Archives For early reading

Your child, like many of my students, may be eager to read chapter books. Sadly, few beginner chapter books are phonetically controlled to allow your child to use decoding skills to sound out words.

2015 09 17 High Noon BooksLuckily, High Noon Books has come to your child’s rescue. Even my most reluctant readers feel huge success with these chapter books. As your child will, they quickly discovered that words in these books follow decoding rules. So when need be, they can easily sound out words as they read. My students love High Noon Books!

The High Noon Books collection starts at a first grade reading level. Their chapter books have themes that appeal to seven to fourteen year olds – great for older emergent readers and English-as-a-Second-Language students, too. Level one, for example focuses on one-syllable words with short vowels. Each book has six short chapters. Each chapter contains no more than four pages. 2015 09 17 High Noon Books insideLarge text and one picture per chapter provide visual interest and context clues. The last page of each book lists high frequency words, so you can pre-teach any sight words to your child before starting to read the book.2015 09 17 High Noon Books High Frequency

You can purchase High Noon Books directly from their website: High Noon Books. They offer both high-interest, phonetically-controlled fiction and nonfiction books.

Hope your child experiences the joy and success my students have over the years with these books. There is nothing better than seeing reluctant readers eager to finish their first chapter book so that they can start their next!

What was your child’s first favorite chapter book series?

How do you engage your baby, ages one to three, in reading? My answer, create a personalized wordbook of objects that interest your child.

2015 07 14 Personalized Workbook all.jpg

Bella’s Wordbook

Your child’s workbook should include words that you hear your child say or that you know are favorite objects, such as a favorite stuffed animal.

For example, your daughter might love saying spoon and bowl. (Mine did.) Glue photos of the actual objects that interest your baby to cardstock pages. Write below each photo the word to identify each object. You should include a personalized sentence. Underline the identifying word.  For my daughter I wrote, “This is Bella’s bowl” and underlined the word “bowl”.  To baby proof your baby’s book, slide each word page into a plastic sheet protector. Tape shut each sheet protector along the top and put the pages in a plastic binder.

Start with just 10 words!

Read the book to your baby several times a day. After a month, add ten more word pages with photos.

As your baby begins to read the words in her book, you can make a game of labeling with sticky notes the actual objects around your home, for example, high chair, toothbrush, and hairbrush. In our home, we labeled our dog. The key is to include words that interest your child.

As your child reads her book with you, she will begin to understand that written words have meaning. You can further emphasize this by touching each word individually as you read the sentence that goes with each word. This teaches your baby not only the directionality of reading from left to right, but also that each word has its own meaning and individual pronunciation.

Have fun making your child’s own personalized wordbook that she will want to read again and again. My daughter, who is nine, still looks at her wordbook from when she was a baby and enjoys knowing what she was interested in when she was so little.

How do you document your baby’s first words?

When friends and clients ask how to entertain their young children on a road trip, I respond, “Play audio books for your whole family. You can download them into your smart phone or tablet for your child to listen to with headphones.”

On road trips with my daughter, here are our top three audio books we have enjoyed as a family:

2014 07 09 Grimm AudioGrimm’s Fairy Tales are dark and entertaining. Each tale focuses on a moral that lends itself to further discussion and deeper learning. For example, was it fair that the king banished the maid for trying to steal the identity of the princess?

2014 07 09 Chronicles of NarniaThe Chronicles of Narnia collection by C.S. Lewis includes all of the stories about the mythical Narnia, including The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. Miles fly by as these classic adventures unfold. I am always sad when these stories are over – but then I remember that I can listen again to return to where I have been.

2014 07 09 Harry PotterThe Harry Potter books are entertaining and addictive. Time passes quickly while listening to this wonderful series and when book one is over, don’t be sad. You have six more.

What are some of your favorite audio books to listen to on long trips?


First Published July 10, 2014.

Remembering sight words is a big part of your child learning to read. The words “was” and “you” are examples of sight words. Sight words appear frequently when reading and often times do not follow phonetic rules – your child will not be able to sound them out. Memorization is the best approach to mastering sight word reading and spelling.

2015 04 28 sight word listYour child can memorize sight words with a personalized word book. My students make their own sight word books. Their books contain only the words that they need to master.

Use a sight word checklist to decide which words to include in your child’s word book. The checklist contains the most often used sight words. Have your child quickly go through the list. Check the words that she can read quickly on sight. Add the words that she cannot read into her sight word book.

The sight word book is a blank book with pages big enough for your child to write an individual word at the top and then below to write a sentence and/or draw a picture to help explain the word’s meaning. For example if the word is “where”, your child could write a short sentence under the word like, “Where is my bike?” She could draw a picture of her bike with a question mark as a cue to help her remember that “where” is a “question” word.

2015 04 28 sight word bookStart with 25 words in your child’s sight word book. Add 25 more words after she masters these. This activity is effective because your child creates her own individualized meaning cues for the word through her sentence and picture. By creating the sentence and picture herself, she will remember better the word when she reads and spells it. This is particularly helpful when your child is working to remember homophones – words that sound the same but have different meaning, like “by” and “buy”. The picture and sentence trigger visual memory clues that your child can use later.

My students really enjoy creating and using their own books of sight words and sentences and pictures. What are ways you help your child remember sight words?

Here are some excellent book choices for your child to read to herself or for you and your child to read aloud together.

Reading aloud together is a great approach to use with your emergent reader. She might not be able to read independently, but will be encouraged to do so through your example. Reading aloud is an excellent option to help your child build comprehension by asking, “Who, what, when, where, and why?” throughout the story.

These are my top five favorites that my nine-year-old daughter has tested recently:2015 02 03 Wings of Fire

1. Hugo – This beautifully illustrated story will spark your child’s imagination to the creativity in life’s experiences.

2. Nancy Drew series – My daughter’s great aunt sent us her old copy of this series. Forgot how good it is. Bella loves the action and adventure in these books.

3. The Wings of Fire series – Bella’s favorite books right now play on her love of dragons.

4. The Doll People series – Dolls come alive and have many interesting human-like interactions with each other.

5. The Warriors series – These will appeal to your cat lover, or in our case, our girl who loves both cats and dog!2015 02 03 Warriors

Additionally, the following article by Carrie Goldman provides a more comprehensive list of great chapter books:

Amazing Awesome List of Best Chapter Books for Kids

To confirm that these might appeal, use the Goodreads app on your smart phone, tablet or computer. Goodreads provides a great summary and reader reviews for specific titles.goodreads_logo

For those of you with sons, what are some of your favorite books that you or your child might recommend? Welcome recommendations to share with my students.

Last week, I shared my Read and Spell game for your older preschooler or elementary-age child to practice spelling words or word families.

This week’s game is for your younger child. My Letter Name and Sound game is perfect for your preschooler or older child who needs extra practice recalling the names and sounds of letters. It can help prepare your preschooler for kindergarten by creating a strong foundation of letter recognition and sound mastery.

Like last week’s Read and Spell game, make the game from a sheet of poster board. Draw a track on the board and separate it into boxes. Make the track shorter for your younger child – no more than 30 boxes to help sustain attention. Label each box with an L (for naming a letter) or an S (for saying the sound of the letter). Make the game more interesting by adding extra turn spaces to the board, or spaces that direct your child to “go back” or “go ahead”. Laminate the board for durability.2015 01 13 S and L Board

Make the board game as elaborate as your child wants. For example, if your child loves trains, make the path into railroad tracks. To increase the fun, let your child decorate her game board with stickers or drawings. Personalizing the game can be a fun indoor day activity that will allow your child to make it her own.

In addition, you will need a foam dice, up to five small toy figurines, a dry erase board, markers and an eraser. I use a large foam die to keep down the noise when my children are rolling on a table. The sides of the die should be numbered or marked with dots from 1 through 6.

You can play this game with up to five kids. Have each player pick a figurine and have one roll the die. If your child lands on an L, write a letter on your dry erase board and ask her to name it. If she lands on an S ask her to say the sound of the letter.board_game_board_1_dice board_game_board_1_playing_pieces

The kids I teach love playing this game. I love this game because I can modify it easily for each child’s individual level. Check out last week’s blog to learn about my Read and Spell game – a great way to help your older child practice spelling words or word families.

How do you use games to practice letter name and sound recall with your child?

Based on a blog originally published February 19, 2014.

Read and Spell Game

Julie Haden —  : Jan 6, 2015 — 3 Comments

Your child can practice reading and spelling words with my Read and Spell game. Your older preschooler or elementary-age child can practice spelling words or word families with this game.

board_game_board_1Make the game from a sheet of poster board. Draw a track on the board and separate the track into boxes. Label each box with an R (for reading) or an S (for spelling).  Make the game more interesting by adding extra turn spaces to the board, or spaces that direct your child to “go back” or “go ahead”. Laminate the board for durability over time.

Make the board game as elaborate as your child wants. For example, if your child loves fairies, make the finish line a beautiful fairy house. To increase the fun, let your child decorate her game board with stickers or drawings. Having your child personalize the game can be a fun snowy or rainy day activity. The real fun will begin when your child gives the game a go. The key is to allow your child to make it her own.


In addition, you will need a foam dice, up to five small toy figurines, a dry erase marker board, markers and an eraser. I use a large foam die to keep down the noise when my kiddos are rolling the die on a table. The sides of the die should be numbered or marked with dots from 1 through 6.

You can play this game with up to five kids. Have each player pick a figurine and have one roll the die. If your child, lands on an R ask her to read a word that you write on your dry erase board. If she lands on an S ask her to spell a word you say. Your child gets great practice spelling words or word families. Your child can use the dry erase marker board to write the words that she spells. If your child is just beginning to learn to write, have her focus on spelling by having her arrange letter tiles to spell the word. Letter tiles are available from a school supply store.


The kids I teach are ages three to eleven, and love playing this game. I love this game because I can modify it easily for each child’s individual level. Next week’s blog describes my Letter Name and Sound game – a great way to help our younger child practice recalling letter names and sounds.

How do you use games to practice reading and spelling words with your child?

Based on a blog originally published February 19, 2014.

Reading Focus

Julie Haden —  : Oct 28, 2014 — Leave a comment

Often times my parents will tell me that their children are having a hard time focusing when reading – especially the parents of kids just beginning to read independently. Here are a few techniques to try with your child to help increase their reading focus, fluency and comprehension.2014 10 28 focus

First, when your child is reading aloud, track each word for her with your finger as she reads. If she misreads a word or makes a mistake, keep your finger on that word so she is aware of her mistake until you teach her the correct word or help her focus on the skipped words.

Another way to increase focus while your child is reading aloud is to ask questions periodically about the context of the text or story to insure she understands what she is reading. Help bring her focus to the main idea and specific details about the story.

Finally, bring your child’s attention to words that she misreads aloud. As you track the words while she reads, highlight words that she misreads. So you can review these words with her, copy a chapter at a time as she progresses in the book or text. Then after each chapter, review missed words with your child. This technique also teaches your child to be aware of how many words she skips, since skipping too many words might affect her comprehension of what she reads.

By practicing these three techniques, you are teaching your child how to have greater focus as she begins to read independently.

What helps your child learn to have focus while reading?

Want a fast, fun way to expand your preschooler’s vocabulary and understanding? I found one while working with a student who is an English Language Learner. English Language Learners often have limited exposure to English vocabulary at home. Vocabulary is important to building reading skills and listening comprehension as well as increasing conversational speech.

zoo toobMy new student and I started playing what I call “prop” stories. Prop stories start with small three-dimensional toy figures, or pictures on felt or magnets, that depict animals, people or other realistic or fanciful objects. A blank background can work or you can use a specific background like a zoo theme for example. The key is to focus on your child’s specific interests.

To introduce these prop stories, I model the story first using specific sentences, which I ask my student to repeat. For example in my zoo prop story I might say, “A mother takes her son to the zoo. They see the penguins swimming in the water. They see the elephants swinging their trunks.”

As your child gets more comfortable with vocabulary and sentence structuring, he can begin to create his own stories without your prompting and labeling of words.

zoo feltProp stories are great for children as young as 18 months – 2 years and for older children too. You can find materials for your child’s prop story around your home or can purchase magnetic and felt story sets at teacher school supply stores.

Prop stories are fun. Your child will see them as play and will be motivated by the imaginative interactions with you. As your child plays with you, she expands her vocabulary and language skills as you label the words and create a better grasp on sentence structuring. Your child’s creativity grows too as your child creates and tells stories.

How do you help build your child’s vocabulary through play?

2014 09 29 Bella and DragonYour child will benefit from tutoring whether she needs some enrichment in reading or is struggling. Regardless of the reason to start with a tutor, remember: “It’s never too late!”

Some of my parents who call me about tutoring feel guilty for either not catching the learning challenge or waiting too long to begin tutoring. I tell them not to feel guilty. Until your child is in school and her teacher lets you know, your child’s underlying academic difficulties may be hard to see. Knowing when your child might benefit from tutoring is even less evident. Sometimes as a parent, you might not know until your child’s teacher recommends tutoring.

Your enthusiasm is critical when your child needs tutoring. Focus on your child’s strengths and challenges, both in a positive way. Remember that overcoming challenges and learning new strategies takes time. Continue to have high expectations, but give your child time to learn new skills. Your child’s tutor can give you a gauge of your child’s pace after a few sessions and suggest strategies that you can use to encourage your child.

For example, I often tell my parents to track words for their child as she reads aloud to help with missed words and help increase fluency. Additionally, I find that some of my students who have dyslexia and struggle with reading will also have very strong listening comprehension skills. Therefore, I often suggest to my parents that they balance challenging their child to read books with playing to their child’s strength by providing audio books.

If your child is dyslexic, make your focus her strengths, not her label. I see this happen with parents sometimes – forgetting that their child is so much more than the label would suggest. In many ways, parents are better off just eliminating the label when they talk to their child about having dyslexia. Otherwise, their child may start to think, “I’m the child with dyslexia. That’s why I can’t spell.”  Instead, focus on strategies that help your child be successful.

For example, your child’s tutor might find that she is having difficulties with her reading comprehension in her science text. A tutor might recommend that you help in between sessions by using the strategy of reading the questions at the end of your child’s science chapters before she starts reading the text for specific information. This allows your child to think about the information that she should look for as she reads.

We all learn in different ways and that’s the key message to tell your child. I often tell my daughter that although I’m a great speller, I have to work harder on math. This makes her realize that we all have skills to improve upon. As a tutor, I often say this to my students, “We all have strengths and weaknesses.”

So remember, be positive and embrace your child’s learning challenges just as you do her strengths. Tutoring is a great way to help your child feel more confident and catch up on her skills. Remind yourself that you are an amazing parent because you are helping your child tackle challenges and build on strengths. As a parent of an incredible 8-year-old daughter, I remind myself of this each day.

What are ways you help your child to overcome challenges?