What are some resources to get my Kindergartener reading?
January 6, 2017 8:06 AM   Subscribe

My daughter is on the cusp of being able to read on her own. What can I do to help her while still giving her space and not pushing her too hard? She prefers to do things on her own, though she'll tolerate parental direction in short bursts. She loves games (both in app form and real life), drawing, science experiments, puzzles and writing. She is read to every day at bedtime, but gets frustrated with reading text on a page. I would love resources and advice to help get her going with reading.

Until recently, my daughter has been content to be read to and not shown much interest in being a reader. Some of her friends are reading books and she is starting to get sad that she is not on their level. As a result, she's developed an interest in doing more work to get reading. I'd like to give her resources to help her along, but give her the freedom to go at her own pace. She does not react well to being pushed, so I am pretty hands off unless she asks.

Right now she's got most of the basics with sight words and is pretty good at sounding things out. She's able to read simple sentences one at a time, but sounding out a whole book is too much for her for now. She's at a normal level for her age and has no signs of a learning disability, but if she'd like to do more I'd like to give her tools to help. Her teacher (who is great) took me aside and let me know that she thinks that my daughter is ready to start really reading and encouraged us to help her out at home. I would love to pull out the flash cards and set up reading sessions each evening, but that's not what works for my kid's personality or our relationship.

My husband and I both work outside the home and have commutes, so we tend to treat our evenings as a time of relaxation. I'm considering hiring someone to pick her up early from her after school program so she can have some more time at home and someone available to help with reading if she wants. She's a lot more receptive to learning from people who aren't Mom or Dad. Has anyone done something like this with some success?

Are there good apps, books or games out there that I can make available to her? What are some good literacy activities for crafty/arty kids who like using their hands? She already loves writing notes and coloring greeting cards for all occasions. What worked for you or your kid? We already have a lot of level 1 "I Can Read" type books and a subscription to Highlights Magazine.
posted by Alison to Education (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
When I was a kid I was (a) a very early reader and (b) SUPER independent. My parents say I was obsessed with the record-player-readalong books when I was learning to read, where there was an audio version to listen to while you read along in the paper book. Maybe there's a digital equivalent?
posted by amoeba at 8:09 AM on January 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Dr. Seuss books? I learned to read on Dr. Seuss books.......a long time ago.
posted by strelitzia at 8:18 AM on January 6, 2017

There is some sort of magic about the Elephant and Piggie books for kids at this stage--you can read together, with one of you doing Elephant's speech-bubbles and the other reading Piggie's. It's a lot less intimidating than reading a whole book out loud, and way more motivating than just trading off pages/sentences!
posted by cogitron at 8:19 AM on January 6, 2017 [16 favorites]

When my older daughter was learning to read, I would write notes and "mail" them to her with a fake stamp and all. She LOVED it! It was especially fun to include an interactive component, like asking her to pick her favorite color and then including a checklist of colors below. Or asking a question with a yes/no answer and leaving a blank for her to reply. She started reading very, very early but was hesitant to write, so that also encouraged her to practice writing. Keep it very simple and easy at first, so it isn't intimidating, but after a while you can vary the vocabulary a bit.

Is her after school program playing with kids or a structured activity? If it's playing, I would leave it alone. She sounds like she's on a good path to reading and doesn't need to be home doing "homework". If the after school program is some type of a "class", I would consider pulling her to have more time at home. Maybe she'll choose to read, and maybe she won't. When my kids get home from school, they often want 30-60 minutes to play quietly with their toys or work on an art project. It can be exhausting to spend an entire day with other kids in a structured environment.

The kindergarten teachers in our district are quick to point out that kids need to be reading longer and more varied books, but remember that reading expectations for kindergarten aged children is recent (and controversial). 30 years ago, we STARTED to learn to read in first grade, and certainly no one asked us to read more than several simple sentences as a time. She's doing great! Let her play and enjoy being a little kid.
posted by defreckled at 8:25 AM on January 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

Elephant and Piggie books are great. Everything Mo Willems does is great. Could you try the Sunday comics? I personally find "Garfield" awful but it's easy to read and my son thinks it's really funny.
posted by kerf at 8:29 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you borrow some books from the kindergarten classroom? They often have some extremely-early-reader books that are better stepping stones than the sort of thing you can generally find at the library or bookstore.

Also my child's school district gives us access to Raz Kids, which has hundreds of read-along books either on the website or as an iPad app. Looks like there is a free trial, but I'm not sure of the cost for one family. My first-grader likes them.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:34 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Most public libraries offer a subscription to "Tumblebooks", which has ebooks for kids though a website or app. You can have the story "read" or read it on your own, and they often include added animations.
posted by veery at 8:48 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also get her eyes checked. My somewhat-slow-to-read 8 year old's interest in reading got a lot better after she got (mild) glasses to help her eyes not have to strain so much when reading.

(Apparently lots of kids are mildly farsighted and as their eyes grow, it goes away. But giving glasses that correct for some of the farsightedness, so their eyes and brain don't have to work *quite* so hard, can be helpful.)
posted by leahwrenn at 8:54 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

My mom's (unintentional) approach: she would read partway through a book at bedtime, then tell me we had to stop because her throat was tired from reading. I became so determined to stop hearing cliffhangers that I taught myself to read in secret. (I kept it to myself because I didn't want to run the risk that my mom wouldn't read to me every night if she knew I could do it myself.)

One night she said we had to stop because she was tired, and I asked her to keep going for just a little bit longer. As a joke, she said "read it yourself" and handed me the book. I proceeded to start reading the book to her, and her astonishment was extreme.

So basically: stop right before getting to the exciting parts. GREAT motivator.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:01 AM on January 6, 2017 [16 favorites]

At that age I really liked kids' nonfiction/reference books - the kind with lots of pictures and diagrams and facts presented in blurb form. (Something like this, by way of example, though I imagine there are better ones out there). Since there's no narrative, it's easy to pick them up and put them down at any point, and as a bonus you get to learn about space or dinosaurs or whatever at the same time.

By the way, if she's in kindergarten and reading sentences, she's still ahead of the curve, even if she feels like she's behind! It might be encouraging for her to know that she's doing really great so far and there's no rush because plenty of smart kids don't read until first grade.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:02 AM on January 6, 2017

Just one anecdote which might make you feel better about it - when I was in kindergarten I flatly refused to even try to read because 'kindergartners can't read.' I remember a spelling lesson where one of the words was 'away,' and thinking "I will never learn how to do this." I have no memory of exactly when or how this changed, but I know there wasn't any sort of serious push from my parents or teachers - but the very next year, I passed an English test to put me into an accelerated class and by 3rd grade I was reading significantly above my grade level. So, it's totally likely that your daughter's frustration won't last.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:40 AM on January 6, 2017

Turn on the closed captioning while watching TV so she starts associating words with dialogue.
posted by slateyness at 9:45 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

My kid likes the Bob Books. The story lines (at least for beginning readers set) aren't very exciting. But they are super short and give him confidence in his reading.
posted by statsgirl at 9:50 AM on January 6, 2017

A friend's daughter really got over the cusp of reading with a Sonic the Hedgehog comic book. She would read and reread the same one over and over again, of her own choice. Maybe bring her to a comic book store and see if there are any there that she likes? They usually have a section for kids. The key here is finding a book that *she* really wants to read.
posted by jillithd at 10:42 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

My family had family reading time every night. I have no sense of how long it was - seemed like an hour or so. Mom, Dad, and both kids each had their own book they were working on, or a magazine or the newspaper, but we all hung out in the same room. I remember quietly reading to the dog or cat sometimes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:11 AM on January 6, 2017

Comic books! Specifically Tiny Titans by Art Baltazar and Franco. Very simple and very intended for little kids. My daughter learned to read by reading the BOOM! and KRAKOOM! sound effects as we'd read together.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:38 AM on January 6, 2017

Take her to the library and let her pick out books she's interested in.
posted by epj at 11:50 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

cogitron is correct that the Elephant and Piggie books are really PERFECT for this. Really ham it up on your end and you'll both be collapsing in giggles.

Other than that, lots of reassurance that reading takes practice. Remind her of things that she used to be terrible at and now can do with ease (example: walking.) Then ask if she'd like to practice with you. You can take turns reading pages, or sentences, or she reads a page and then you read two, or whatever works for her. "Hop on Pop" is another good book for this - she can read the big-print words and you can read the small-print ones.

Finally, try to incorporate as much laughter, silliness, and other lightheartedness as possible into your practice sessions, and then you'll be bonding and having fun together rather than having Reading Gulag.
posted by telepanda at 12:11 PM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Another plug for Elephant & Piggie. Also, is there any way she could have some "amuse yourself with books" time on weekend mornings before you wake up? We have a remote controlled light in my son's room so he can turn it on himself when he's awake in the morning and we aren't (he also has a color coded clock so he knows he's allowed to get up when the clock is yellow, not when it's blue). Not like my six year old is a perfect child who always lets us sleep in on weekends, but he is sometimes happy to sit in his room with the light on looking at / reading books for a while. Leave a stack of easy readers by her bed, give her the ability to turn on a light, maybe she'll entertain herself and get over the reading bump?
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 12:49 PM on January 6, 2017

We had good luck with the Rupert books. The stories are told at three different levels: in pictures, in a simple little rhyme, and as a larger block of text. The stories are engaging and fun and they can grow with the kid. They have a down side in that the stories tend to be male character focused and the older stories (from the '50's etc) can be racist as hell, so stick to the new stuff.
posted by Dr. Twist at 1:05 PM on January 6, 2017

Endless Reader is an app. My son has enjoyed this.

Alternate reading pages/lines in a book? This has worked well for us. My son can read, but by the time we're reading at bedtime he isn't in the mood to wrestle through a whole book. Heck, sometimes I read most of the line and let him fill in the last word or two- this makes him follow along but doesn't put a lot of burden on him.
posted by pearshaped at 2:48 PM on January 6, 2017

I have a suggestion that does not involve great literature, I'm afraid. My question to you is, does she watch TV? What is her favorite show? Or what shows are her friends watching? I have a kid who is not that interested in reading, but when he sees a book with a Paw Patrol Pup on the cover he will sit down and read it straight through out loud.
posted by bq at 2:50 PM on January 6, 2017

Illustrated works, such as comics, can help a child bridge the gap. Twice exceptional kids -- ie bright kids with some kind of challenge or learning disability -- sometimes read late because of the gap between interest level and ability. In other words, they want, say, third grade stories but they read at kindergarten level. Illustrated stories can help them read adequately interesting things without getting overwhelmed. They tend to be more intellectually engaging while relying less on words per se.
posted by Michele in California at 7:52 PM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

My mom would write words on the inside of those paper wrappers on Lipton's Tea bags We'd make sentences from them, physically arranging and rearranging the words. Then we'd use the sentences for a story launch. I loved it.
posted by congen at 11:20 PM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bug Club is pretty great for this, but I think it's currently only available through UK schools. If there's something similar that's local to you it would be worth checking out.

From an imaginative play perspective, I recommend opening up a word processor on your laptop and letting her play at 'Receptionist'. She sits behind the desk and you come up to her as a variety of characters and ask to make an appointment. She has to write the customer's name down, then write down your appointment time on a post-it note and give it to you.

You can make the customer names as easy or hard as you need to in order to match her abilities. (You could also do this with a pen and paper, but the typing was always a big part of the fun for the kids I've done this with.) I recommend making it the reception area for a vet's office, because then she gets to write the customer's name, the pet's name and what type of animal it is. (It also becomes a creative exercise for you in coming up with increasingly ridiculous ways your imaginary pets have injured themselves. "Well I was walking my pet frog this morning, when he saw an ice-cream truck. He loves ice-cream, so he got closer for a taste, but he fell into the freezer and now my frog has frostbite. Can we make an appointment with the vet?"
posted by the latin mouse at 3:58 AM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Starfall.com is a great (free) website for kids learning to read. All four of my kids (all voracious readers now) played with it quite a bit from the ages of 4-7 or so. They weren't terribly interested in the 'learn to read' lessons, but all of the little activities really kept their attention, and they are all designed to practice phonics and increase literacy. They have several apps, but I can't tell you anything about them - we just used the website.
posted by Dojie at 11:29 AM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Elephant and Piggie really did it. She would read one character and I would read the other. The text was simple enough and the alternating dialog really worked to get her going. We'd been reading Elephant and Piggie books in Spanish, but it's not her primary language.

We also bought Tiny Titans, which she loved.
posted by Alison at 7:02 AM on April 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

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