The time between 6 and 8 is a crucial one in the development of literacy skills. Decoding is one of those skills. If children are struggling with learning to read, now is the time to find the tools and strategies to bridge that transition for them. If you continue to have questions and concerns, set up time with your child’s teacher to ask questions and find out more. The newest research on literacy development in children emphasizes the importance of providing reading interventions as soon as possible. For more information: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/33170/; http://www.readingrockets.org/article/643/; http://www.readingrockets.org/article/11360/. It is much easier to support children at this age than to have to play catch-up later!
- Keep Reading Aloud!: Although a main goal of this age group is to learn to be independent readers, the books they can read on their own are often stilted with controlled text. Keep reading interesting picture books and chapter books to expand your child’s comprehension abilities, vocabulary, and sense of wonder about stories! Ask questions along the way to allow your child to continue to develop comprehension skills while her decoding abilities are coming online.
- Character Magnets: Find a character or series they like: Clifford, Henry and Mudge, Fancy Nancy, etc. Color copy onto card stock some of the main characters (or have your child draw them!), cut them out, and put magnets on the back. Get magnetic poetry types of words for the fridge or washer (or cookie sheet). Let your child “write” and act out stories! You can also cut out words from magazines or the computer and put magnets on the back.
- Magnetic Words: Add magnets to Scrabble letters and help your child sound out and create 3- and 4-letter phonetic words or sight words.
- Word Wizard App is a terrific app that allows your child to build and sound out words independently. You can use the app’s word lists or add your own. Its advanced text-to-speech capabilities and fun visual rewards will have your child asking for “more spelling practice please!” Choose the phonetic sounds of letters in the settings menu. The app is $2.99 but worth it.
- BOB Books Reading Magic Lite app has simple text, fun activities, and is all phonics based. This is a great starting place for struggling readers.
- Write a letter: What better way to encourage reluctant writers than to motivate them! Invite your child to write to their favorite Disney character. In about 6 weeks, they will get a signed postcard! Save this address:
Walt Disney Company
Attn: Fan Mail Department
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
- Play board games: There are many skills children use when playing board games -- from reading the directions to building vocabulary through games like Boggle or even Hangman. Developing literacy skills can be loads of fun!
Choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) stories: Helping kids discover the joy in reading can be a challenge, especially when they find decoding the words or understanding the text difficult. One fun way to excite reading is through CYOA books. There are books with many levels (e.g., The Haunted House vs The Abominable Snowman, both by RA Montgomery). Or try out a graphic novel CYOA like Meanwhile by Jason Shina for more visual learners (and those wanting less text). Some fun online variations:
- Castaway: You are a castaway on an island. Text is relatively simple, but there is no audio.
- Seussville Storymaker is a different kind of CYOA where your child selects scenes, music, dialog, etc. For a 3-scene Horton the Elephant story; the computer will “sew” together the animation for you.
- Choice of the Dragon, again, has no audio, but it does have an exciting topic.
- Addy’s Escape to Freedom: Read American Girl Addy’s CYOA story.
- Niki’s Adventures is about the adventures of a hummingbird in Canada. It has no audio, but text is relatively simple.
- Lemons for Literacy: People who struggle with reading can be seen as having been given lemons in life. Give your struggling reader the power to change someone’s life, as they improve their reading skills in the process, turning lemons into lemonade. This “smart site” will adjust to your child’s ability level. For every correct answer, the organization donates money that goes toward literacy materials for a person in need.
- Spin the Wheel: There is nothing better for struggling learners than a sense of choice about their work. Let your child spin the Scholastic Computer lab wheel and have fun clicking around and learning.
- Storybuddy Lite app: Your child can draw directly on the screen, type text, and make fun storybooks that you can share.
- ABC Spelling Magic 1, 2 & 3 apps help your child build short, phonetic words, consonant blends, and then 5-7 letter words with consonant blends and syllables.
- Aesop’s Quest app is a wonderful app that emphasizes comprehension in a fun way. Children use what they remember of the story to advance levels. For grades 2-6.
- Pic Lits is a fun and simple site for kids who dislike writing. They choose an image and drag “magnets” to create a simple saying or story. While doing so, they will unknowingly be learning how to search alphabetically, and be exploring how to use parts of speech.
- BBC KS1 Literacy Games has wonderful resources, especially for struggling learners. Let your child have fun while solidifying her literacy foundation.