• Practical Ideas for Parents


    Help your child develop reading and  spelling skills with these helpful ideas.

    As a parent, you know that reading is important, and you probably feel frustrated if your child doesn't like to read.  Many forces in children's lives pull them away from reading-television, video games, and after-school activities-but finding a way to incorporate reading and writing activities into your child's daily routine many not be as difficult as it seems.  Try the following:

    *Learn more about your child's interests and suggest books, magazines, and aritcles that relate to those topics.

    *Sometimes good movies are a starting point for pleasure reading-after seeing a movie based on a book, children will be motivated to read the book.

    *Sometimes travel sparks reading, and finding books that relate to a place you visit on a family vacation can get a child hooked.

    *Keep books and other reading materials at home.

    *Read books with your children!! Children of any age can appreciate being read to.

    *Be a good role model-let your children see you reading.

    Word Game: to help your child build vocabulary and sort words that are alike in some way.

    What you will need:

    *Shoe bag with clear pockets or staple envelopes or plastic food bags to a large posterboard.

    *Small slips of paper.


    1. Print or glue labels on the top of each pocket.

    Example: Colors , Furniture, Animals, Feelings, Foods, Numbers.

    2. As you discover new words in books or on signs, help your child decide in which pocket the new word belongs.

    3. Write the word on a piece of paper and put it in the right pocket.

    4. Read these words together now and then.  Ask, "Can you remember any of the words in this pocket without looking at them?"

     How can I help my child get the most out of reading?

    *See the value of reading: Show your child how you use reading every day-for everything from following road signs to shopping.

    *Want to read: Make reading fun, not a chore.  Your child will be more likely to make reading a habit if he or she enjoys it.

    *Learn reading skills: Use reading together as a chance to help your child:

    -get ready for learning to read-read daily to your toddler

    -learn new words

    -think about the meanings of words

    -think through what happens in a story

     Dinner Menu

    Goal: To help your child recognize letters and letter sounds.

    What to do:

    1. Ask your child to write a menu for the family dinner.

    2. Say each dinner item slowly, stretching the sounds in the word so that each sound can be heard clearly.

    3. Ask your child to say the word with you: "mmmiiilllkkk"

    Say: "What sound do you hear first?"

    Response: "mmm"

    Say: "Do you know a letter that stands for that sound?"

    Response: "m" (If your child doesn't know, tell her/him that "m" stands for that sound.)

    Say: " Good, write that letter."

    Repeat the word "mmiiilllkkk"

    Say:"What sound do you hear next?"

    Repeat for each letter until the whole word is written.

    Say: "Good, now you have the whole word! Let's read it together! "mmmiiilllkkk"

    4. If your child has the patience to continue, write more items.  If not stop, take a break and come back to it another time.

    5. Place the dinner menu on the table so that all family members can praise your child!


      Web Words

    The Internet is filled with fun ways for kids to build their vocabulary.  Here are a few sites that will get your youngsters excited about learning:

    *Visit the Kids' Place at www.eduplace.com/kids/games.jsp.  Have fun solving word-find puzzles in categories such as reptiles, flowers, and sports.  Choose from three levels of difficulty.

    Also try www.funbrain.com/words.html and www.wordcentral.com.

    "Family Read Time".

    A quiet time for family members to read on their own may be the only chance a busy parent gets to read the paper.  For this activity you'll need your own reading materials and reading materials for your children.

    What to do:

    *Both you and your child should pick out something to read.

    *Don't be concerned if your child picks materials that are easier than their school reading books.  Practice with easy books (and comics) will improve their fluency.

    *If you subscribe to a children's magazine, this is a good time to get it out.  There are many good children's magazines, and youngsters often get a special thrill from receiving their own mail.

    *Relax and enjoy while you each read your own selections.

    A family reading time shows that you like to read.  Because you value reading, your children will too.

    " Word Memory".

    Goal: To hlep your child build vocabulary and read more fluently.

    You will need: Words written two times on separate cards (two sets of cards with same words). Make sure you can't see through the cards. 


    1. Shuffle cards and lay them face down on a table.

    2. Turn two cards over and read each card.

    3. If cards match, the player can keep them.

    4. If the cards don't match, turn them over and let the next palyer take a turn.

     "Making Sentences".

    Goal: To help your child predict missing words.


    1. Write sentences on paper.

    2. Cut each sentence into words.

    3. Put the words for each sentence into separate envelopes or plastic bags.

    4. Give your child one envelope.

    5. Ask her/him to take out the pieces and read them.

    6. Ask her/him to arrange them to make a complete sentence, using all the words.

    7.  Read the sentence.

    8.  Repeat with other sentences.

    Example Sentences:

    The tree is big.

    The dog likes to run.

    The rain is cold.

    The sun is hot.

    I like to ride my bike.

     "Thinking About What We Read".

    Goal: To help your child think about what s/he reads.

    What you will need:

    *Book or story


    *Pencil, pen, or crayons


    1. Read a story or book with your child.

    2. Discuss what the story was about.

    3. Discuss where and when the story took place.

    4. Discuss who the story was about.

    5. Discuss the problems and solutions in the story.

    6. Discuss the events in the story.  What happened at the beginning, middle, and end?


    *Draw three pictures that show what happened in the beginning, middle, and end.

    "Word Card Game."

    Goal: To help your child build known word vocabulary.

    What you will need: 3x5 cards or pieces of paper.

    What to do:

    1. Make a set of word cards using 3x5 cards or pieces of paper. Begin with a set of about 20 to 30 words, including words that the child knows.  Gradually add new words to the known words.  Write each word on two separate cards.

    2. Play card games using the words:

    Go Fish:

    Give each player six cards and put the remaining cards in a drawing pile.  Ask your child, "Do you have the word "_____?" (Read one word card in your hand.)  If he has a matching card, you may take it.  If not, you can "go fish" in the pile of remaining cards.  Now it's your child's turn? Repeat until one player matches all his or her cards.


    Shuffle the cards and place them in rows with the words facing down.  Take turns turning over two cards at a time.  When a player finds a match, that player keeps the pair.  Keep playing until all the pairs are matched.  The player with the most pairs wins.

    My Pile, Your Pile:

    Shuffle the word cards.  Stack them up.  Turn over one card at a time.  The first player to correctly read each card gets to keep the card.  Keep playing until all cards are used. The player with the most cards wins.

    Nursery Rhyme Switch

    Read common nursery rhymes with your child.  Run your finger under each word as you read aloud.  After reading the rhymes begin to cover rhyming words with small post-its and have your child tell you the covered words.



    Jack be nimble

    Jack be ____

    Jack jump over

    The candle ____

    When your child becomes familiar with the nursery rhymes have him/her choose a favorite then replace original words with new rhyming words .


    Jack be nimble

    Jack be bold

    Jack jump over

    The dog that's old.

    Older or more experienced children can play with sounds and words by altering familiar nursery rhymes. For example, here's a standard nursery rhyme:

    I never saw a purple cow

    I never hope to see one,

    but I can tell you anyhow

    I'd rather see than be one.

    You and your child can change the rhyme so it becomes I never saw a yellow horse or I never saw a green pig.  Encourage your child to use an adjective- a color, shape, or size - followed by a type of animal, the sillier the better.

    Consonant Riddle

    Ask your child if s/he wants to play a game with you (buy-in).  Explain to your child that this game called "Consonant Riddle" is a rhyming game.  You say a word then your child thinks of a word that rhymes with your word, but starts with a particular sound (you will give).

    Example: (Letters in between slash marks mean that you say the sound instead of the letter's name ie:/r/ is spoken like "er" not "are".)'

      Parent: What r hymes with star and begins with/k/?

        Child: car

    Continue with other rhymes such as:

    What rhymes with fish and begins with /w/?

    What rhymes with head and begins with /b/?

    What rhymes with had and begins with /d/?

    What rhymes with twirl and begins with /g/?

    Tongue Twisters

    Try saying one of the following three times quickly:

    Blue bug's blood

    Unique New York

    Six sick sheep

    Read leather, yellow leather

    thirty shiny thistle stickers

    Toy boat

    Three free throws

    Greek grapes

    Lemon linoleum

    Peggy Babcock

    Knapsack straps

    Cheap ship trip

    Old oily Ollie oils old oily autos

    Chop shops stock chops

    Truly rura

    Please pay promptly

    Are our oars oak?

    Good blood, bad blood

    Make your own tongue twister:

    You and your children can create your own variations of classic tongue twisters like Peter Piper's Peppers.  Make up a new tongue twister, such as Silly Sally's Strawberries.



    Word Families

    Our English language spelling system is based mostly on rhyming patterns: phonetics.  It is important that children learn to recognize and produce rhymes before they can effectively use formal reading instruction.

    Can your child read these lists of words?

    ad: bad dad had lad mad sad pad

    at: bat cat mat sat fat rat hat pat vat brat splat

    an: ban can fan ran Dan toan Stan bran man van

    ap: cap lap nap map rap sap tap flap gap zap snap

    all: ball call fall hall mall tall wall

    ash: bash cash dash flash gash lash mash rash sash

    en: Ben den fen hen men pen ten

    et: pet wet set bet let met fret get jet net vet

    ed: bed Ed wed fed led Fred Ned red Ted

    in: bin fin kin pin sin tin win

    it: sit fit lit bit hit kit skit pit zit

    ip: sip lip hip rip dip flip tip slip trip

    ill: bill fill hill Jill pill dill gill mill sill still will

    op: hop cop stop mop bop flop top plop pop

    ot: hot rot dot got cot not shot pot lot tot

    og: hop log bog fog dog cog jog

    ug: hug rug smug dug bug mug tug lug

    ut: hut cut rut but nut rut gut jut nut

    up: cup pup sup

    ub: sub tub rub snub cub hub


    Writing and Spelling

    Here are some activities to try:


    *Children can learn to spell some words by sounding out each letter. Short, simple words are best to learn in the beginning.  Encourage your children to write stories and to spell words using the sounds the letters make.

    *Make a puzzle word by writing a word on paper and cutting the letters apart.  Magnetic and felt letters can also be used for this activity.  Mix the lettes and have your children spell the word by putting the letters in order.

    *Say a word and have your child repeat the word.  Then have him write the letters that match the sounds in the word. 

    *Point out that some words are similar.  Talk about how hop is similar to top, cop, and mop.  Ask your children to say words that are similar to fun, man, pay, and pin.

    *Ask your children to draw a pictue of a family activiity.  Have them write a sentence about it below the picture.  Encourage your child to say the sentence and write letters to match the sounds in each word.  Then have them read what they wrote.

    *Have your child cut a picture from an old magazine and write a story about the picture.

    *Tell your child a story and have him write their own ending for it.

    *Have your child write letters and thank you notes to friends and relatives.

    *As your child progresses, help him learn the correct spelling of the words he writes.

    *Say a word and have your child repeat the word.  Then have him write the letters that match the sounds in the word.

    (Texas Educaiton Agency (1996)