Reading Basics Broken Down

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Chances are if you are a dedicated parent ready to take on homeschooling, you have already done your research. Hopefully, you have chosen a reading curriculum that fits the Structured Literacy and Orton Gillingham methodology. If you aren’t sure what that means, find out more information here! You can use this as a checklist to ensure the program you are using offers explicit and systematic instruction in reading.

This blog is specially written for parents of emergent or early readers. Or, for parents of a struggling reading who may need to go back to the foundational skills of reading. The foundational skills are usually considered phonological awareness, phonics, and fluency. These skills need to be in place before higher-level skills and comprehension can take place. A student never outgrows the need for strong foundational skills.

While it may seem daunting, we are going to break down the most important things you need to know to help your child become a successful reader.  And, we will share our favorite early reading resources.

So, let’s start at the foundation.  While you may think that reading is all about sight and letters, it is actually much more about sound.

We call this phonological awareness. 

The most important thing you can do for your child is help them develop a strong phonological awareness! Play with the sounds in our language.  Talk about what sounds are in words. Sing nursery rhymes.  Read books with rhyme patterns and point out how words can sound similar.  Help your child tune in to and manipulate sounds before adding letters.  There are a million fun, simple ways to help your child develop a strong phonological awareness.  Don’t underestimate the importance of this step! There is a sequence and progression of developing phonological skills. Start with the most basic and move through to the more complex.

Here is a list of our favorite books and resources for phonological awareness:

Equipped for Reading Success by David Kilpatrick This book offers the reasoning behind why phonological awareness is so critical. It also offers an assessment to know exactly where your child is in the P.A. progression. Our favorite part is the word lists in the back for practice. This book offers what to teach, but not how to teach it.

Heggerty is a company that has all things phonological awareness dialed in! it offers great video explanations that are simple and easy to understand.

Phonological Awareness Assessment Tools & Strategies by Yvette Zgonc This book will give you the nitty-gritty details you need to understand phonological awareness at its most basic level. It offers tons of fun, simple games to use with your child for each skill.

Florida Center for Reading Research This amazing research center comes out of Florida State University and offers FREE resources for all things readings. It breaks down its research-based literacy games by grade level. The link above offers phonological awareness activities for kindergarteners and first graders.

The next step is to tackle phonics.

Phonics is matching letters to the 44 sounds in English. 

We love the Reading Rev’s Scope and Sequence. However, the most important thing is that you are following a sequence. It is not about teaching the alphabet in order! For each sound/letter pair, it is important that you follow a simple, but multi-sensory routine. We have had great success with the Orton Gillighman Phonics lesson plan listed below. Once you get some basic supplies and go through this process a few times, it will become routine and predictable for both you and your child. Following a scope and sequence and instructional routine will take the guesswork out of teaching letter-sounds correspondence.

Here are our favorite books and resources:

A resh Look at Phonics by Wiley Blevins This is a quick read and will give you an easy-to-understand background of phonics.  It also offers word lists and activities. 

We have broken down the Orton Gillingham approach for you in this 7 step lesson plan.  You can watch the lesson in action here.

95% Core Phonics Program This new phonics program is a great way to ensure that K-3 students receive the science-based phonics instruction they need. It allows you to explicitly teach phonics by offering a step-by-step teacher’s guide, student workbook, manipulatives, and digital resources.

The next step is blending. 

When your child knows the first 5 letters and sounds (c,o,a,d,g), you can begin blending them together to make words! You don’t have to wait to teach all the letters and sounds.  It’s exciting to be able to actually read so start as soon as you can! Kids need to be directly instructed on how this “blending” works. We love these resources.

95% Group Blending Program This program breaks down how to go from verbalizing each sound- /d/ /o/ /g/ to reading the whole word – dog. We love the step-by-step scaffolding approach!

BrainSpring Phonics Cards Constant review of previously taught concepts is a must!  Part of our Orton Gillingham lesson is the 3-part review. We love these blending drills from BrainSpring. 

Blending Board Let’s support small businesses.  We buy our blending boards from DogHouseWoodsnVines!

Finally, let’s READ!

Once your child knows letters, sounds, and can blend those into words, they are ready for decodable readers. These are books/ short stories that are simple and most of the words follow the phonetic pattern the student is learning.  It is important that your child gets lots of practice with these skill-based texts. 

However, it is equally important that you keep reading high interest, engaging, vocabulary-rich, quality literature together as well. Listening and reading comprehension is developed by having great discussions about characters, problems, solutions, and stories long before a child can read the book independently. 


Here are our favorite resources for skill-based decodables:

West Virginia Phonics This is an amazing FREE resource that gives you day-by-day lesson plans that include phonological awareness activities, phonics concepts in a sequence, and decodable passages. 

Flyleaf Publishing We love all the decodable sets Flyleaf offers. These start with an Emergent Reader set and go through Set 3 which is perfect for 2nd-3rd grade. The stories are engaging and high-interest and these feel like real books!

Primary Phonics These short, decodable books are great because they feel like real books yet they are simple and skill-based.

Here are just a few of our very favorite, high-quality picture books. However, the list is endless! Just have a constant flow of books in your home. Don’t forget to add a few wordless picture books into your rotation!  They are great for oral language development and comprehension without the mental task of reading.  

Chalk by Bill Thomson Our favorite wordless picture book!

The Adventures of Beekle The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat  Imagination is everything.

Scaredy Squirrel Series  by Melanie Watt These books are HILARIOUS and you will fall in love with this scared squirrel.

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai The amazing true story of Malala’s fight for equality is woven with the powerful message that kids can make a difference in this world.

Who Would Win Series by Jerry Pallotta Nothing is better than predicting which animal would be the victor in a real or imaginary battle between two animals. Then, read the details of each animal to create an advantage list. In the end, discover which animal would most likely win.  A kid-tested favorite!

Build an enthusiasm and love of reading from the start!

Most importantly, make reading a positive experience!!  If children see reading as something that is fun and playful, they will be willing to dedicate more time to literacy-related activities.  If reading becomes something that is stressful and challenging, they will surely shut down and the battle begins.  Most literacy-related activities can be made into a game.  Keep it light-hearted and don’t take yourself or your child too seriously at this early stage.  Hopefully, they will be safely back in the hands of the professionals soon!  If you are really worried that something may be wrong, read our blog 7 Tips for Parents: Take Action When Your Child Is Struggling With Reading.


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