You have a child that is struggling or just learning to read, what do you do?! I am here to help. First, collaborate closely with the teacher of your student. If they're not being very helpful or informative, ask another teacher who will give you more to work with! Being a struggling or beginning reader is exhausting. Everything during their school day--math, language arts, spelling, science, social studies, homework, is exponentially harder for them to complete and comprehend than a student who is reading on level. Be patient!! Be positive!!!! Be encouraging!! Don't add stress and pressure!!
Here are some age generic techniques that I use daily with my students. It will help to change it up from just reading + sounding out. Keep in mind the Words Per Minute goal for your child's age. Secretly time them every once in a while if you want to know how close they are to that goal. I wouldn't let her know she is being timed, no reason for her to feel stressed. A great practice tool is Fry Phrases which I linked HERE. I still do these with my 3rd graders. It gets them used to words and phrases quickly vs. the overwhelming whole page of words.
Approximate Words per Minute guideline based on grade:
1st grade: Beginning 30, End 60
2nd grade: Beginning 70, End 100
3rd grade: Beginning 100, End 120
4th grade: Beginning 120, End 140
5th grade: Beginning 140, End 160
6th grade: Beginning 150+, End 160-210
7th grade and older: A consistant 190 or faster
**Keep in mind these vary a little depending on state/district and program, but they're a good benchmark for parents to know. This is not for speed reading--this is reading done with expression and appropriate pauses.
Most beginning readers are inconsistent. They may know a word one day but not the next. They may read a particular word correctly on one page, but they have to stop and sound it out again on the next page. When you listen to a beginning reader, you hear short, choppy words with little attention to punctuation. Sometimes a new reader can tell you very little about what they just read.
What Parents Can Do To Help Their Struggling Reader
At the beginning stage of reading, all of these reading behaviors are to be expected. Beginning readers are building their fluency. This means they're working to make several skills, like matching a letter to a sound and decoding, more smooth, accurate and automatic. Without fluency, each word must be decoded, and that takes time and energy. This means that other reading behaviors like reading with expression and comprehension have less of a focus.
Give them time to read. Reading is a skill, and like many other skills, it takes time to develop. A beginning reader should spend at least 20 minutes a day reading to or with someone. The books read during this time should be relatively easy for your child.
Let them reread the same books. Rereading the same words over and over again helps build fluency. Over time, you'll notice that your child will stop less often to decode words.The more they memorize a book, the better they can "read" it and that will build their confidence immensely!!
Encourage attention to the print. If your child is stuck on a word, help him look at the first letter(s) and encourage him to sound it out. If it's a difficult word, or one that can't be sounded out, simply supply the word and continue reading.
Take turns reading. By listening to your fluent reading, your child will hear what good readers sound like. After you've read a short passage, ask your child to reread the same passage. This provides a chance for her to practice reading with expression. I PROMISE the more she hears you read, the better she will be!!! Even if it takes her a little longer, once it clicks she'll be leaps and bounds ahead those who don't have that skill base.
Have realistic expectations. For example, students should be reading approximately 60 words per minute correctly by the end of first grade, and 90-100 words per minute correctly by the end of second grade.
Popsicle Stick Reading: I use a tongue depressor or popsicle stick and lay it flat on top of the text you are reading. Move the stick as she reads so that it covers up the words she has read. Move it a little more quickly than she is reading so that it pushes her to read a little bit faster. Covering up words she has already read will help her not do this and improve her rate. Remind her that it's ok to miss a couple of words every once in a while. When using this activity, tell her to just keep reading, and not worry too much about tiny mistakes. Self-Correcting (fixing mistakes they recognize themselves) is always something I encourage for any reading activity as well. I wouldn't do this activity for more than 5 minutes at a time. It's pretty intense for them.
Timed Readings: Read a poem or passage and time her for one minute. Once she is done, count up the number of words she read correctly. Talk about any words she missed, and go over how to pronounce them. Then have her read the passage again, and time her for another minute. See if she can improve her words per minute. I like to have two copies (one for her and one for you) so that you can write on your copy, and she can read without being distracted. If she self-corrects within 3 seconds, count the word as correct. If she inserts a word, substitutes a word, or omits a word or line, count those words as wrong. Sometimes I have students use the same passage for a few days, or up to a week to see if they can get better each day. If you need passages, let me know. I have some I'd be happy to give you!
Repeated Readings: This is similar to timed readings. Have her read a passage or poem and time her to see how long it takes her to finish it. Then go over any unfamiliar words, or any words she missed. Discuss them and practice saying them. Then have her read the story again, timing her to see if she improves. Again, go over any tricky parts as necessary. Have her read the passage over and over again on her own at least five times, and have her read to you again. Time her and see if she improves her rate and accuracy. Again, feel free to use the same story for a few days or a week. I would only do this activity for about ten minutes a day.
Echo Reading: You read a phrase or sentence, and she will read (echo) it back to you. Make sure she echos the phrase or sentence back to you exactly as you did (intonation, pronunciation, expression, phrasing, rate, accuracy). If she has a hard time on one of the sentences, repeat it and have her do it again until she gets it. Then continue on with the story or text in the same fashion. You will read a sentence, she will echo it back, and you continue with the next sentence.
Choral Reading: You will both read at the same time in unison. Make sure to read a little bit faster than she is comfortable with. It's normal to have her make a few mistakes here or there. If she starts to make a lot of mistakes at once, slow down a little until you can tell she is comfortable again. Then slowly pick up the pace. Remind her that you don't stop. Just keep reading until you are done with the paragraph, page, passage, or whichever you decide. Once you complete the desired goal, stop and discuss. Review words or tricky parts as necessary.
Finger Reading: I require that all of my students use their finger when they are tested, or are reading at the back table to me. She doesn't need to all the time at home, but I find it really helps improve their accuracy. As they read, I have them ask themselves "does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it match what I'm saying?" If they make an error, I stop them after they finish the sentence and say, "oops, there was one mistake (or how ever many there were). Go back and see if you can find it." Continue having them read and reread the same sentence until they find their mistake. Don't tell her the mistake she made. She will learn faster and retain it better if she can find it. Keep reminding her to use her finger to check that all of the sounds she says matches exactly with what she is reading. If she starts to get frustrated, then you can tell her what she missed, but most of the time the students pick up on it quickly and are just fine. I'm really picky too. For example, if a student says "tree" and the word was "trees" it is wrong. It has to be exact. When they are tested, they are graded that hard. I like them to be used to the standard. Again, if she inserts, omits, or substitutes a word it is wrong.
Spot the Error: You read aloud, and have her follow along. Make a mistake in a sentence or paragraph and see if she can find your mistake. I usually only play this for about 5 minutes.