Advertising

Published on January 15, 2021

How to Teach Your Kid to Read at Home

Advertising
How to Teach Your Kid to Read at Home

This year has forced you to do quite a bit at home—figuring out where your Peloton bike will go, discovering your hidden passion to make macarons (or, perhaps, eat them), among others. For parents of young children, you have a very unique challenge—to teach your kids how to read at home instead of fully at school.

In a previous article, I detailed how you may go about homeschooling your children. This post will be more succinct and highlight a particularly specific skill—the ability to read. Thankfully, the most important academic skill isn’t too scary if you know how to approach the process and what to look for as your young kiddo builds skill in this area.

Phonics, Phonemic Awareness, and Phonological Awareness

Before learning how to teach your kids to read, let me first discuss some quick terminology. Have you heard to terms phonics, phonemic awareness, and/or phonological awareness? Likely, you have not unless you’re an elementary school teacher like me. These terms are often difficult to decipher from one another yet are critical for your success at teaching reading at home.

Let’s start with tackling each of these terms individually.

  • Phonics is simply understanding that each letter has a corresponding sound. For example, you definitely know that “tee” sounds like the letter “T”, right? Yup, right. That’s phonics.
  • Phonemic awareness takes the understanding of phonics and ups the ante a bit. It explains how we can discern that the /c/ at the beginning of the word “cat” is different from the /at/ that follows that sound. (Fun fact! There are 43 individual phonemes in the English language. But fear not, you won’t be quizzing your kiddo).
  • Phonological awareness is similar to phonemic awareness but is, again, a bit loftier. In the previous example, we highlighted the understanding of /c/ in “cat” sounding like a “K”, right? Well, phonological awareness is one’s ability to manipulate the various sound units in a word. So, placing the sound /ack/ with /p/ as the beginning makes a different word sound than if you put /b/ before /ack/.

Tired yet? Fear not. Chances are, your young reader is going to need some support with one of these skills as they begin their reading journey.

So, let’s take a dive into how to know where your child is and what to do if they need phonics, phonemic, or phonological awareness support.

Advertising

Does Your Student Understand Basic Phonics?

Does your student look at a “D” and say “C” or start to pronounce the word “kart” and say “start”? If so, it’s likely they have an issue with the alphabetic principle or, simply, phonics. They may also not be able to produce the correct letter when you give them a sound or vise versa. (Say “K”, and they’ll write “F”, for example.).

What Can I Do to Help My Child Build Phonics?

I’m glad you asked! If you have a Scrabble set or a fancy tablet game with letters, get to building! Talk with your student about the sounds of letters as you construct new and exciting words. And don’t be afraid to create words, too!

Nonsense words are often used to help students understand the basic rules of phonics. For example, “frub” is not a word, but if a student can 1) say it and 2) clap the syllables, they are getting the hang of phonics!

The Nuance of Phonemic vs Phonological Awareness

There’s a lot of grace here, and unless you are both a parent and elementary school teacher, your student won’t be upset if you constantly confuse these two. I’ll actually offer support for both of them at once because the difference really doesn’t matter in the living room.

You may remember, as a student, (depending on how old you are or how good your memory is) clapping words aloud in class. This is called syllabication, and each clap occurs on a different syllable in a word, right? Well, get to clapping!

One of the earliest indicators that students need support with early literacy is their inability to decipher between syllables. So, if your child has a difficult time clapping out “potatoes,” they don’t really understand the sounds within the word. Those sounds, called phonemes, are what build up the English language.

Advertising

You might be thinking, “Well, okay, awesome—how the heck do I help my child with that, though?”

Great question! I’ll brief you on a couple of strategies below for when you are strictly teaching your kids to read or intervening (not during actual reading). But for now, let’s discuss a quick and helpful way to support a reader when they are actually attempting the skill of reading and get to a word they cannot sound out.

First, you’ll want to let them struggle. Don’t be too mean here. We aren’t talking 3 minutes of cliffhanging—more like 10 seconds. Encourage them, pause for them, and whatever you do, do not help them during this time. Why? If they aren’t with you and encounter a large or scary word they’ve never seen, they’ll simply look at the word, give up, look at the larger person (i.e., adult) in the room and wait for the life jacket. Nope, don’t do that!

Instead, point to the word, and ask them what part of the word they think they may already know. Let’s take a word for example’s sake here: memorize. Whoa, that’s a doozy! But wait, isn’t there a “me” in that word? And how about a “mo”? And doesn’t a word that ends in “e” makes the vowel before the final consonant (in this case, “i” before the “z”) say its name (so that i-z-e is EYE-z-eh—the EYE is what “i” sounds like, right)?

Well, it’s likely your kiddo may now know how to decipher memorize right off the bat, but with some support (after 10 seconds of struggle), they’ll be on their way!

So, again, for the terms, and briefly—phonemic equals simplest sounds of a language. Phonological equals manipulating the simplest sounds of a language. (See? Not a lot of difference, and you shouldn’t split hairs.)

Advertising

If your child is having issues with syllables, do the awesome activity mentioned above with all kinds of fun words around the house and in reading.

  • Segmenting and blending activities – Take time to break apart words (segmenting) and put words together (blending) from a sound perspective. This is fun, and your kids will love slicing and dicing words.
  • Take words, delete sounds – “Hey kiddo, what’s “fun” without /f/?” This helps build their recognition of specific sounds and how they fit within the context of larger units. (For those of you overachievers, that’s a phonological awareness skill).

A Few Notes on Sight Words

Unfortunately, the English language is very tricky. Some words, like “the”, fit no simple phonetic understanding. They simply need to be taught. Search for various sight word lists depending on your child’s age.

Here’s how you determine if your child is needing sight word support and exactly what sight words they need help with depending on their age:

  1. Remember that sight words are searchable by age or grade level. So, you’ll start by searching (or asking your child’s teacher, if that’s a possibility) online to find the list of sight words for their specific age.
  2. Quiz them at the top of the list. Don’t randomly choose words from the list. Start at the top, and go straight down.
  3. If your child masters their way through the list for their grade level, go above one grade level. For example, if your child is in second grade, start with a fourth-grade sight word list. Should they get all of those words correct, find a third-grade sight word list and continue.
  4. When your child misses two or three words on a sight word list, that’s the list they will need to practice and thus, the list you will need to actively teach.

Though frustrating (because they follow no real convention that is teachable), sight words are the key to unlocking complicated text. This is worth your time!

Beyond Phonics—Fun With Fluency (And Book Selections!)

Okay, whew. You’re now a literacy instructor! Well done. It may be difficult to teach your kids to read, but that’s normal.

So, here’s the deal: once your child has a solid grasp of the phonics world, begin having fun with text selection and check their fluency constantly! Fluency is simply how many words your child can correctly read in one minute (minus the errors made from the total words read). Fluency, in a sentence, also measures how animated your student reads (called prosody) and if they cruise gently around commas and stop hard at periods. Fluency helps with all of that.

Advertising

And finally—books! Ask them what they love, and find books that bring them closer to understanding more about those topics. And get them books from a wide variety of various topics, from various sources.

The steps to reading are exciting and profound. Take joy in the simple things, and delight in your child coming to you at night and saying “can I read to you tonight?”

Find the Small Joys in Reading

We’ve blabbered with phonics, phonemic awareness, and fluency—whew! Take it all in, and reference this post when and if necessary. But most importantly, take joy in the little steps your child takes when mastering the skill of reading.

Read with them often, not just before bed. Ask them questions about the book to see their comprehension really soar. Read often yourself, so you create a “more is caught than taught” type situation. You’ll be glad you took an active interest in, perhaps, the most critical skill a young person can learn.

More on How to Teach Your Kids to Read

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

More by this author

Charlie Moynahan

Educator in Sacramento, California

How to Teach Your Kid to Read at Home How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide) How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

Trending in Parenting

1 Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So) 2 How to Talk to Teens And Have Real Conversations 3 How to Teach Children About Respect When They’re Small 4 How to Get Kids to Listen And Respect You 5 Parallel Parenting vs Co-Parenting: How To Know Which Is Best For You?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

Advertising
Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

Advertising

“Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

2. Teaches the Value of Family

Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

“Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

“If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

5. Creates a Safe Environment

If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

6. Reduces Stress

This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

How to Make Family Time Happen

Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

1. Family Dinners

This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

Advertising

“Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

2.  Regular Movie Nights

This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

3. Game Night

This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

Advertising

4. Sharing a Hobby

If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

Final Thoughts

Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
[2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
[3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
[4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
[5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
[6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
[7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
[8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
[9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
[10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

Read Next