Using Graded Readers, Phonics, and Real Reading
Regardless of whether you are tutoring your new reader with or without a phonics program, you will need to use readers (“graded” readers for younger kids and various types of readers for olders) with him or her—everyday.
I once tutored a little boy after school in phonics and reading. Every time he came to tutoring, I would ask him what he did in “reading” that day in school. One day he told me that they did not have time to do “reading” that day because of an assembly. When I questioned him further about this, he finally agreed that, yes, he had done phonics worksheets and fill in the blank “reading comprehension” worksheets—but he hadn’t done “reading.” My concern in this was that this little guy saw no correlation at all between his phonics and his reading! He did not understand (upon further questioning) that the phonics is being used to teach him to read. That reading is the unlocking of words using some sort of system (in this case, the school used a word family phonics system, thankfully). Phonics and reading should go hand in hand as you work on your struggling reader’s reading skills.*
We used a two-pronged approach each day to teach our children to read:
1. Phonics instruction to learn to unlock words**
2. “Graded” readers to practice the phonics skills being taught***
If you are tutoring your child without a phonics system (or with one that does not contain books to read from), you will want to choose readers that he will use to practice his phonetic skills. (Some phonics programs come with readers that correlate with each phonics lesson; these are usually good programs.) You will want him to, at the very least, read aloud to you every day from his reader.
Personally, we had three “sets” of readers always going for our new phonetic kids. (Our phonics programs did not have readers, so we added them to it, being careful to select readers that are truly “phonetically-controlled” at first, then “vocabulary-controlled” later as he learned more and more words. I will explain this in detail, so don’t worry if you don’t know what that means.)
Our three reader sets consisted of the following types:
1. Reading with Mom following each phonics lesson: A reader that is somewhat difficult—that contains the sounds he is currently learning—that he reads aloud with Mom each day—this reader can be a bit more challenging since he will have you there to cue him on difficult words and remind him of his phonics lesson.
2. Reading with Dad and/or older siblings, grandparents, etc.: A reader that is not as difficult that contains previously learned sounds and words to read aloud to Dad or older brother or sister, hopefully every day or at least every other day. (The first thing my dad used to say to the kids when they would get to his house as they were learning to read was, “Did you bring your book to read to me?” SO cute!!)
3. Reading silently: A reader that he has already mastered with Mom (#1) that he uses for his “silent reading—this level of reading is not achieved in the first couple of weeks, but once he has some readers he has read perfectly with Mom (of which he knows all the words and sounds), he is ready to have a silent reading time each day with these former “read aloud” ones.
*Struggling reader: If your child can already read at his grade level, you will not want to go back and do phonics, more than likely. Stay with us—I will give advice on helping to build this student’s comprehension level, choosing books for him to read this summer, and more after this “beginning reader” series.
**Phonics instruction: I have just reviewed my three favorite phonics programs in the previous days to this post. Some are extremely well laid out and “mom friendly”—you just put in the cd and go. I feel that you would actually save a lot of money by purchasing a pricey phonics program on cd over hiring a tutor—and you can always re-sell the phonics program or use with younger siblings—or perhaps use it for becoming a private tutor yourself!
***Readers: Tomorrow and the following day I will give a suggested order of readers, how to choose graded readers for your child’s level, what not to get for readers, and more.