Here are 10 amazing resources that will help your children become actively involved in the reading process. Children learn best by investigating, discovering and exploring new information. A Multisensory approach to learning and processing information is the best way to learn. If you think about it anything engaging in life involves more than 1 sense — actively involve your children in the learning process!
For some, learning to decode the sounds and words that make sentences is easy. I have taught many children who just get the code. Mr J was one of those kids, it took very little effort on my behalf to get him reading. Mr O and Miss C on the other hand have had far more direct instruction. Mr J did suffer in the early years with reading too quickly thus, having very little comprehension of the chapter he had just read. Everybody is different; one size doesn’t fit all! It is how we nurture the tiny spirit that will help children find their reading wings.
For the most part, learning to read is not easy or even incidental it is a step by step approach that takes years of effort. There is always huge debate about how reading should be taught and that is a post for another day – we are now back to phonics been in favour. An individualized direct instruction approach works for all children; taking it from where they have gaps and moving forward at their pace is the only way I see that children effectively learn. Learning to read is a process of development. A child cannot effectively move forward without first building a strong foundation.
1. Whiteboard And Marker
Magnetic whiteboards are one of my favourite resources. The whiteboard marker can also aid writing as it is slightly chunkier than a pencil and so can be held more easily. The pen glides across the board so there is no resistance making it easier for some children to write. Magnetic white boards are just perfect for playing with sounds or making words with letters to match a picture. A whiteboard can also be used for assessment purposes as the work can be photographed. As much as some children like to draw and write, others don’t and a white board has been their saviour.
2. Letter Cards
It doesn’t matter whether letters are handwritten or computer made. Individual letter cards in both upper and lower case are essential and only cost time and or ink and paper. They can be used for all sorts of reasons. We use letter cards all the time. Here are some of our favourites ways to play.
Matching upper and lower case
Playing games like Snap, Face Up ,Matching Pairs and Go Fish
3. Letter And Word Rings
I found out about these rings from our previous school in Melbourne. Letter sounds are attached to a keyring and provide hands on fun for kids. They are substantially more fun and adaptable than printable sheets or little books of sounds and words. The letter and word rings are also transportable so they move to and from school well and can also be taken with you on car journeys or out to eat etc.
The 26 initial alphabet sounds are added for children to play with at home – Click here for a list of alphabet activities. I am not a huge fan of high frequency words lists, I prefer a high quality evidence based phonic program such as Sounds Write ( post for another day- watch this space). However, lots of schools still use high frequency words lists as part of their curriculum, so when working with students I always think it is best to do activities to develop word recognition skills in a fun way. Adding words to a ring means that they can be played with rather than just read from a page. Words are added just a few at a time from a box called words I need to learn. Once the words can be instantly recalled they go into a second box called words I know to be revised. Thus, words on the ring are words I am learning at the moment. Playing games such as Snap, Matching Pairs, Go Fish and Face Up all aid word recognition and if you chat about the words too, the conversation will develop comprehension.
I try to upcycle where I can. All the dice I use are from the preschool building block days. Together with stickers they can be changed constantly and when used with a whiteboard can be a host of fun.
5. Letters Of The Alphabet In All Forms
Magnetic letters, letter stickers, plastic letters, foam letters etc. – There are so many different types! I often find that children in the early years or children who struggle bore easily if the activities are not changed frequently. Sometimes it takes many tries on the teacher or parent’s behalf to help a child concrete a concept; even if, just the resources are changed and the concept is the same it can help renew enthusiasm.
Pictures liven up learning. They can be found everywhere from magazines and catalogues to google searches and clip art sites. When working with students pictures of the chosen sound eg /ch/ chips, chicken, chain etc. help to visually reinforce vocabulary and make learning fun. Hand drawn/made pictures can also work well.
Just like using pictures, objects are a practical sensory way to learn sounds, words and vocabulary. I have a box full of items collected over time from around our home and many $2 shop finds; there are even a few fast food toys in the box. Objects can be grouped by sound or rhyme. Treasure hunts around the house can be for a chosen sound. Learning practically is a highly effective way of engaging children in their learning. Children respond better when engaged practically rather than just with a worksheet.
8. High Interest Low Readability Books
There still seems great debate over real books vs reading scheme books. One size doesn’t fit all, children just need books that interest them. I have found decodable stories such as 1.Dandelion Launchers, 2.Little Learners Love Literacy, 3.Oxford Reading Tree Phonics and 4.Songbirds by Julia Donaldson all to be great books to get kids started.
No matter how wonderfully evidenced based the decodable story is, if it is boring then children will be turned off. If you have ever taught an older child who struggles to read then you will understand what a challenge it can be to motivate them. If children do not catch the reading bug early and it all becomes too hard, they can quickly become disengaged as the books read in class only feed their frustrations of “it is all too hard’ and ‘I can’t do this. ‘ Reading is hard at first, so don’t be concerned if your child doesn’t get all the words right on each page. At the end of a busy day instead of your child reading to you, you could share the read and your child reads 1 or 2 pages and then you read 1 or 2 pages in a pattern. Sharing the load with your child will also breed conversation about the book and in turn that will help comprehension.
This is the biggest resource that is so underrated. Sometimes all children need is time. There may look to be a problem but all it turned out to be was developmentally they were not quite ready. If your child is not reading as quickly as some of the other children in the class or your friend’s children — at first there is no need to panic. Encourage reading for interest and fun. Encourage reading for a reason; the local supermarket flier that comes through the door or the Toys R Us catalogue could be used to make lists. Read the menu at the local takeaway to order food or read nonfiction books that are of interest. Reading together for just 20 minutes a day can make a huge difference to your child’s reading skill, writing skill and connectedness.
I can’t say I truly love children using technology for a whole host of reasons that I am not going into now, however, ipads can be very effective at getting reluctant readers to read and yes there is research to suggest that reading on an ipad is not as useful as a paper book – see studies below. However, I have found that even the most reluctant reader likes to read ebooks as they are quite often interactive and the story can be read to you. There are activities at the end of most books that kids find fun and there are some great apps to get kids reading . Here is a list of our favourite reading apps. This list is for itunes. Apple has invested millions into educational apps and the android marketplace just can’t compare. Even though the research suggests children comprehend less from an ebook if that is the only way your child wants to read, then go for it and gradually introduce the same books in paper format as your child gets more confident. The first 3 on our list all have real book equivalents.
1.Little Learners Love Literacy – A set of sequenced phonics reading books designed to get your children reading from the very first book. The complete set of 25 stories goes step by step through the alphabetic code from beginner to advanced. At $37.99 they are not a cheap app. They are though far better value than the real book form. Each book can be read to your child and there are questions at the back of each story that you can ask your child to aid their comprehension of the story. (Paper books are also available)
2.Dandelion Launchers ebooks – A series of 28 decodable books that introduce the initial sounds of the alphabet. The ebooks are considerably cheaper than the paper version. Cute characters get up to all sorts of adventures. (Paper books are also available)
3.Oxford Owl – A fantastic site of 250 free ebooks for children aged between 3-11. There are nonfiction, fiction and various types to choose from such as Oxford Reading Tree, Project X Alien or Songbird Phonics. All books are tablet friendly too. Just get a free account to get reading. (Paper books are also available)
4.Spy Sam – A set of 3 ebooks written specifically for children aged between 6-8 especially boys with reading difficulties by Dr. Matthew Cordingley whose own son has difficulties. My middle child Mr. O absolutely loved this series and still does. There was suppose to be another coming out last year that has not yet arrived. Not sure why! The books are interactive and exciting with a spy themed plot.
5.SPELD ebooks – SPELD is an amazing organisation that are not for profit and provide advice and services to support specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. SPELD SA have a range of 190 hand drawn picture books that are grouped via the Jolly Phonics Program.
Take your time, enjoy learning together and get some advice if you are worried, xx
As with all things children, what fits one doesn’t fit them all, there is no such thing as the perfect recipe!
Follow along for more articles, activities and ideas
ebook articles and research if you want to find out more.
The research into ebooks does seem to suggest that the sensory experience of reading a real book, makes them far more useful than the digital equivalent. However, there is no doubt that ebooks are convenient and for the most part cheaper. As is always the case maybe it is all a case of moderation is best.