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5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Teaching Reading

5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Teaching Reading #homeschool #cmhomeschool #reading #teachingreading

I was watching an Instagram story the other day. It was a 30-second peek into a preschool reading lesson. The screen showed a little four or five-ish girl sifting through alphabet cards that were haphazardly laid out in front of her.

She picked up the letter G card and with all the pluck and moxie of a firstborn, shouted out, "Gu!" Next came H. "Hu!" she declared.

She was confident. She was determined. This was her moment. She was reading and she wanted those of us behind the screen to know it.


After hearing her "read" each letter sound, the mom was quick to respond with a liberal amount of "Good job!"s and "Well done!"s. She was affirming and encouraging--two qualities that will serve her homeschool years well.

But as I watched the girl continue to sort through the flashcards, I couldn't help but droop my shoulders a bit. Years of teaching reading both in and out of the classroom has taught me that she's in for an uphill spelling battle if the bad, yet very common "reading" habit of adding an imaginary vowel sound at the end of a consonant is not broken soon.

5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Teaching Reading #homeschool #cmhomeschool #reading #teachingreading

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She had said, "Gu," but hard G doesn't say, "Gu." It only says, "G." And while that might seem like an inconsequential flub now while she's learning the letter sounds, experience has shown me that if it's not corrected, it will probably turn into a significant spelling obstacle later on.

It obviously wasn't my place to message the mother about my concern. My thoughts would've just sounded more like a criticism than a help when sent through the sterile and monotone lines of social media. And who'd want to receive the advice of a total stranger anyway? I know I wouldn't have wanted to be on the receiving end of that DM.

And besides, that mom was not alone in her decision. Allowing a child to add an extra vowel sound to the end of a consonant is just one of the five most common mistakes parents make when teaching kids to read.

Here are four other reading mistakes to avoid:

5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Teaching Reading #homeschool #cmhomeschool #reading #teachingreading

Teaching the Letter Sounds in Order

When teaching the names and sounds of the letters, it seems natural to teach them in alphabetical order. But, it actually inhibits immediate reading mastery for two reasons:

First, a child who learns the sounds of his letters in alphabetical order will usually have a harder time recognizing them out of order, as in the case of a real word. He'll have memorized a letter's name and sound in relationship to the names and sounds of the letters right before and right after that letter and will have to mentally go through the entire alphabet to recall the name and sound of the letter he's trying to read. But if he learns them out of order, he won't have to be held up by a mental crutch that slows him down.

Second, if the short vowels are taught first, followed by a handful of commonly used consonants next (R, S, T, L, N, and a few others) a child will be able to start "reading" simple one-vowel words like sit, bat, and sun even before he has learned the names and sounds of all the letters. Nothing will cultivate a feeling of success or a love of reading quite like actual reading.

5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Teaching Reading #homeschool #cmhomeschool #reading #teachingreading

Using Capital-Letters-Only Resources

Most inexpensive alphabet toys and manipulatives found at Walmart and Target feature capital letters. This makes sense considering the fact that the majority of capital letters are formed using straight lines which are easier and faster to produce in a factory and therefore cheaper to manufacture. In contrast, lower case letters have straight lines, curves, and dots and are therefore more difficult and more expensive to produce. For the sake of the bottom dollar, general market toy manufacturers produce toys with the cheapest letters, capitals.

The problem is, roughly 98-99% of the words in a book are formed with lower case letters. You and I might understand the connection between an upper case G and a lower case g, but a child just learning to read does not. In his mind, these two shapes are two completely different letters.

Using toys and manipulatives that feature the lower case form of the letters is critical when teaching an emergent reader and speller. So, when budget allows, skip the cheap aisles of Walmart and opt for a resource that will work with your teaching efforts not against them like these magnet letters, this wooden puzzle, or these lacing beads. Or, make your own using manipulatives you already have around your house like these Duplo letter blocks.

5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Teaching Reading #homeschool #cmhomeschool #reading #teachingreading

Ignoring Natural Reading Progression

Phonics is made up of skills that are taught best in sequential order. When a new skill is built onto a previously learned skill in a naturally progressive order, a solid reading foundation can be made. When these skills are learned out of order, reading mastery can still happen, but it takes longer to develop and is often painstaking.

A basic timeline of reading progression looks like the following: 
Learn the names and sounds of the short vowels. (An easy way to teach the concept of letter names and sounds is to compare a letter to an animal. Just as an animal has a name and makes a sound, letters have names and make sounds too.)

Learn the names and sounds of the consonants.

Begin reading one vowel words like "mat" and "sit."

Learn the names and sounds of the long vowels and the 2-vowel rule.

Begin reading 2-vowel words like "boat" and "cane."

Learn to read blends. (These are combinations of letters that say the individual sounds of the letters like "bl" and "tr."

Learn to read diagraphs. (These are combinations of letters that say one sound like "ay" and "ph."

Learn the basic syllable division rules and how to read 2 or more syllable words.

It's helpful to have a Handbook for Reading when teaching each step so that you have consistent and sequential practice.

5 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Teaching Reading #homeschool #cmhomeschool #reading #teachingreading

Introducing Trade Show Readers

There are plenty of really easy and not boring books for young readers lining the store shelves and library racks. But these trade show readers are not written with phonics in mind, are authored by writers who have not been trained in phonemic awareness, and are not appropriate for kids who are learning to read. They are more suitable for kids who have been introduced to all the major phonics skills and have a basic handle on reading, but who are in need of daily reading practice. Unfortunately, most parents don't know this and inadvertently cultivate feelings of failure in their kids by giving them books that are too difficult for them to read.

For young kids (Pre-K through Kindergarten and sometimes first grade), phonics-based emergent reader books are best. These are books that have been curriculum leveled (as opposed to publisher leveled) which means that the content will increase in difficulty according to the kid's current reading skills. There won't be any words included on the page that your child is not academically ready to read yet. As with most things in life, the most effective motivator for reading progress is reading success. The small win of reading a "real book" that is leveled appropriately will give your child the push he needs to keep reading.

A Final Word

I saw a girl on Instragam the other day. She was learning to read. Despite the fact that her mother did not correct her mispronunciation, she'll no doubt learn to read. Reading is the natural next step for most children her age. I'm sure she'll be no exception. Her mother's obvious encouragement and affirmation will work wonders to boost her confidence and make the entire experience an enjoyable one.

Reading will come. It will be much less laborious and quite a bit easier, however, if she can learn to read "G" instead of "gu." It's a simple fix, but one that has the potential to change her learning-to-read years in all the right ways.

More Tips for Teaching Reading

How I Teach My Preschool the ABCs
How to Make a Boy HATE Reading in 7 Easy Steps
All About Reading for Fluency and Confidence
What You Should Know About Teaching Reading

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