When my daughter started kindergarten, books were sent home for reading practice that were beyond what she was ready for, and I could see her getting discouraged and frustrated. The last thing I wanted was for her to dislike reading, so I decided to go with my gut and intuition and dismiss the reading materials that were being sent home. Instead, I created my own set of Emergent Readers eBooks, which I have shared for free on this site, and the progression for reading practice below is what we followed. Perhaps it can benefit other parents out there who are looking for reading resources to help teach their children how to read, and who want to make reading a positive and enjoyable experience.
a) Starting With One Word CVC Emergent Readers: Although some may disagree about limiting the books to only CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, it worked for us at the beginning stages. It built her confidence and consolidated what she learned and knew about phonetic letter sounds. It was empowering for her – in her mind she could read a book and that is what mattered most.
b) From a Single Word to Two Words: We took it extremely slow in the beginning. Once she was confident with one CVC word on a page, we moved to two CVC words on a page – which at the time completely blew her mind. I can still remember the first time she read two words in a row and made sense of them, it was such a great moment for her and she was so proud of herself!
c) Adding Sight Words: Once she was convinced two words on a page was something she could handle, I began adding a sight word in front of a CVC word, for example, “a cat.” I was careful not to rush her, and we spent quite a bit of time on each sight word before I moved on to the next. I eventually brought her up to reading three to four words on each page, and stopped there. At this point in time, I will admit I panicked a bit because she was behind others in her class, and questioned my methods, but my gut told me to hang in there, and so we did.
d) CCVC Words: In the next phase we focused on CCVC words, and she caught on fairly quickly. At this point I continued to introduce different initial sounds with the eBooks and kept revisiting the CVC and sight words I had already introduced.
e) CVC, CCVC & Sight Words: Following the same progression as before, I slowly introduced new sight words and then when she was ready we mixed CVC, CCVC and sight words all together and progressed to longer sentences. The eBooks I created didn’t have any storylines but that didn’t matter to her, she was just happy that she was reading books. The aim was for her to continue building her confidence and comprehending single sentences and phrases that were introduced on each page.
f) CVCC Words / CVC, CCVC, CVCC & Sight Words: The last step was to introduce CVCC words, and then follow the same progression as before – new sight words and mix all the vocabulary together. By this time her fluency was improving, and she had increased her confidence levels as far as attempting longer sentences.
This is the point we were at when she entered grade 1. As far as PM Benchmark was concerned she wasn’t even reading at a level 1, but in my mind and as far as she was concerned she could read, and quite well when given the proper materials. I was lucky enough that her grade 1 teacher agreed to let me continue with my teaching methods, so we continued to use my resources, and occasionally we would read one of the readers that was sent home from school.
g) CCVCC Words: Introducing CCVCC words was what we started on next, alongside sight word lists that were being sent home from school. During this time (about halfway through first grade), she casually walked over to her bookshelf one night at bedtime, selected It’s My Birthday by Helen Oxenbury, sat down on her bed and began to read it to me! Although she needed a bit of assistance, she read most of it by herself. She literally went from not even being on level 1 (according to PM Benchmark), to reading books way beyond that. I was so proud of her, and at that moment realized that going with my gut was the best decision. If you take the time to build a solid foundation with your child, and make sure the basics of reading are in place, they will soar when they are ready. And best of all they will love to read!
We are almost at the end of the grade 1 school year, and my daughter is at the top of her class for reading. We now use the school readers being sent home on a daily basis, along with her favorite books at home. We also continue practicing the one-word Transitional Readers eBooks I created, which focus on CCVCC, CVCe, CVV & CVVC words. I have noticed that when she gets stuck on a word it’s because she hasn’t quite mastered sounds in those words yet, so this is good practice for her. We are fine-tuning her skills.
Reflecting on my daughter’s reading journey, it has been such a positive and empowering experience for her and she has come out a strong and avid reader, which was my goal from the beginning. Always trust your instinct when it comes to your children’s learning journeys and know that whatever path your children take, they will learn to read! For a detailed overview of all the Emergent Readers eBooks in our collection and a more in depth look at the progression we followed, please see the previous article.