How to Teach Your Child Sight Words Effectively

One of my funniest teaching moments was when a kindergarten student who struggled to learn letters and sounds asked me where the letters came from. "Did you make this up?" she asked. "Make what up?" I replied. "Letters?" she said. "No, people did when they wanted another form of communication," I explained. She looked at me puzzled and before I could correct my mistake of using the general and inclusive term people she screamed, "Oh no! Not me! I sure did not do make this stuff up." Her frustration was endearing, and we had a good laugh. I explained that I wasn't trying to make things more difficult but hoping to help her feel more confident in the classroom. 

Genetics, personality, home and learning environments all come into play when a child learns to read. Most children arrive as readers when their brains are ready to begin reading. Despite our best efforts to mold our children, we must also take into account his or her unique learning style. 

If you've read anything on my blog, you probably know that I'm a fan of less is more when teaching at home. My goal is first to preserve confidence and help you empathize with your child. Secondly, I provide developmentally appropriate material which allows the student to master a skill. In other words, I try to meet them where they are. However, there is one component of literacy in which all children, despite their skill level, can benefit from ample practice and that is sight words. These words make up almost 65% of all text.  When a child is able to automatically recognize sight words, reading becomes more enjoyable and fluent. Below are three simple things you can do to help your child practice sight words without losing the fun or the magic of reading at home.

1. Explain that there are two types of high-frequency words

Some sight words follow phonetic rules, and some do not. Many schools teach all high-frequency words under the same umbrella of sight words. This is understandable because the goal of learning the words is to recognize them automatically by sight. However, sometimes this causes unnecessary confusion. Try explaining that the reason we practice and memorize these words is that we want to recognize them instantly. If you have inquisitive kids that really need to understand, then you can call words that do not adhere to phonetics 'red words' and the ones that do 'sight words.' 

2. Utilize the senses

When a word is taught using a multisensory approach, not only is it more fun for kids, but it also has a higher chance of transferring into the child's long-term memory. Practice the word using sand, washi tape, sandpaper, paint or shaving cream. If you use an iPad try applying this tactile overlay on the screen. One of the best ways to initially teach the word is to have them write the word 'in the sky.' To do this, a child uses a straight arm and pretends to trace the words very largely in the sky, picturing an airplane writing words or their arm painting the word in the sky. 

3. Only teach two words at a time

Instead of drilling with lots of flashcards, spend quality time on two words a week. Keep track of the words that your child has learned by recording them in a notebook or a sight word ring. Then try to point out those two words in your child's reading and writing. This will allow your child to feel accomplished and successful when they look back at all they have learned. 

I hope this helps you get started with sight words at home! Please email me with questions or leave comments here. 

5 Books on Love, Family and Friendship


At a dinner party the other night, the topic of the 5 Love Languages came up and it sparked a funny conversation. My friends and I tried to determine our own love language and others’ without reading the book or taking the quiz.

Do you know your love language or your child’s love language? The general idea of the book is that we all interpret and express love differently and we don’t always show our partner that we love him or her in the way that they innately feel loved.

The conversation got me thinking about Valentine’s Day and how our communication with one another is more important than candy hearts and crafts. Please don’t take that as a sign to hold the chocolate. My husband kindly refers to it as “mommy’s medicine." To take things a little deeper with my kids this year, I bought a couple of the following books for gifts. 

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That’s Me Loving You by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – If you loved “I Wish you More,” you will adore this new book from the same author. Don’t feel like a wimp if you cry, I can’t read it without thinking about sending my own children off to kindergarten or college someday. 


What Do You Love About You? By Karen Lechelt - A little girl asks each of her animal friends what they love most about themselves. The anteater loves his nose and the giraffe loves his neck. What a great reminder that we can be our own best friend.


You Belong Here by M.H. Clark – This book has stunning images of animals in their unique habitats. The illustrations are mostly black and white and very moving. While the entire story is about a kid, there are no pictures of humans in the book and it leaves room for the reader to imagine her own unique family. 


“And the trees belong in the wild wood and the deer belong in their shade, and the birds belong so safe and good and arm in the nests that they’ve made. And you belong where you love to be, and after each day is through you will always belong right next to me and I’ll belong next to you.”


The Friend Ship by Kat Yeh – Another tear jerker for me. When what you need is right in front of you, it can be easy to get lost looking for your missing piece in life. A story of gratitude and loyalty, this book is a beautiful tale of true love and can be related to family or friendship.


Be a Friend Salina Yoon – This book is about a boy who enjoys living life differently, as a mime. He feels lonely until he finds a friend who seems to understand him. The story helps kids think about the meaning and qualities that make up a strong friendship.


5 Reasons to Read Wordless Picture Books to Any Age (Plus a Few Great Titles)

As a reading teacher, I most often get the question, "What's it say?" So when I help a child pick out a wordless picture book I can turn the tables and ask, "What do you see?" These books are typically given to young children but they can be utilized in creative ways for almost any age, even teenagers. 

Here are some reasons to pick one up: 

1. To teach a love of books to any child, even reluctant readers. 

Sometimes parents say their child just doesn't like books and often teachers say they just haven't found the right ones yet. There are lots of reasons that parents and teachers struggle to help children love reading but most kids are easily captivated by beautiful images. For struggling and new readers, wordless picture books take the pressure off and help them gain confidence when they learn that reading the pictures is too a form of reading. Wordless picture books engage emerging readers who can tell a detailed story about the images. And for developed readers, picture books make them feel young again. Allowing older children to read wordless picture books can evoke a cozy and nostalgic feeling or a sense that they are "getting away" with something by studying a kid's book. 

2. To teach story structure.

Through wordless picture books, children are gaining an appreciation for story structure (the beginning, middle, and ending of a story). When they go to school these skills are formalized into concepts like the story mountain, or plot, sequence, conflict, and resolution. These skills are carried into high school and even college. When children understand structure just by enjoying read-alouds at a young age they are way ahead of the game. 

3. To encourage writing and story-telling. 

Developed readers are able to tell a detailed story using descriptive language and enhanced vocabulary. Older students can have fun with wordless picture books by comparing their version of a story to that of a classmate's or writing a detailed text to go with the book. 

4. To engage children who speak multiple languages

Maybe storytelling is so meaningful to all age groups because it's universal. Recent research also shows that wordless books are great for bilingual students. By allowing teachers and tutors to use wordless picture books, children may speak their native language to tell a story, which in turn teaches universal pre-reading skills while protecting the students' language. 

5. Simply…to have fun. 

Marilyn Jager Adams is a goddess to nerdy reading teachers like myself. In her book, Beginning To Read, she explains that,

It is not just reading to children that makes the difference, it is enjoying the books with them and reflecting on their form and content. It is developing and supporting the children’s curiosity about text and the meaning it conveys...And it is showing the children that we value and enjoy reading and that we hope they will too.

Here are some of great titles to get your search started:

Flora and the Flamingo By Molly Idle. Flora and the Flamingo play together as they attempt to mimic each other's moves. The interactive flaps in this book make their dance and sequence, even more, fun for the reader. 


Wave by Suzy Lee. A fun story of a little girl's day at the beach. She dances and plays with the ocean as its waves crash and recede. The colors and images create a calming and nostalgic feel. 



The Girl and The Bicycle by Mark Pett. An incredibly endearing story about a girl who wants a new shiny bicycle she spots in a store window. She must earn the money for the bike. To do so, she befriends an older woman who gives her odd jobs. The story teaches kindness and hard work while giving the reader a surprise ending. 

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola. A classic. This humorous book tells the story of an old woman who is determined to enjoy a pancake breakfast.


Flashlight by Lizi Boyd. The images and artistic cutouts in this book are outstanding. The story is of a boy's walk to his tent in the dark during a camping trip. 


Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage. This silly story shows a clever walrus who escapes from the zoo. The zookeeper is looking for him and follows him on his adventures throughout the city. 



David Wiesner books. Tuesday, Flotsam and Sector 7 are all highly creative and unique stories of adventure and imagination. Each has very bold, detailed images which capture mature readers and would make create writing prompts. 

Books That Teach Gratitude


Gretchen Rubin writes in her book The Happiness Project, "When I find myself focusing overmuch on the anticipated future happiness of arriving at a certain goal, I remind myself to 'Enjoy now'. If I can enjoy the present, I don't need to count on the happiness that is (or isn't) waiting for me in the future."

Gratitude Journal is an app I've been using for several months now. If my baby is crying a lot or I feel anxious about a big life decision, I will stop and quickly jot down a few moments or just attach a picture that brings me joy and I instantly start to feel calmer. 

 A friend gave us the book, I'm Thankful Each Day as a baby gift. When my daughter was about 18 months old it was her favorite book of all. I've just recently taken it back out of storage and she has so many sweet things to say. "I'm thankful for my teachers and my sissy." So I went on a hunt to find some other good ones that spark conversation.



Here are a few keepers:

I'm Thankful Book - Todd Parr books are so intriguing to both babies and preschoolers. I imagine the bold primary colors and large faces are attention-grabbers. Parr has a way of explaining very complex issues in a simple and straightforward way. He takes the pressure off of parents by starting the conversation.  


Little Elliot, Big Family - Elliot and Little Mouse established a sweet friendship in Mike Curato's first book by using their strengths to help one another. (Little Elliot, Big City is one of my family's all-time favorites). In Little Elliot, Big Family, the tiny elephant is grateful for an unlikely family of friends. This is a sweet book for kids and adults alike.


Good People Everywhere - This book is as moving for adults as it is for children. Watching the news can make anyone feel hopeless. It's important to remember that there are nice and kind people all over the globe and that acts of kindness help the world go around. The book has beautiful images of people helping one another. For example, the author writes, "Today carpenters are building fences and houses, and repairing homes that have been damaged by storms."


A Chair for My Mother - This book is a classic. In a world consumed with materialism the story generally makes even the youngest readers stop and think about the importance of love and relationships. The family in the story endures a house fire and then take pride in saving money for a new chair. Each member in the family is grateful, happy and appreciative of their new chair and find their own unique ways to enjoy it.


What are you reading this Thanksgiving season? Do you have any favorite books to teach gratitude?



Transportation Books

The Taxi That Hurried
The Taxi That Hurried

I've worked in six different schools with grades PreK-Sixth and I've never experienced a group of children that didn't love a good unit on transportation. Anytime that I've allowed the students to choose the unit, it somehow lead to 'modes of transportation.' Here are a few of my favorites. Subway by Anastasia Suen and Karen Katz has wonderful repetition for younger children. The Taxi That Hurried is a classic Golden Book. The rhyming words and onomatopoeias are fun for elementary-aged students. It's also useful when teaching how to use language in their own creative writing. Some other favorites:

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go I remember owning this book as a child and now my own children love it. Timeless.


Little Blue Truck series by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry I love that this book incorporates transportation but also wonderful life lessons about being kind and taking turns for little ones.


Little Tug by Stephen Savage Little Tug is the smallest boat in the harbor but manages to save the day.

Chugga-Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis This book is simple but very engaging for 2, 3 and even 4 year olds. It's a nice bedtime story also.


Byron Barton board books, especially Planes. I haven't found a storybook about a plane yet but love Byron Barton's board books for little travelers.


What are some of your favorites? I'm searching for transportation picture books for older children, like Goodnight Construction Site. Any recommendations?