Five Simple Things You Can Do Today to Help Your Kids Become Amazing Readers

Five Simple Things You Can Do Today to Help Your Kids Become Amazing Readers!

One of the questions I hear most from parents of young students is, “I don’t know how to teach reading!” Teaching a child to read is not all that difficult, and it’s important to remember that reading/writing (and spelling) all go hand in hand.

I am going to talk about five simple things that you MUST DO to help your kids become proficient readers, writers and spellers. I have used these methods for years, both as a public and private school teacher, and as a homeschooling mom.  Some links below are affiliate links.  When I link to a product, you can be sure that I have used it myself and highly recommend it, or that I have heard such wonderful things about it, that I have to recommend it to you.  As always, any proceeds made from my affiliate links go toward the upkeep of this site.

Five Simple Things You Can Do Today to Help Your Kids Become Amazing Readers

​1. Read Aloud to Your Kids

Do this as soon as, and as often as you can.  The benefits are endless. If you are the kind of person who wants to learn more about the research, this book by Jim Trelease is amazing.

2. Model Reading Yourself

Countless studies have shown that children from families who read, ENJOY reading. These children do not see reading as just “another subject” to tackle.

3. Label Things in Your Environment

Place a sentence strip like this one on every-day objects around the house.  For example, you might want to label the “door”, “table”, “books”, “bathroom”, “bed”, etc.  Post a color chart and a number chart in a visible place where your child can see them every day. Before you know it, your child will know how to spell these important words without you ever having to give them a spelling test! (I am not, and never have been, a fan of spelling “lists” and tests.)  The research proves why.

​4. Teach Phonics

Yes. Do it.  There is a continual debate among educators about phonics: whether to teach in context or in isolation; to teach in the early years only, or continue through middle school; to not teach at all and use a “sight word only” approach instead…  Here’s my experience as an educator for over twenty years: Teach phonics.  Teach phonics, BUT do NOT leave out steps #1, #2 and #3 above.  The simplest of approaches when you teach phonics is often the best.  We loved the BOB Books, and these little readers from CHC. I have also heard good things about the Life of Fred readers (link below.)

We used the All About Spelling program and loved this.  It is a fun, multi-sensory program which teaches phonics and spelling patterns. We did not use the All About Reading program, but I have heard absolutely wonderful things about this, which is why I am adding it here.  The product links are above. Check them out.  These were created by an educator and mother of a son with severe dsylexia.

5. Make it fun

Please, I beg of you, do not treat reading as another “subject” that you “have to do every day.”  Nothing can turn a kid off from reading like that.  Play with letters and words and create stories together using fun table-top pocket charts like this one which focuses on beginning sounds, this one which is all about word familiesor this one which focuses on ending and vowel sounds.  After you have fun with these, you can create your own stories together using story strips like these. When I was teaching in the elementary classroom, I used large versions of all of these types of pocket charts.  They even sell these for math concepts, which I’ll post about another time.  Kids love being active learners!  Let them move about, manipulate objects and learn to read and spell all while having FUN!

What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluation

What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluations

I will not ask your child to jump through hoops for me. A few years ago, in my local area, it was common to hear from homeschooling families that their evaluator “tested” their kids during a portfolio evaluation. My initial reaction? SAY WHAT?! During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will not ask your child to read aloud to me, do math computations for me, or recite the dates of the major battles in the Civil War. There are, however, certain things that all homeschool evaluators must look for according to FL law, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above. We are so fortunate in our state to have several options to choose from when it comes to providing evidence that our students have made progress each year. The benefits of using the portfolio evaluation option are many. Just take a look at this article to read more. I feel so strongly that the portfolio gives you and me a much more comprehensive picture of your child’s progress than any standardized or nationally normed test, that I do portfolio reviews exclusively.  Testing has its place. I have my girls test every year in addition to reviewing their portfolio and I often recommend that my clients do both as well.  Portfolio assessments provide an authentic way of demonstrating progress, skills and accomplishments. If I ask your child to read aloud to me, in order to assess his/her fluency, what would I be basing that day’s progress on? I would not know how your child’s fluency was at the beginning of your homeschool year in order to compare. Similarly, if I ask your student to take a math test for me, or any other one-time summative assessment, I would need a standard or benchmark with which to compare.

Let’s Look at the Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessments

A portfolio should include any type of formative or summative assessments that you, (the teacher) have done throughout the year.  The difference between formative and summative assessments is that formative assessments are given by you (the teacher) and help you monitor progress and provide feedback as you go along. For example, you are reading a great work of literature with your student, and you pause at the end of every chapter in order to assess comprehension.  You provide feedback and identify any areas of strength or weakness which will help your student improve their learning. Summative assessments are assessments that come at the end of a unit or course, and will examine your student’s learning by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.  For example, you may make up your own grading rubric after doing a unit study on Shakespeare.  You then ask your student to compare Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar by designing a multimedia project.  Your grading rubric shows your student details of what you expect out of their paper or project which you will later use to “grade” it. During a portfolio review, I like to see YOUR formative and summative assessments included in the child’s portfolio.  I am happy to listen to your child read so that I can assess fluency if you would like me to, however, I never include this as part of my portfolio evaluation process, nor does the Florida law ask me to.  I am concerned that if homeschool evaluators who conduct annual portfolio reviews continue to ask their students to do these types of activities as a general rule, that they will be setting a precedent for this, and eventually our homeschool-friendly State of Florida will be adding these requirements to the law so that all homeschool evaluators will then put your child to the test As a homeschooling parent myself, I rather enjoy my freedom to be able to decide whether or not I want another person to administer (any type of) test to my children.  I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to be subjected to it during a portfolio review.

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