Question:  I am trying to teach a 5 year old girl how to read.  I run a daycare out of my home.  She knows her letter sounds, names, and can sound out words.  I am using the Hooked on Phonics system.  When we go through the workbook, she is able to read the words easily the first time.  But when she is asked to do it the second time she really struggles and can’t seem to sound the words out as easily.  At first I thought she might be memorizing the words, but after trying it another way she did the same thing.  I am at a loss as to what to do.  Her parents see the same thing at home.  Any suggestions?

Myrna Shure:  It is possible that this child is simply not developmentally ready to read, and pushing her may only make her more anxious and hold her back.  You want to avoid a negative tension with reading, and children who learn to read in the first grade are learning at a normal time and do very well.  

Meanwhile, you can still interest her in story books by reading them to her, and asking her questions about the characters (e.g., “How do you think s/he is feeling now?”  “What can s/he say to (point to another character) to help him feel better?” You can also let her make up what might have happened before the story began and what might happen after the story ends.  Praise her for being such a good story teller.

You can encourage her parents to have books accessible to the child on a low bookcase so she can reach them easily.  If she brings a book to her mom or dad, it is important that they read it to her, if not at that moment, at a time the parent and child agree on.  

Nurturing an interest in books at this age will set the stage for the time she is ready to read, and she will no doubt delve into it with much more enthusiasm than trying to teach her to read now.