Sunday, January 12, 2014

Teaching Kids to Read

 Kari has inspired me to write this post about teaching littles to read.
(Kari, who, does way more to teach letters than I ever have)
She's amazing.
First, a little background:
I was the "Sand Paper Letter Teacher" at a Montessori school.
Which means I sat with each child for a few minutes per day, 
or every couple days (there were a lot of students)
and taught the sounds of letters.

I knew when I started a daycare of my own, I wanted to use this method.
At the school I taught at, they had me only teach the sound and not the letter.
When I teach my own kiddos, I teach both, the sound and the letter

Now, you do not have to have a Sand Paper Letter set in order to teach,
but it is helpful and the kids love them! 

No more than a few minutes each day or every other day is enough
and only 3 letters at a time, with the exception of reviewing letters they have mastered already. 
 The letters are broken down into 3 sets, 
set 1 being the easiest to learn and so on.
I usually start with S A M
Now you are teaching the short sounds, "A" like in Cat.

You will trace each letter and when finished, say the sound
"Sssssss" and say the letter "S"
Then have the child copy you
and go onto the next letter

"Aaaaaaa" and say the letter "A"
child repeats.

When you have gotten to the last letter (of the 3)
and the child has repeated you,
"Mmmmmm"  "M"

You will say,
"Which one is "Mmmmmm" "M"?
Always start with the one you just did with them,
as they will most often get it right,
 and it gives them some pride of knowing it!

Then, mix it up, 
asking where "Sssssss" is and where "Aaaaaaaa" is
(sounding them out)
(child only points to white dot and does not trace at this time)

You never say "No..." You will say, "That's Aaaaaaaaa, where's Mmmmmm?"
 to correct them.
"NO" gives negative and it's too hard,
 feelings towards reading and learning sounds.

That's all you will do each day a few minutes each time.

You  might want to have a notebook to keep track of which letters 
each child has mastered or even a master of the alphabet, with each letter 
mastered circled.

There are 2 steps to mastering a letter.

1. To be able to answer "Where is Ssssssss?" 
(or "Where is (letter)?"

2. To be able to answer "What's this?" while pointing to mastering letter.

Once child has "mastered" a letter,
 move onto a new letter within the set you are working on.
(let them choose if you want to)

 Oh, yeah, I always forget this!
It is important that they know their numbers 1-10 by sight, 
so you can teach numbers in the same way
(I don't have Sand Paper Numbers though, so we use cards)
It's hard, to do numbers before letters...I am currently doing both of them with my 4 year old.
 Once your child has that first set "mastered" 
You can make words like:
mat, pat, cat, sat, hat
got, pot, cot, tot
cop, top, mop, hop, pop
You can make little word books out of old business cards
 or cut paper stapled together

You can do this with the letters themselves, 
or with shapes, numbers, colors and words

This will give them the feeling they are Reading!!
And they are!!
(you can even make little 3 page books with the letters they are working on right now)
You can make "Sound Picture" sets
where the children match the sound with a picture
(I laminated these)

You can do the same with "Sound Object" sets too.
(Sorry, I didn't picture ours)

 Once they've mastered their letters and sounds, even if only a few, 
you can move onto Bob Books!

I went on to teach my daycare kiddos to read using this method of teaching letters, 
and then my own kiddos!

Now you must remember that EACH CHILD IS DIFFERENT
Tell yourself this often, because it is so true.

When I taught my kiddos in my daycare, 
(like 17 years ago)
I had one girl that picked it up very quickly and was reading chapter books by Kindergarten,
one that was reading 3 letter words by Kindergarten, 
and one that was struggling to "master" that first set of letters by Kindergarten
and one totally uninterested child!

This has happened with my own children!
And you know what?
They all still eventually learn to read!!!
(in their own time)

My oldest could literally read DICTIONARIES
by Kindergarten!
My 2nd oldest could read 3 letter words by Kindergarten, then quickly caught on.
My 3rd oldest, struggled, 
hated the Bob Books, 
so we tried different things for her: 

 Catholic Heritage Curriculum Readers
(you fold each into a book)
I admit, that no child kept interested in these to make it to complete the 3rd brown set!
 She finally "clicked" when we started these readers with her, 
from Seton, Click HERE
 Now, my 4th struggled a little through even 1st grade, but now everything has clicked 
and she hated Bob Books, Catholic Heritage Readers, liked the green Seton readers a little, 
but loves these Little Angel Readers!
 Here's some ideas for making it fun!
Boggle Jr!!
Basically, the kids are matching letters to make words, 
there is only a short, little, window of time where they enjoy this, but it adds to the fun!
 While teaching letters, I start with their names
I write their names on handwriting cardstock in black marker
and cut tracing paper for them to clip with a paper clip on top and trace!

 If you read to your children, it will foster a love of reading, 
(for most of them)
(I do have one that never liked being read to, and she is the one who hates to read!)
 She filled out her reading chart, by reading every day outloud
at the end of the filled chart, she got to get a new Barbie
(because, you know, we needed a new Barbie!)
She's now in the middle of a reading chart and is working towards
a new Hero Factory!
(our reading charts are from Catholic Heritage Curriculum, 
and take about 8 wks to complete)
 He LOVES reading and being read to!
Remember that when they want to hear the same book over and over again, 
they are starting the process to learn to read, 
reading is all about memorization!
I do not claim to be a master at this, 
this is just what we do
and have found to work!

Follow their interests, 
don't push too much
and remember that only a few minutes is needed each day!
(for the teaching sounds part!)

If they are struggling, take a break!
You can always go back and start again!
Eventually, it clicks!


  1. This is such a great post! I teach remedial reading in high school and some of my high school students read at 2nd and 3rd grade levels. If only all parents would realize how very important reading is and work just a few minutes a day with their children. Thanks for these great ideas. I remember those Bob Books - I used them with my youngest son! Have a great week.

    1. Oh, I know, a little time now will make all the difference (when they are little) Reading makes everything easier!! With my strong readers, everything is just easier to understand.

      Bob books are classic, aren't they? You have a great week too!

  2. WHAT an AWESOME resource! Great post. I like ALL of it and have used much of it to success. Will be sharing this on my FB page and Pinterest.

    1. Now, coming from you, that is quite a compliment!! Thank you Allison!
      Share away!

  3. Thank you, Jamie! This looks like such a great resource of so many different methods and ideas to try. Lucia has never been one for tracing, but she does very well writing on her own. Like you said, 'every child is different,' so I know the tracing ideas will come in handy for one of the other children. Thank you so much!

    1. Oh, Lucia does have amazing handwriting for her age!!
      I hope it helped answer some of those questions that took me so long to respond to!

  4. You know you are talking about a subject near and dear to my heart! I got my MS in reading and have several varied certifications in areas of reading, as well. You've got a great system down and incorporating the Montessori aspects of it is really a great thing. No wonder your kids are so smart! I have a funny story about my co-teacher who created a Boggle board for each table of students....but it's something I'll have to email you because she got a very unintended result with it! Love the little fingers in the pictures!

    1. Yay!! I can't wait to hear (read) your story, when you have time to email me!

      Awwww, the little fingers thing made me go back and look, what a sweet thing to notice!

  5. I bookmarked this post! It's fantastic! I've read about Montessori before, but you explained it so clearly that I feel inspired to try again!

    1. Yay, I hope it goes better for you, if you have any questions, you can ask me here or email me!

  6. So many great ideas and tips! I'm pinning this post, thank you Jamie Jo!

  7. This is great, Jamie Jo! I think I'm going to use this for inspiration for my third. My oldest held off, held off, and then it seemed like he barely needed work and was off reading. My second has been a very long struggle. He's almost 7 (a matter of weeks) and is finally slowly getting off CVC words only. I wonder how he would have reacted to this method? It's hard to tell with him. I see him just curling up in a ball like he did with most everything else. But my 4.5 year old, she's begging me off and on to do some "school" but her focus is literally a few minutes so this could work well with low frustration factor for me and her. Thanks so much!!!

    1. You can even re-teach this to your 7 year old. Take it slow. My 3rd was like that...she's about even with my 4th....

      Yes, that "few minutes" thing is key. For the mama and your child!

  8. Thanks for this post! You have inspired me to try this with my 4 1/2 yr old. My question is how do you know the sound of the letter? What sound would I say for "x" for example or do I use the hard "c" or soft "c"? BTW, I've been reading your blog for a while but have never commented. Your blog is my favorite. I think you are an amazing person and I look forward to all your posts! God bless!

    1. Oh, Elizabeth! SO nice to "meet" you! I am honored you'd say such nice things!

      Your daughter is at the perfect age!
      X sounds like "xssss"

      C is the hard Cat, car,'s easiest for making words at this level of learning. Children then, go onto the soft "c" sound later like circus...when they read those larger words...1st 2nd grade, or even before if she's ready.

      Does that help?
      If not, email me and I can give you a call. (if you need)
      jamiejo99 (@) (no spaces)

      God bless you too!

    2. Yes that helps, thank you! I got my sandpaper letters so I'm excited to begin with her. If I have any more questions I'll shoot you an email! Stay warm! (I'm from MN too)

  9. Hi Jamie! I have a question. This post is so helpful and I really appreciate you putting all this together. I am doing Kindergarten with my eldest child, and we are using a combination of How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, the Explode the Code workbooks, and CHC readers. He is doing well, I think, but I feel that the CHC readers are jumping ahead too quickly for him. We have completed the first 5, but I feel like he needs more practice with just his cvc words before we start adding in new sounds. So, my question is, what set of books would you suggest that would give him more practice with the easy sounds? I looked at both your Seton and Angel readers links, but it's hard to get a good feel for the books on the internet. Or would you suggest the Bob books? Thanks in advance. :)

    1. Hi Holly! I'm glad this was helpful for you! I'd go with the Bob Books, level A, it has 3 sets within it, the red ones are the easiest working up to harder ones. They are spendy, but you have other children, it will be well worth your investment. You might want to check Amazon for used ones too, you might get a better deal.

      Keep the others in mind though, for the future. We've actually had the Little Angel Readers since my 2nd child and no one used or liked them til my 4th!
      And the Seton ones, only my 3rd and 4th children liked those...not the oldest two.

      I hope that helps.

  10. Fantastic post! I agree that the best way to get kids to learn to read is to make it fun. Children tend to associate reading and writing with boredom, but judging by your kids’ smiles on the pictures, I'd say you’re doing a great job in keeping them interested.

    Sarah Haskins

  11. A large part of children's play also ties in with having happy and healthy reading abilities for kids. There are a lot of resources that one can access to let the children read. However, I have recently found an awesome site that is just awesome to get some good books for kids. Thanks and keep sharing the nice information!!

  12. A large part of children's play also ties in with having happy and healthy reading abilities for kids. There are a lot of resources that one can access to let the children read. However, I have recently found an awesome site that is just awesome to get some good books for kids. Thanks and keep sharing the nice information!!

  13. Excellent! I'll be using some of these tips! I need to remember to work with just a small set of letters vs the whole alphabet. When and how do you introduce uppercase letters? Thanks for the tips!

    1. Great question!! I introduce the capital letters at the same time. (you can see them in the homemade word/letter/color/shape books in one of the pictures) When I worked at the Montessori school they only did lower case letters...I found that kids are much bigger sponges than that and can handle learning both! So, the capitals are not with the sandpaper letter kits, but in the play we do with that, like in the books.


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