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  Teach Your Child to Read

With just 10 minutes a day, you can give your child a priceless gift that will enrich his world for a lifetime.  And seeing your child's mind blossom is a thrill no parent should miss.

Children learn through hands-on play and structured activities so start by searching the environment to find toys and materials related to teaching letters of the alphabet, not forgetting the child's skill level.  Cookies shaped like letters (or make them of Jello or use cooked spaghetti, etc.), music, outdoor activities (draw the letters in sand), and a different game every day.  If you're not a game person, go to:

1. SOUNDS FIRST - Research tells us it works best to teach the sounds before teaching the names
of the letters.  After all, when you read you are sounding the letters, not naming them.  The names
were invented by adults for convenience.  So, get used to it.  You will be calling the letters like this
for a while:  "aaaa, buh, kuh, duh, eeee."  And so forth.

2. FLASHCARDS - You can buy them or make them yourself.  They should have the letter on one side
(lower case) and a picture clue on the other side.  Flashcards help the child learn quicker and enables you
to keep track of his/her progress.  Games are much easier when you have flashcards, plus your child
can match the plastic refrigerator letters to them.  What- you don't have magnetic letters on the
fridge?  Go buy some, and remember to get lower case.  Why is lower case such a big deal?  Because 
99% of the printed material in our society is in lower case.  Look at the text above - how many
capitals do you see?  Go here for discount letters:

Check the magnets to make sure they are not removable - you don't want your child to swallow one
and need medical attention.

3. SPEECH - Most young children have some speech irregularities.  While you are teaching the letter sounds
you have a great opportunity to correct the child's speech.  Watch his mouth when he says the sound
and you can see exactly where the correction is needed.  Say the sound slowly and show him the proper
position of the lips or the tongue ("Put your tongue behind your teeth like this, see?")  If you are not a
family member I wouldn't put your finger in his mouth if I were you.

4. MIRROR IMAGE LETTERS - These rascally letters can take up to three years to learn, so be patient.
Teach them separately rather than all in a group.   Create textured letters from fabric or sandpaper for your
child to trace.   b d p q 

        Make eye contact before you start.   "One, two, three!  Look at me!"
        Talk slowly and simplify.
        Sing your message.
        To get attention, whisper.
        Hug often.
        Use humor. 
        Multisensory approach -
             He hears you say the sound
             He says it
             He traces it with fingertips (plastic letter or other texture)
             He makes a letter in the air

6. ENCOURAGING WORDS (Research tells us that kids benefit more if parents praise them for
hard work rather than for being "smart.")  Here are some words to use instead of continually
saying, "Good job!" over and over:

        Way to go
        I knew you could do it!
        Nothing can stop you now
        You're such a hard worker
        You figured it out
        Good thinking
        You made my day
        Just right
        You're catching on
        You tried hard (if they make a mistake)    

7.  CONGRATULATIONS!   It is now several months later and your child knows at least 22 of the
26 letter sounds.  She is eager to start sounding out words, and meanwhile you have created dozen
of word cards for her, all of them containing short vowels.  Use index cards, and put the words on
one side and the picture on the other side.  Go here to print out the words:

Put a little red dot in front of the first letter of the word.  This helps your child remember the
starting place and gives her practice in reading left to right (very important!).  Now you need
pictures for the other side of the cards.  You might want to purchase a workbook with pictures. 
I suggest Workbook 1 of the "Primary Phonics" series available from Educators Publishing Service
for under $10.  You don't need the teacher's guide because the Primary Phonics series is entirely
self-explanatory.    Go here:

Now all you need are a couple of glue sticks and your child can put his own cards together (he'll
love this).  With your supervision, of course.  This is also the perfect workbook to start your
child writing the words.  If he is too young to write, don't worry.  Fine motor skills develop at
different rates, and some children learn to read before they can write.  

8. SOUNDING THE WORDS - Let's not forget the purpose of these cards - - to teach the
sounding-out process.  Memorizing the whole word defeats this purpose.  And peeking at the
picture first is a NO-NO.  Show her how to sound each letter separately and blend them slowly
into a word.  At first it will be a struggle and you need to help.  That's okay as long as you don't
jump the gun and tell her the word before she has a chance to hear those sounds in sequence. 
Your job is to train her to listen as she sounds the letters.

Teach the short "a" words first, then the short "i", the short "o", the short "u" and finally the
short "e."  Take three words at a time,  practicing daily for a week.  By the time you reach the
short "i" she should be able to learn them in larger groups, six to eight at a time.  Remember,
children are individuals like you and I, so let her proceed at her own rate.

After she has mastered all the word cards (three months to a year) she should have acquired the
ability to sound out just about any new word with short vowels.  She will be trying to sound out
words in her storybooks, in the supermarket and everywhere else.  This is an exciting time for
the whole family. 

During this period of learning to sound out words, the LeapFrog "Word Whammer" is a useful toy
to have on your refrigerator. The magnets are safely embedded in the letters so your child can't
remove them and swallow them, a real safety issue.  In addition to teaching the letter names and
sounds, it teaches blending, word-building (more than 300 three-letter words), and rhyming skills. 
An excellent teaching toy!  Under $20 from Walmart:

-                                               -     LeapFrog Word Whammer Fridge Phonics

9.  TAPE RECORDER -  If you have taken him through all the short vowel words and he still can
not sound out words on his own, but continually makes wild guesses, that means he has been
memorizing them as whole words.  He may not have developed the listening skills that are essential 
in the beginning stages of reading.  This can be remediated by recording his practice sessions. 
When you play it back he hears himself sounding out the words and starts developing those impor-
tant listening skills.  However, you have to edit out his mistakes.  He should listen only to a "perfect"
practice session, with no wild guesses.

Here's how to get the perfect practice session:  Let him say all three sounds and then quickly turn
the card over so he sees the picture and he will immediately say the correct word.  Record five or
six words this way.

Your child will enjoy listening to his tape recording because at last he has succeeded. No mistakes!
Soon he gets it.  His ear has been trained to recognize combinations of letters when he
hears them. 

10.  TESTING - In order to make sure your child can really sound out words on her own, you need
to test her with a short list of words she has never seen.  If she can read the following words with
no help she is ready for her first reader:

    ZIP            BOP            LAP            RAP            TAN            JUG            GAL            YES

11. FIRST READER - This part is not easy.  You have to find beginning readers with short vowels. 
Ask at the library for "phonetic readers."  If they don't have them just request an inter-library
loan from a nearby library.  Try to get the Primary Phonics readers published by Educators
Publishing Service.  If all else fails, explore the Internet for phonics sites.  A lot of parents like

When your child acquires a reader he will expect to be able to magically read like Mommy or
Daddy.  But he is still just sounding out the words, trying to remember all the words so he can
say the sentence, etc.  "Mommy, what's a sentence?"

It can get tedious for both of you.  At this point you might want to introduce tangible rewards:
stickers, pennies, toys, bits of food, etc.  Don't feel guilty - it's not a bribe.  Would you get up
and go to work every morning if you didn't get a tangible reward?  This child has worked very
hard and deserves a "salary," just like any adult . . .

12.  GOOGLE IT -  There are now hundreds of websites with reading help for kids of all ages,
many of them free.  You and Junior have gone through the short vowels together.  Next comes
long vowels, double vowels, double consonants, digraphs, blends, four-letter words, five-letter
words, a few sight words (just a few!) and soon he has read hundreds of books!  Google these
        Phonics programs
        Free phonics
        Phonics fun
        Phonics games
        Preschool reading
        Kindergarten reading
        First grade reading
        Remedial reading
        Teach your child