Articles My Humble Opinion

Karla — Reading Doesn’t Come Naturally For Everyone

I have read several accounts of parents whose kids have learned how to read on their own. Some of these children began reading slowly while others took off quickly. As impressive as it may seem, I don’t believe that reading truly came as a natural ability for them. I absolutely believe that these parents feel that their kids learned how to read naturally, however, I don’t think they realize how much of a role they played in their children’s learning. While they may not have explicitly taught their kids to read, they certainly taught them implicitly. What I mean is that everything these parents did for their kids (some from the time they were born) helped to build a foundation that would later translate into them becoming literate. Many of these parents share how they would read books to their kids daily, track words while reading, discuss books, provide books and experiences with literature at home, model reading, take them to the library, and many other wonderful activities that expose children to the world of reading. Just because these parents didn’t sit down and provide their kids with formal lessons on reading doesn’t mean that they didn’t teach them how to read. These parents did amazing things for their children even if they don’t realize it! It is this type of parent that is often found behind a child that has learned how to read “naturally”. These kids are one extreme.

Let me give you an example of the other extreme, because some kids aren’t as lucky. I had the opportunity to work with a little girl that convinced me that reading does not occur naturally for everyone. She was an eleven year old girl that was raised by her illiterate grandmother in a small Central American country. Having never attended school, she came to me knowing nothing academically, and had absolutely no knowledge of the alphabet or numbers. Other than that, she was of average intelligence – she just lacked education. She never had anyone that read to her and had never even seen a book until moving to the US. She didn’t even grasp the concept that writing was a representation of the words we speak – she had no idea what those “black and white scribbles” were. Needless to say, she was a very challenging case.

Now most kids fall somewhere in between these two extremes. They probably have parents who read to them occasionally, are exposed to literature, and are aware of why the ability to read is important. Yet their daily modeling of reading may only include functional reading – such as reading menus, tv guides, signs, or other things that simply get people through the day. They may not have someone who emphasizes the importance of learning new things or who encourages them to read nonfiction just to learn about things that interest them. In my opinion, these kids would probably not be able to learn to read if left to their own devices.

I’ll assume that if you’ve made it this far in this article then you’re someone who enjoys reading for the sake of learning. If your kids are in the room while you read this, you are modeling for them right now. Congratulations! You are already taking steps to ensure that your children learn to read and will later read to learn!

Articles Must Reads Research Says Teaching Methods


Comprehension is THE ultimate goal of reading! Everything we teach our kids in reading is so that they will end up having comprehension, or an understanding of what they read. We spend so much time learning how to read just to get to the point where we can read to learn. Comprehension = knowledge. But just because comprehension is our ultimate goal doesn’t mean that you need to wait till your kids are older or have “mastered” everything else in reading before you teach it.

Lesson Ideas

Letter Hunt Alphabet Book – Lesson Idea #5

You’ll need some newspaper, magazines, catalogs, coupons (any other print material you don’t mind cutting up) and some art supplies (construction paper, glue, scissors, markers, etc.) This one can be worked on over time – so it may take your child a while to complete the whole book. Part of the book can be created while you’re working on letter recognition and the other part can be completed when you work on letter sounds – so there will be two parts to this activity. Some of you may choose to do both pages at the same time – it’s up to you!

Part 1 – Page 1 for each letter

  1. Have your child hunt for and cut out several (up to 20) versions of the same letter (capital and lower case/big and small fonts) from different print material. You want these to look different so that your child learns to identify specific letters no matter the font or size.
  2. Label one piece of construction paper with the target letter at the top. Then your child can glue these letters onto the paper in any way they like as long as they are readable. Although it looks best when the letters are all mixed up and spaced out to cover the whole page, by all means give them creative freedom.

Part 2 – Page 2 for each letter

  1. Have your child hunt for and cut out pictures that begin with the target sound from the various print materials. Review the pictures your child found and discuss whether they’d be good or not to use for that letter.
  2. Your child can then glue the chosen pictures onto another price of construction paper. You can label each picture with a marker (have him/her dictate the names of the pictures to you or help them out). These picture serve to reinforce letter-sound correspondence and build their vocabulary.
  3. Repeat Part 1 and Part 2 for every letter in the alphabet.
  • You can put the pages together several ways: punching holes and tying it together or using rings, staple it, have it bound at an office supply store, etc. I do recommend that you get the pages laminated if possible. This book will be a great addition to your child’s library and is a lot of fun to make!
Lesson Ideas

Alphabet Cereal Game – Lesson Idea #4

You’ll need some alphabet cereal and a simple grid that has the letters of the alphabet separated into individual boxes.

  1. Give your child the grid and a cup of alphabet cereal.
  2. Have them sort the cereal by putting the cereal letters into the letter box on the grid that matches.
  3. Let your child eat the letters when done!
  • This is an excellent hands-on activity that teaches and reinforces letter recognition. It makes a yummy treat too!
Lesson Ideas

Word Switch – Lesson Idea #3

You’ll need a pocket chart and some word cards (you can make them with sentence strips) for this activity.

  1. Make or use some words cards to make up a few sentences from a book, rhyme, or song that your child is familiar with. Make sure to include capitals and punctuations.
  2. Read the sentences aloud to your child (or together if they can read with you). Then mix up the words in each sentence and read them aloud again.
  3. Your child will most likely start giggling and tell you there’s something wrong. Act surprise and like you don’t know what’s wrong. When they convince you that there’s a problem, ask your child to help you make the sentences right again. They can use the capital letter and the punctuation mark as hints.
  • You can skip the materials if you don’t have them and use a white board instead. Although kids really enjoy holding and manipulating the word cards – especially if they can’t write yet. The purpose here is to show your child that each word has meaning and that they work together to make sentences. If you move one or all of them around, it will affect how the sentence makes sense.
Lesson Ideas

Sentence Switch (Sequencing) – Lesson Idea #2

You’ll need a paragraph from a book, magazine, or article (this works best if you type up the individual sentences of a paragraph and cut them to make sentence strips).

  1. Read the chosen paragraph together aloud or have your child read it to you from the original publication.
  2. Next give your child the mixed up sentences and have them try to put them back into the correct order.
  3. Have them read it aloud to check if it is correct and makes sense.
  • You can make this activity more challenging to meet your child’s need or for older kids. You can do this by not letting your child read the original paragraph before asking them to put the sentences in correct order. Even harder: You can also take an article, cut up the paragraphs, and have your child try to put the paragraphs in order to make the article make sense. Treat this like a puzzle and they’ll love the challenge!
Articles Bright Ideas

How Big Bird Creates Critical Thinkers

Earlier today I was reading a book to my friend’s little boy. In the book, Big Bird was asking the kids to pick objects that fell into certain categories. For instance, he would ask the child to pick out something that we eat from a page full of blue objects, and the child would pick the bowl of blueberries. A page of green objects may contain a coat, and Big Bird would ask the kids to choose the thing that we wear. We expanded this game a little by talking about the other objects on the page as well, not just doing what was in the book, but going further than Big Bird asked us to.

We both had a blast reading the book, and I was telling Ana all about it on our way home. She told me that what we were doing was called “categorizing and classifying”. I had no idea while we were reading we were actually working on developing this little boy’s critical thinking skills. I was giving him categories and he was classifying the objects into those categories. We were building up his classify and categorize foundation that will allow him as an adult to read op-eds in the newspaper (if those still exist by then) and determine the author’s political leanings and motivations as he is considering the points the author is making. Pretty cool, huh?

Now I’m thinking of other activities we could do with the same book. One of the ideas I had was to close the book and ask him to find an orange animal. This would exercise his mind by asking him to classify an object into two categories instead of just one. As a computer nerd, I’d be interested to see how he’d approach that problem. Would he take the most efficient search approach and flip through the book to find the orange page, then look for an animal? Or would he look at each page identifying all the animals and then classifying them by colors? My guess is that kids of different ages may take different approaches.

Articles Bright Ideas Lesson Ideas

Digital ABCs — Lesson Idea #1

Over the weekend we were visiting some friends who have a three year old, and we were talking about activities parents can do with kids his age to prepare them to be successful readers. One of the ideas we came up with was to go on a walk or hike with a digital camera. The mission/game in this activity is to get the child to take as many photos as they can of things that begin with a certain sound (phoneme). The game can be played a different way for more advanced kids, who you can ask to take photos of things that begin with a certain letter.

In the first game we’re working on phonemic awareness, so if we’re trying to find things that start with the /f/ sound, a phone booth is a great photo. In the second game we’re working on phonics (connecting sounds with letters), so the phone booth becomes tricky. It would be a great photo if we’re looking for things that begin with the letter “p”, but not if we’re looking for things that begin with the letter “f”.

You can even make this a math activity by having the kids count the photos, add the correct and incorrect answers together, subtract incorrect from correct, etc.

Must Reads My Humble Opinion

Reading . . . Is It A Natural Occurrence?

There is some debate regarding this question. Some parents and authorities maintain that children will develop the ability to learn how to read on their own when they are ready and exposed to text. Most others believe that reading has to be taught to children. So who is right? Both sides offer up what they consider to be convincing research or evidence to support their stance. Yet in the midst of this debate, you have to ask the question . . . If reading is a natural occurrence, why are there so many illiterate people in the world? I’m by no means claiming that I know the answer to this, yet I feel that part of the answer may lie in the possibility that these people may not have been exposed to much literature or to an environment that fostered a love for reading. Read about Karla to find out more on my theory.