A Reading Rockets special video series

Reading SOS: Expert Answers to Family Questions About Reading

In this special Reading Rockets video series, experts answer real questions from families about reading and how to support their children at home. COVID-19 has disrupted regular reading instruction for our K-3 kids. Families want to step in and help fill some of the gaps, but that can be challenging.

That's where Reading SOS comes in — the help you need, right now!

We're asking families to submit questions about how to help their striving readers. If you'd like to ask a question, please write to us at: info@readingrockets.org

Click these links to jump ahead to each question and answer:

Question: How do I explain "ea"?

A parent asks about the best way to the "ea" vowel combination (also called a vowel team). Linda explains that you begin with the most common pronunciation, and then teach the exceptions.

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Question: Which letter sounds do I teach first?

Linda recommends that you begin with teaching the letter names, and then focus on the letter sounds that are closest to their letter names (such as /v/). And here's a great tip for teaching the trickier letter name–letter sound combinations — use arm motions. In this video, Linda demonstrates motions for /x/ and /y/.

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Question: Why can't my child re-read a word in a sentence that he just sounded out?

Linda sees this often with striving readers, and she shares a simple tip: encourage your child to silently "think" the sounds as he reads the word. Linda also emphasizes how important it is for kids to keep their eyes on the words as they read.

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Question: How do I help my child who is getting stuck on sight words?

Many striving readers struggle with sight words. Linda suggests this teaching sequence: first, be sure your child knows all the letter names, then all the letter sounds — and then you can introduce a few short high-frequency words such as was. Choose words that don't have regular phonetic spelling. Words that do have phonetic spelling, such as in, did, and on can be folded into phonics lessons.

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Question: Can you recommend a good reading program for my child with learning disabilities?

Linda provides guidance in understanding the three features that all good reading programs should have: (1) phonological awareness and phonemic awareness, (2) a strong phonics scope and sequence, and (3) lots of opportunities for kids to practice what they've learned in their phonics lessons.

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Question: Do Bob Books help young readers?

A parent asks if the Bob Books — a step-by-step early reader series — help her young son with reading. He likes to read them over and over again! Linda shares her thoughts on these early readers as well as the importance of reading aloud to build vocabulary and background knowledge.

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Reading expert Linda Farrell

Linda Farrell is a founding partner at Readsters, an Alexandria, VA-based firm that helps schools implement research-based reading instruction. She is committed to effective early reading instruction to help struggling readers become strong readers, and to ensure that strong readers achieve their full potential. Linda works in schools throughout the U.S., training and coaching teachers and modeling effective reading instruction. Linda is a former English teacher and she was a National LETRS trainer for seven years. She has co-authored assessments and curricula for teaching reading, as well as several other published works. Watch Linda in action in our video series, Looking at Reading Interventions.

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