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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.

Three Simple Ways to Help Struggling Young Readers

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Reading a bookWhat 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.


#1 Terry Hueffed 2011-10-03 22:16
In my book, "Motivating children to Excel in Reading," is a program called,"Key Words." You get a pre-schooler to tell you what their favorite word of the day is. You write it on a 3X5 card, and while doing so you teach your child the names, and sounds of the letters, plus how to blend the sounds to make the word. Then put the card on a shower curtain ring and hang the ring on a special hook where they can be found. After many cards have been added see if you can make a game trying to put the words into a sentence. Your child will discover that he/she needs connecting words. Make a new key ring for connecting words on different colored 3X5 cards. Not only will your child be reading but also writing. Key words originated by Sylvia Ashton Warner in a book entitled,"Key Words

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