One of the things I love most about being a reading specialist is watching a child who is struggling in school start to feel proud and confident in their abilities. This change usually has little to do with me or my teaching and a lot to do with providing the correct materials. Rather than utilize flashcards and reading drills, it's more fun and usually more beneficial to start by helping children identify themselves as readers. Adding "reader" to their self-image will spark enthusiasm, much like buying workout clothes prior to working out. Let them feel a sense of ownership by picking out a library tote or helping to create a reading nook in your home. To make your life easier, below are five essentials to help you get started.
If you want the short list for your Amazon order, pile these items in your cart: Short Vowel Decodable Books, Golf pencils or crayons, phonics blocks or CVC letter cubes, a personal notebook or fill-in journal and sand for practicing sight words. If you are curious about the reasoning behind each item and a few choices, please keep reading.
Decodable Short Vowel Books - Giving a beginning reader a book that is far too difficult for them is like walking into the advanced Zumba class when it's your first time to the gym. You would leave feeling defeated and exhausted. So providing the correct types of books for beginner readers is pretty important. Decodable books are designed for students to learn a single concept at a time. Choose readers that are labeled, "Beginner, set one or short vowels." Once your child has mastered short vowels then they can move on to sight words and long vowels. The most popular series are BOB books or decodables that incorporate popular characters, such as Pinkalicious and Lego Super Heroes.
CVC word rod - These toys help children build three-letter words containing a short vowel. As they learn to decode, your children will have a lot of fun manipulating words. These rods and blocks will help them practice one vowel at a time and change words like mat to hat or top to mop. Alternatively, if a student is ready to build words independently, try these phonics cubes.
A personal notebook - Any journal or simple notepad will do. Encouraging a child to write however they wish, to make lists or draw pictures, will spark creativity and deepen their understanding of the purpose of writing. This fun fill-in the blank journal provides some structure and fun writing prompts.
Small pencils and crayons - Did you know that when a child is learning how to write they benefit from using small golf sized pencils? It goes against popular belief that a child needs a large pencil. Actually, the larger pencils and crayons are designed for infants and babies who grasp with the palm of their hand. When a child is learning to read and write, the formation of the letters and motor skills can have an affect on his or her reading ability as well. By providing small pencils kids more easily practice proper pencil grip.
Sand or tactile materials - High frequency words make up approximately 65% of all written text, so we want to help children memorize these words to make reading easier. As a student begins learning letter formation and sight words, it's helpful for them to practice spelling through a multi-sensory experience. Plainly said, they need to incorporate their entire body and senses to transfer the information into their long-term memory. The sand box linked above is helpful because the colored bottom makes the letters and formation stand out and it also comes with a lid to keep the sand from spreading throughout your house.
Starting with these five items will help you create excitement around reading for your child. It also will help you, as a parent, feel more informed and confident in assisting your little one. Consider wrapping the items in a fun package or adding them as stocking stuffers for Christmas. As always, feel free to email me with questions or thoughts on ways to help your little reader at firstname.lastname@example.org.