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I have an advanced preschooler and a struggling kindergartener.  How can I help them both read?

I have been wondering if I should start 'formal' reading instruction for my son. He is only 2 1/2, but he already knows all of his letters by sight and sound. He will excitedly go to the fridge, pull off a random letter, call out its name, then say its sound (w/o adding an "ugh" if it's a T or P or even W). Just this evening, he overheard me working with my 6 yr
old daughter on her writing and said "P...(p), (p), pop." He also will sit down with a book and sound out letters in succession, pointing to each one, and then proceed to tell the story word for word correctly if it's one we've read before. He often stops me from reading to try and read the words himself. What are your thoughts on this?

My daughter, on the other hand, is having extreme difficulty learning to read. Like others mentioned in the FAQs, she will sound out the correct sounds, but then say a completely different word. She will also substitute 'chair' when the word is 'seat', or 'boat' for 'ship'. Also, words she read fine in one sentence are completely foreign a couple of sentences later. She can spell almost any 3 or 4 letter word orally when I ask, but not be able to read it in print. Do you know why this happens? I pulled her out of her K class
because she was driven to tears every night with all the writing homework they were required to do and am now homeschooling her. Thank you so much for any information you can give me.

It sounds like you have two children with different approaches to reading.  Whether or not you'd call it, 'formal,' it sounds like you've already exposed your son to reading fundamentals. Many children in 'formal' preschool settings are still learning all of their letters and sounds and extending what they learn to authentic settings like reading signs or piecing together words in books.  I personally don't see  harm in moving forward your sons' reading/literacy development, but at his young age, I would make sure to follow his lead.  That is, employ activities that are engaging and that are useful to him.  Make sure he doesn't get frustrated with the activities, as he might start associating reading as a punitive event.  The idea is to encourage his curiosity and excitement about reading. 

I can't say for sure why your daughter exhibits some of the reading behaviors you described, but for a kindergartener, it doesn't seem out of the ordinary.  At that age, students are learning to negotiate and attend to the different visual, sound, context cues and strategies involved in reading.  The fact that some of her reading errors involve subtituting words that 'make sense' to what she's reading (i.e., boat for ship, and chair, for seat) shows that she's trying to understand the text as she attempts to orally read it.  That shows that she has a good purpose for reading!  However, it also sounds like she might 'compartementalize' different aspects of reading (i.e., sounding out words, making meaning, spelling, etc.) as separate events and perhaps doesn't connect her memory for spelling words, with what she knows about letters and sounds and when she's reading, doesn't connect her errors (as sensible as they are) with what's actually written on the page.  Manipulating, negotiating and attending to the different aspects of reading is a sophisticated process that takes more scaffolding for some young children.  You can help your daughter by validating the good the things that she does and making her aware of what doesn't make sense.  For example, when she finished reading the sentence or the page of the book in which she said, 'boat' for 'ship' you could pause and say, "I noticed you said, boat here - that makes sense because....., Now let's look for another word that makes and matches the letters in the book!"   If the word 'ship' is not in her vocabulary, then quickly sound out the word 'ship' and introduce what that word means.   The idea is to help your daughter make connections between what she sees, the sounds letters make, what she says, and what makes sense. 

Tags: early reading intervention, homeschool reading instruction, reading instruction, emergent literacy

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