or ending letter.  “An” with a “c” in front, becomes “can.”  “An,” with a “d” at the end becomes “and.”


  • Start with a simple blend.  When he knows the word “tree,” for example, use that familiar “tr” initial blend for other words that begin with “tr” such as train, track or truck.


Once your child learns to decode new words, by building on what they already know, their confidence and reading comprehension will soar!

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