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Reading Rescue 1-2-3

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Here are some questions asked by parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers.

Question: I know my son can read lots of words from a list. But when I pull out a book, he freaks. He can't read words in a book.
Answer: I have met children who read words on lists, and aren't able to recognize the same words on the page of a book. Remember how you used to feed pureed peaches, spoonful by spoonful to your child? This is similar to helping him read pages in a book.

  • Choose some phrases-two or three words, from a reading selection. Write them on note cards, and teach them to your child.
  • Next, write or type two sentences from the selection on a piece of paper. Using the To, With, and By technique help your child to read the sentences.
  • Open the book and show him where the sentences are located. Ask him to read them to you. Let him compare the same sentences written on paper and in the book.
  • Now type a couple of paragraphs from his favorite book onto a sheet of paper. Using To, With and By, help him to read these sentences. Then have him read them from his book. You are making a connection between words on lists and sentences in books. He will realize that he can read sentences in books-with your help. His resistance to books will decrease over time.

Question: My child cries when I ask her to read a book with me. Will this ever stop?
Answer: My daughter cried when she was learning how to read. It was a struggle every day to get her to the table. (As you can imagine, this was not our favorite time of day!) Your child needs to know the hard part of reading is at the beginning, and it will get easier as she practices. Take her to the store to choose some candy or stickers. These will be used for daily rewards for her efforts in reading. Praise her for little victories. Your child will hear herself improve over time. She may enjoy making homemade books. Create success in her reading by doing To, With, and By on a selection every day. After a while she will be less afraid to tackle new selections. She will be pulling your sleeve and asking, "When are we going to the library?" And you will be able to put away the Kleenex box.

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Question: My daughter mixes up letters d and b, and says the word saw when she sees the word was. Does she have dyslexia?
Answer: Dyslexia is broadly defined in the dictionary as "an impairment of the ability to read."1 Some scientists describe dyslexia as being a deficiency in the language system that processes the sounds of speech, in the brain.2 Many children who seem to have dyslexic-like tendencies begin to read better when they do activities that help to increase their auditory skills. Mixing up letters d and b is a visual confusion, not knowing which way the "tummy" of the letter faces-to the left or right. (This has nothing to do with auditory issues that earmark a problem with dyslexia.) A child who says dog for bog usually needs practice in knowing left from right. In most children this letter confusion corrects itself by the end of third grade. A child who sees the word was and says saw needs practice in visual discrimination. This can be as simple as writing the words saw and was on note cards. Show your child the note cards, and ask her to tell you differences she sees between the two sight words - was, saw. Or, play the Find That Word game to highlight a chosen word.
Find that Word Game

  • Choose a word that your child often confuses such as was. Write it on a note card.
  • Show your child the note card, and make sure she knows what the word means.
  • Open a children's magazine such as Ranger Rick and ask your child to circle every was on the page. She gets five points for each was she circles, and loses two points for every was she misses.
  • On a different day, play this same game with the word saw.
Don't let was, saw, b's and d's drive you crazy. Just do a couple of minutes of review each night, and pretty soon your child will know her p's and q's too!

       1 Random House Webster's Dictionary, Third Edition, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1998).
       2 Sally Shaywitz. "Dyslexia," New England Journal of Medicine 338, no. 5 (January 29, 1998): 307-312.


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Question: My son is in fourth grade. He definitely isn't fluent when reading out loud. Should I make him read out loud every night, or should he be reading silently?
Answer: Silent reading is more efficient than reading out loud. Your child can learn to read faster, and possibly have better comprehension when he reads silently. After third grade, the emphasis in school is on silent reading. Therefore, your child should practice five to ten minutes of each: reading out loud and silent reading when you work together on reading skills. It is more difficult to know what's going on when your child is reading silently. You will have to ask questions to monitor his comprehension after he has read a selection silently. Make sure the reading selection is on your child's Independent Reading level-no more than one or two mistakes for every twenty words. For your child to be successful in reading silently, preteach the most important vocabulary words and concepts. This gives him the necessary prior knowledge for good comprehension. Silent reading is an important skill that your child must develop to do well in school. Do some silent reading yourself while he's reading silently. He might become interested in your book someday.


Question: My child reads easy books. He is eleven years old and he only likes to read Dr. Seuss books. He's not going to get to college this way.
Answer: If you are in this position, your child needs your intervention right away. Many parents blame their child for being lazy. They don't realize that their child is missing necessary tools for better reading. You can't build a house without hammer and nails! Begin by looking at his personal gaps in reading skills. Test his knowledge of alphabet letters and sounds. Don't make him work by himself reading books. Create a bridge from Dr. Seuss to fifth-grade books for him. Take time to read short selections using the To, With, and By technique every day. Over time, he will feel more successful in reading. He will discover new topics that interest him. Eventually, The Cat in the Hat will be put in the closet to make room on the shelf for Summer of the Monkeys or The Chronicles of Narnia.



Do you have questions? Please feel free to e-mail Peggy Wilber at: succeedtoread@hotmail.com
Frequently asked questions (FAQ's) will be answered here in the future, so please check back.


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