Reading theory, Successes

How to build reading success

Could this be Snappy the mouse?
Well, no, I made him up.
But if there was a mouse named Snappy,
this would be him. In a bi-plane.
Image: by Dvortygirl.

Here’s a great way to help your child succeed at reading and at the same time develop a love of books… and it starts with one word.

When you’re reading with your child, point out a word or two and help him to memorize it. Every time the child reads that word—and can read that word—he’ll feel successful. And that’s when you praise the heck out of him.

Here’s how it would look
ME: This is a book about a mouse named Snappy. Look at that name, “Snappy.” See the big S at the front? It’s like a snake, isn’t it? How many letters does Snappy’s name have—let’s count them. Six! What else does Snappy’s name have?

KID: Two of these letters. (pointing).

ME: That’s right! Snappy’s name has two ps! And do you know this letter? (Pointing to the y.)

OK, so now the child will recognize that if there’s a word with two ps and a capital S and a y, it’s likely to be “Snappy.”

You’ve shifted his focus from all of the grey text in the book, to looking for just one little word. And you’ve chosen a word that will come up a lot in the book, so there will be lots of successes.

And now as you’re reading out loud, pause whenever the word “Snappy” is in the text. And you know who’s going to read that word? (Right!) The kid.

The first couple of times you’ll pause and point to the word, and maybe point out the capital S and the ps with your finger. And then look pointedly at the child, as if waiting… for… him… to… say…

KID: Snappy!

ME: Good one! That’s right! There’s that word: Snappy! Nice job. I wonder if it’s in here again…

And sure enough, the second time you pause, he’ll notice the capital S and call out, “Snappy!” And you’ll both be delighted. And the next time it will happen faster, and the next time you won’t even have to pause at all.

It will become seamless, like this:

ME: One day when (child: Snappy!) was in his bedroom, his mother called to him. (child: Snappy!) she called. Oh, (child: Snappy!). Come down and eat your dinner!

And then later in the week, the child will see the word in some other context, in another book or in an ad (Snapple) and he’ll be so proud that he knows that word.
Is he sounding out the word using phonics? No, he’s memorizing it by its shape and a couple of cues. And memorizing is an important part of learning to read, especially in the beginning.
But more than that, your child has taken ownership of a word. He’s taken ownership of a book with “his” word in it. He has learned that he can read something, and he’s been successful.

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