Can I tell you a secret? You know those dry, mundane, ‘The cat is brown. The dog is black.’ stories? I LOVE THEM.
Yes, the storyline leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, the words and pictures are so predictable it can be a little (more than a little) painful. But these books can be fun.
These books can be fun AND can actually help your child learn to read.
The trick is using them properly.
My Ben can easily ‘read’ these books now. If I start the pattern for him by reading the first page, he can look at the pictures, use the pattern, and easily read the rest of the book.
He is not actually looking at the words much – he is using his knowledge of books and following the pattern.
So once we get through the books once, he could do it again and again and again. But the learning would be very minimal. Plus the story line is far from engaging (for either of us).
There is so much learning to be had with these books however! Simple, repetitive books are fabulous for young readers as they:
- increase their confidence as readers,
- help them understand text, words, letters, and punctuation,
- teach sight words (words that can’t be sounded out and words that are used very frequently)
- learn about beginning, middle, and ending sounds,
- teach letter sounds and sound blending,
- and actually a lot more – but I think you get the idea.
The trick is to ask the right questions and get your little one focusing on specific things as you read. This also helps to keep them engaged in what they are reading and takes the dullness out of the book.
We do all of these activities as games and Ben loves them.
He loves them even more when we add in a racing element and he tries to find the word/letter/sound/thing before I do.
He is very competitive, that boy of mine. I have no idea where he gets it from.
Here are 10 questions to ask or games to play when your little one is reading simple stories:
(Of course we don’t do these all at once. I have Ben read the story through once, and then we flip through the book again, asking a question or having a race on each page. Sometimes he asks me the questions as well – which is also a fabulous learning activity)
- Point to the word “cat” – This is a great place to start with brand new readers. After they have read a sentence, such as “The cat is brown”, asking them to point out the word cat will help you know the strategies they are using. Maybe he is looking for the word that starts with the sound /c/ – or maybe he is reading the sentence again pointing to each word and stopping when he says “cat”. Either way, he is practicing important reading skills.
- Point to the longest/shortest word in that sentence. – This question helps little ones learn about words (how they are made up of letters, and a space means a new word is about to begin). It also helps little ones learn to read all the way through a word. “Cat” is made up of 3 sounds, /c/ /a/ /t/
- Find a word that starts with … – This game helps little ones focus on the beginning sound, which is one of the best strategies for early readers. Pictures are great tools for helping children figure out words, and when that is combined with a first letter sound they are almost sure to figure that word out.
- Find a word with an “e” in it … – This is another way to get children to read all the way through the word. After my little guy finds a word with an “e” (or whatever letter), I ask him, ‘What word is that?’ Which he discovers the same way he does when I ask him question 1 from this list.
- Find a word that ends with … – Of course this is the same idea as above, but getting little ones to focus on the very last sound. It also helps children to focus on where words end. This can be done by asking, “What word ends with a ‘t’?” or, “What word ends with the sound /t/?” Focusing on the letter is easier so it’s best to start with that.
- Find a word with 6 letters … – This is yet another way to teach little ones to read all the way through the word and focus on each letter that makes up that word.
- How many words are in that sentence? – This switches our focus to the sentence, instead of an individual word.
- Find a word that rhymes with … – This one is getting a little tricky. I usually pull this one out when we are almost finished up with a specific easy book. If it is very, very familiar, and the words can be very quickly identified, this is a fun one to try. So I might ask, after reading the sentence, “The cat is brown”, for Ben to point to the word that rhymes with “down”.
- Find a word that has 2 syllables – this is a game we do one night where we focus only on syllables. Little ones get easily mixed up between counting letters, counting words, and counting syllables, so I find it best to focus on one area at a time. Make sure to practice what a syllable is many times before trying this with a book (a simple way to introduce this is to have your little on “clap a word” – “cat” has one clap, “purple” has two claps).
- How many times can you find the word “the” in the book? This is a great way to get your little one focused on learning and memorising sight words. The more times he finds it and reads it, the more familiar it will become.
I should mention, I never try to stump Ben. I will challenge him sometimes, but I want him to be successful. I want him to build his confidence and see himself as capable of reading.
Phew! I actually intended on just popping on for a quick visit with you tonight – but the teacher in me decided to come out in full force.
I have such a passion for helping little ones learn to read, so please don’t be shy sending any questions you may have my way. I am very happy to help in any way I can!
And my new book is ideal for little ones learning to read, so please grab an eBook copy. I promise it to be a fabulous $8 investment:
Thank you for reading friends, I hope you are having a lovely week!