Posted by: ad65shorty | February 15, 2011

Helping your beginner reader

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post the last couple of weeks. In watching a friend read with her child a couple of weeks ago, I realized that many parents haven’t had the “training” to know how to best help their child with the books they bring home for homework. I’m no pro, and definitely don’t know it all, but I thought I’d offer some ideas or hints that may help you help your child. These are things I’ve learned through my own experience and in my trainings.

1. The books your child brings home should be easy! They are supposed to be independent and help your child practice the reading skills they are learning at school. There shouldn’t be too many tricky words so your child really should cruise right through them. Also, each “level” has multiple levels within it. Some of those books will be super easy; others may be a little harder or longer.

2. I always read through the book before giving it to my child so I know what it’s about. I make note of tricky words my child may need help with.

3. We start with a “picture walk.” We go through the book page by page talking about the pictures. For an average Kindergartner, I offer lots of support. I use the words they are actually going to be reading when doing my picture walk so they become familiar with the language. For example, in this book about fruit, it says, “I like oranges and pears.” So, when I get to that page, I’ll say, “Ooh, I like oranges and pears.” Next page, “What do I like here? Pears and peaches.” See how I’m offering lots of support?

With a more advanced Kindergartner, or an average 1st grader, I make sure to introduce new vocabulary and explain what it is; even if they can read the word, I always make sure they can understand it. For example, my son brought home a book about banks yesterday. He had never heard the word “teller” so when we got to that page in our picture walk, I made sure to explain what a teller was.

4. The next thing I do is point out tricky words. There should only be one, maybe two, in these books. If there are more, just choose one or two. It’s all their little brains can handle. I’ll say something like, “On this page (open book to whatever page the word is on), there’s a tricky word. It’s the word ‘caught.’ What sound do you hear at the beginning? What sound do you hear at the end? Can you find a word that looks like that?” If that same word appears on another page, we’ll turn to that page and find it again. I have them find it by making a “window” around the word, like this:

5. Now, it’s time to read! Make sure your child gets to hold the book and turn the pages. That’s part of the ownership and confidence that comes with reading. For a beginner reader, they should be pointing to every word on the page. This is CRITICAL to the reading process. If you need ideas on how to teach this, let me know. I have a whole bucket of ideas stored in my brain that are FUN! As children become more proficient, the finger needs to be taken out because it interrupts their fluency, which is another step in the reading process. This normally doesn’t happen until 1st or 2nd grade for an average child, but may come sooner or later, as well.

6. The most important part of the reading process comes after the book is done. Please make sure to include this step! That’s checking for comprehension, even if it’s a simple book with only a couple of words on a page. Ask questions. “Can you tell me what this book was about?” “What happened at the end?” “Would you want to meet one of those trolls?” “What was your favorite part?” Just choose one or two questions.

I’ve met many kids who could read any word I put in front of them, but they couldn’t tell me what any of the story was about. And isn’t that what makes reading enjoyable?! So, talk, talk, TALK about what you’re reading.

7. If possible, have them read the book again. My son doesn’t like to read it to me again ’cause that’s boring (You know. Come on, Mom! Why would you suggest such a thing?!). But, I try to have him read it to his dad or his sister. He’ll read to his dad later that night, especially if it’s a fun book. Plus, I think it’s good for dad to hear how much your child is improving, as well. Sometimes I catch my son reading to an action figure or a stuffed animal, as well. Also fun! Reading again helps with confidence and fluency. For me, it’s a big test of how well he retained those new skills (new vocabulary, tricky words).

I think that’s it!! Anything I missed? Anything you do with your child?



  1. I really appreciate this post. I’ve needed some guidance in this department lately. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Mindy! I debated writing this because I just don’t feel like I have enough knowledge, and I didn’t want to sound arrogant or anything. Seriously, I’ve played around with the idea for over a month. Your comment made the whole thing worth it! Knowing I helped one mother help her child was all I needed to hear! Thank you so much!! 🙂

  2. Soooo true! Reading comprehension makes a big deal. My older son has just taken the ACT and scored very well on the Reading portion. I’m hoping it’s because I asked him tons of questions about the books he’s reading all of these years. Good job son!

    • Great job, Daylan! And great job, Mom! 🙂

  3. Thank you for this timely post!!! My “soon to be Kindergartner” is so anxious to learn to read… but it is hard to know where to start, so thanks for the tips!!

    • Thanx, Emily! I hope I helped, if even a little bit! Let me know if you have any more questions, and keep us posted on her progress! This is one of my favorite parts of parenting! 🙂

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