Multi-Sensory Strategies to Help Kids Who Confuse “b” and “d”

Multi-Sensory Strategies to Help Kids Who Confuse “b” and “d”

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Are You Familiar With a Scene Like This?

As I prepare for our online tutoring session, I look for a decodable book from RAZ-Plus that will reinforce the CVC pattern my student is working on. I find one that seems appropriate, and click through it to double check. A couple of pages in, I notice words that begin with the letter “b,” and inwardly I groan.

This child’s reading progress is fragile and tentative. Teaching them to begin reading has been like coaxing a scared little animal to come out of hiding. I’m thrilled that I’ve succeeded in convincing them that when they are learning something new, it’s okay to feel confused at first and normal to need practice.

But being confused by “b” and “d” is not new. And they have practiced and practiced and practiced. When I mildly stop them at a “b/d” error and use it as a gentle teaching point, they wilt; they know full well that they’ve been working on this for what feels like half their life.

I’ve come upon the scenario described above more times than I can count, both in my private tutoring and in my public school resource room.

Up until now, I’ve never found a successful strategy or a lesson or a “trick” for teaching struggling readers to recognize the difference between “b” and “d.” I have tried a ton of different visual reminders and plenty of the auditory jingles, too.

A Multi-Sensory Solution to b/d Confusion

I finally hit upon a specific set of multi-sensory strategies to teach b and d that is visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile, plus an effective way to practice online. And it is working! Slowly but surely, my students are beginning to produce the correct sound when they encounter a “b” or a “d” in text. When they write these letters, they are successfully using the muscle memory built through tactile practice and the auditory mnemonic we have practiced simultaneously.

(Equally as important, knowing that they have a strategy to fall back on has built their confidence.)

I created both a color and a blackline version of each of these 8” by 11.5” posters. This allows parents to print out the versions that are most practical for them.


When I tutor, I keep the color versions open on tabs, so I can click over quickly when a child needs to refer to them. I send both versions to parents as a PDF, and I encourage them to help their child enjoy the following activities every day (once for “b” and once for “d”.) When my district returns to in-person instruction, I’ll post them in each of the teaching areas in my classroom.

Multi-Sensory Strategies to Teach “b”

Here is how I teach this strategy for the letter “b.”

Visual/Auditory: Look at the poster while saying “First pick up the bat, then hit the ball! ‘b’.”

Kinesthetic/Auditory: Act out the motions while chanting “First pick up the bat, then hit the ball! /b/” Have the child reach down to pretend to pick up a bat, then swing arms as if they were hitting a baseball. During online sessions, I actually have the child get up out of their seat and do this while we chant together.

Tactile/Auditory/Visual: Use either the color or blackline version and have the child trace the letter with their finger while saying “First pick up the bat, then hit the ball! /’b’.” Be sure the child follows the arrows for correct letter formation.

Multi-Sensory Strategies to Teach “d”

The activities for teaching the letter “d” are identical.

Visual/Auditory: Look at the poster while saying “First grab the doorknob, then open the door! ‘d’.”

Kinesthetic/Auditory: Act out the motions while chanting “First grab the doorknob, then open the door! /d/” Have the child reach out to pretend to grab a doorknob and then pull their arm back to pretend to open a door. During online sessions, I actually have the child get up out of their seat and do this while we chant together.

Tactile/Auditory/Visual: Use either the color or blackline version and have the child trace the letter with their finger while saying “First grab the doorknob, then open the door! ‘d’.” Be sure the child follows the arrows for correct letter formation.

Prompt Kids to Apply the Strategies

Here are some ways I use these strategies to support young readers.

I include the steps above as a warm-up or an activity break during the tutoring session.

Sometimes, when I see a “b” or a “d” coming up on a page, I point it out to the child ahead of time. I use the chant and the spotlight annotation feature on Zoom to draw their attention to the letter.

When a child comes to a “b” or a “d” and hesitates, I wait a second to see if they’ll figure it out on their own. If they don’t, I prompt them by saying “First pick up the bat…” or “First grab the doorknob…” or even just “bat, ‘b’” or “doorknob, ‘d’.”

When a child comes to a “b” or a “d” and says the wrong sound, I stop them and use one of the prompts above. I might say “wait here” while I point to the word with the spotlight. Then I’ll say “Bat, ‘b.’ Try this word again.”

Try it Out With Your Young Reader

Download the printables today, and introduce your young reader to this multi-sensory strategy for clearing up b/d confusion.

If you’d like high-quality worksheets to provide your child with extra writing practice to clear up a b/d confusion, check out this fabulous bundle by This Reading Mama.

Boom Learning Cards

One positive thing that has come out of Distance Learning is that I have discovered Boom Cards. These highly engaging, gamified digital task cards provide fun opportunities for kids to practice almost any skill imaginable. I love using them in my private tutoring and during Distance Learning with my students. I couldn’t resist creating a Boom Card deck providing practice differentiating between the letters “b” and “d!” Click here for a preview.

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Free Online High Frequency Word Games

Free Online High Frequency Word Games

A Family of Readers is thrilled to launch our free Online Game Room, with 400 online high frequency word games.

If you’re helping your child learn high frequency words, be sure to include games and play activities in your bag of tricks.

Learning through games and play is powerful because it helps kids associate learning with FUN.  Kids love to play, and they need to play! They are often delighted by the simplest of games and activities, and that excitement can send motivation through the roof.

Our Online Game Room features 400 online high frequency word games. The games are based on the Fry 1000 Instant Word List, and organized in small, manageable groups of ten.

I’ve been using them as part of distance learning during this COVID-19 school closure during the spring of 2020. Let me tell you, my students LOVE them!

Check out this video to witness that delight and excitement for yourself. This little guy and I have so much fun working together.



Click here to subscribe to A Family of Readers and gain access to our free Online Game Room


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COVID-19 Learning Loss – How Parents Can Minimize This Year’s “Summer Slide”

COVID-19 Learning Loss – How Parents Can Minimize This Year’s “Summer Slide”

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, A Family of Readers earns a small commission.

As this school year wraps up, I’m starting to hear this message from worried parents: “I’m concerned about COVID-19 learning loss. What can I do to make sure my child isn’t ‘behind’ when schools starts back up in the fall?”

No matter how smoothly distance learning unfolded for your family and your school, you may find that your child’s reading, writing or math skills are not as solid as you’d like them to be.

There are many possible reasons for this COVID-19 learning loss.

Your school district may not have had the resources to shift to distance learning quickly. Your child’s teacher may have run into challenges as they learned how to deliver instruction remotely. You might have a busy household full of energy that made it tough for your child to concentrate and participate in online instruction. Maybe your child isn’t comfortable with online instruction, and wasn’t fully engaged. Or maybe, just maybe you and/or your child burned out on it all and couldn’t put forth as much effort as you wanted to. And that is just fine.

The unexpected pivot to distance learning was not ideal for many families, but it doesn’t have to result in your child falling permanently behind.

Once your family has had a chance to take a deep breath and decompress (and please, please do!) there are plenty of steps you can take this summer to offset COVID-19 learning loss.

Take it “Offline”

My first recommendation is to balance tech-related activities with “offline” activities. I’m thankful that technology made it possible for children around the world to continue learning this spring, but I also know that most kids are in need of more hands-on, in-person learning.

Think math counters and flash cards, journal writing with fun markers or fancy gel pens, print books, and even (gasp!) old-fashioned workbooks.

Keep Reading

To improve or maintain reading skills, the best thing you can offer your children this summer is plenty of time spent reading and listening to books that they love.

Establish (or re-establish!) a nightly read aloud ritual. For younger kids, read aloud classic picture books every day. If you have older kids, choose a classic, beloved book and enjoy it as a family. Weave reading throughout your day, making it a regular part of your family life this summer.

Remember to include audiobooks in your bag of tricks, too. They’re fun alternative to reading aloud, and a great way to make the most of quiet time at home. Your family can enjoy just listening, or you can have your child follow along in the book at the same time.

Make sure your children spend time reading great books on their own, too. I am always shocked at quickly reading skills become rusty.

Here’s a great strategy for making sure kids are reading books that are “just right” in terms of difficulty level.

Open a book the two of you are considering, and have your child start reading a page that is full of text. (Not the first page, as the print often begins halfway down the page, which can skew the results of this quick assessment.)

Each time your child gets stuck on a word have them hold up one finger. If five fingers are raised before the end of the page, the book is too hard for independent reading.  If your child has their heart set on reading it, set it aside in the “read aloud” pile. If fewer than five fingers are raised, the book is probably appropriate for your child to read on their own.

Keep a Journal

Make writing fun this summer! Pick a journal you know will appeal highly to your child, such as these fun themed ones.. A great option is a blank comic book. Just as graphic novels often appeal to reluctant readers, blank comic books can win over reluctant writers. Let them start off with illustrations and short dialogue, then as time goes on, gently encourage more writing and fewer illustrations.

For younger children, have them draw a picture of a favorite person or activity, and then write a few sentences. It’s fine to help out by letting them dictate words they are unsure how to spell. Or, tell them to “say it slowly, and write down the sounds you hear.” Then, scoot in with your pencil to fill in any missing letters. This is a powerful way to support spelling development without discouraging young writers.

In addition to a cool journal, be sure to provide writing utensils that will help your child be motivated and engaged. Consider colored pencils, mechanical pencils, glitter pens, fancy markers, or highlighters. Stickers are also a great way to increase children’s motivation to illustrate or decorate their journal entries.

Back to Basics in Math

While I do believe that Common Core math strategies teach kids to be better critical thinkers, I don’t think that parents should stress out about teaching Common Core at home during the summer.

If you are worried about your child’s math skills, spend time this summer reinforcing the basics. Common Core math curriculum often assumes that children have deep mastery of math computation skills. Kids without this well-developed foundation often struggle with the higher level thinking skills Common Core requires. It’s not that they don’t understand the concept being taught, it’s that they can’t properly explore the concept because their computation skills are not fluent and automatic.

So work on developing your child’s automaticity with math basic facts. Use flash cards, and start with small sets of facts that your child knows. Gradually add in the ones that they don’t know. Practice for short periods of time (5 minutes or less) twice a day if possible.

For addition and subtraction facts that your child struggles with, provide counters and let them work out the answer themselves. For multiplication and division facts that have them stumped, have them draw an array to find the answer.

Send your child back to school with strong computational skills, and let the teachers help them apply those skills to Common Core.


Workbooks get such a bad rap, don’t they? None of us, teachers or parents, want kids’ instructional activities to consist solely of workbooks and seatwork. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and this summer of 2020 might well be the time and place for well-designed summer workbooks to provide a safety net for parents.

If I had elementary-aged children at home, I would definitely have them spend a few minutes a day working out of a summer workbook. And as a teacher, I would be thrilled if my students returned in the fall having done the same.

Here are a few summer workbook series that I like. Click through to choose the one that seems best for your family.

Keep it Short & Sweet

No matter what academic learning activities you provide for your child this summer, don’t overdo it.  COVID-19 learning loss can be offset by as little as 45-60 minutes per day, broken up into smaller periods of time throughout the day. Stay flexible and relaxed, focusing on staying consistent over time.

And for goodness sake, as much as you safely can, make sure your kids get outside to play! If there ever was, this is the summer for bikes and scooters, sidewalk chalk and bubbles, jump ropes and sprinklers.

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How to Teach High Frequency Words (and which ones to teach)

How to Teach High Frequency Words (and which ones to teach)

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, A Family of Readers earns a small commission.

An important part of learning to read is memorizing high frequency words.

High frequency words are words that make up the majority of printed material, such as news articles, novels, textbooks, and children’s books.

To be fluent readers, children need to be able to read high frequency words quickly and automatically.

High frequency words are not necessarily “rule breakers” or words that can’t be sounded out. There are many high frequency words that are easy to sound out! High frequency words are the words that occur most frequently in printed material.

You’ll find various lists of high frequency words. The most common lists are the Dolch words and the Fry 1000 Instant Word List. In addition, most reading programs provide their own lists.

The Fry 1000 Instant Word List

In 1996, Dr. Edward Fry published his list of the 1000 most commonly used words in English, ranked by order of frequency.

The first 25 words make up 30% of printed material.

The first 100 words make up 50% of printed material.

The first 300 words make up 65% of printed material.

Looking at these numbers, it’s easy to see why children need to learn high frequency words!

The Fry 1000 Instant Word List is generally divided into smaller lists of 100 words. As a general guide, the first 100 words should be mastered during first grade. (Note – in most states, Kindergarten students are now expected to master anywhere from 20 to 50 of the first 100 words. This wasn’t the case when Fry published his list in 1996.)

The second 100 words should be mastered during second grade, and the third 100 words during third grade. The remaining 700 words should be learned by the end of elementary school.


It’s important to note that the Fry 1000 Instant Words are in order of frequency, not difficulty. There are tricky words early in the list, and there are easy words later in the list.

For most children, it’s best to learn the words in small batches of five to ten. For a struggling reader, it’s appropriate to work on learning the words in groups of three. Our Fry First 300 Words downloadable flash cards and online games are in organized in groups of ten.

How to Teach High Frequency Words

A powerful way to teach high frequency words is through multi-sensory learning, with practice and reinforcement through games. Multi-sensory learning includes visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (doing) and tactile (feeling) activities.

Research tells us that if a child learns while using more than one sense, they are much more likely to retain the information.

If you’ve been wanting to help your child master high frequency words, A Family of Readers can help you get started today!

Visit our Resource Library to download your free Fry First 300 Words flash cards. Print out appropriate cards for your child’s grade level and explore the easy multi-sensory teaching and learning activities described below.

Multi-Sensory Activities for Learning High Frequency Words

Activity #1 Tap and Spell

Place the flash card flat on the table. Read the word. With your index finger, tap under each letter while saying the name of that letter. Read the whole word while sliding under it with your index and middle fingers. Repeat.

Activity #2 Trace and Spell

Place the flash card flat on the table. Trace each letter with a capped pen or the end of an unsharpened pencil, while saying the name of the letter. Read the whole word as you slide under it with your index finger and middle finger. Repeat.

Activity #3 Table Writing

Keep the card where you can see it. Use your index finger and middle finger to form each letter on the table. Say the name of each letter as you form it. Read the whole word while sliding under it with your index and middle fingers. Repeat.

Activity #4 Arm Tapping

Hold a flash card in your left hand. With your right index finger and middle finger, tap your left shoulder and read the word. Use the index and middle finger of your right hand to tap your left arm each time you say a letter, tapping and spelling your way down your arm to your wrist.

When you’ve finished tapping the letters down your arm, return to your shoulder. Slide your index and middle fingers down your left arm as you read the word from the flash card. Repeat.

Activity #5 Air Writing

Hold the flash card in front of you. Read the word. Use your index and middle fingers to trace each letter in the air as you say its name. Then “underline” the word with your index and middle fingers while you read the word again. Repeat.

Bonus Activity

Clip a piece of paper to a piece of #7 Mesh Plastic Canvas. Using a crayon, copy the word on to the paper, saying each letter as you write it. The mesh plastic canvas and the crayon will create raised letters. Trace each raised letter while saying its name. Read the word while sliding under it with your index and middle fingers.

These multi-sensory activities are a great way for your child to master High Frequency words and become a better reader. Help your child spend just a few minutes a day practicing these activities with a small group of words at a time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they learn!

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11 Powerful Reasons to Make Audiobooks Part of Your Family Life

11 Powerful Reasons to Make Audiobooks Part of Your Family Life

If you are trying to create a literacy-rich home environment and raise kids who are passionate readers, be sure to add listening to audiobooks to your list of family activities.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, A Family of Readers earns a small commission.

Here are eleven compelling reasons to make audiobooks a regular part of your family life – or to give the gift of audiobooks to the families on your holiday gift list.

1.  Listening to audiobooks promotes a literacy-rich home environment. Kids who grow up in a literacy-rich home environment tend to learn to read easily, and develop a lifelong passion for books and reading.

2.  It fosters your family’s identity as readers and book lovers. Prioritizing time to listen to audiobooks together sends the message loud and clear, “We are a family that loves stories and books.”

3.  Enjoying audiobooks together creates shared memories you’ll treasure forever. My husband and young adult children still reminisce about listening to Holes by Louis Sachar on a road trip to Sedona, Arizona.

4.  Listening to audiobooks can involve all family members, no matter their age level. You’ll be amazed at how many children’s chapter books and novels are enjoyable for adults, too. Did you know that kids’ listening comprehension levels are typically two years above their reading comprehension levels? Younger children who may not be ready to fully understand a story can sit nearby and enjoy quiet activities or a snack while listening and being a part of family time. You can choose a wide variety of books without worrying about leaving anyone out.

5.  Listening to audiobooks together leads to terrific family discussions. Listen to a chapter while cooking dinner, and then discuss it together as you eat dinner. While listening in the car, pause after each chapter to let everyone share their thoughts and reactions to the story.

6.  Relaxing by listening to an audiobook reduces stress and calms the mind and spirit. When life gets crazy and the energy level in your home is too rambunctious, load up a favorite audiobook and feel the chaos subside.

7.  Listening to audiobooks improves language development and vocabulary in children of all ages, and improves speech articulation in younger kids. Audiobooks are a fantastic way to expose your children to the rich vocabulary found in high quality literature. Skilled voice actors model crisp, clear pronunciation and speech articulation.

8.  Audiobooks help kids improve their listening and visualizing skills, which are crucial for good comprehension. Children who listen to audiobooks develop the ability to listen carefully and visualize the events in the story.

9.  Listening to audiobooks is a powerful, effective way to support struggling or reluctant readers. Listening while following along on a device or in a book improves decoding, fluency and comprehension.  It also builds confidence and motivation by giving kids access to the same popular books their peers are reading.

10.  It improves fluency in readers of all ages, by modeling reading rate, phrasing, tone and expression. Kids start to model their own oral reading after the expert readers and voice actors who narrate audiobooks.

11.  Audiobooks offer an attractive, persuasive alternative to screen time. Instead of breaking out the tablets in the car, load up an audiobook. Experiment to find other times to substitute an audiobook for screen time. Once your kids have become accustomed to listening, you might be surprised at how willing they are to accept this alternative!


Listening to audiobooks is a powerful strategy for developing literacy in your children.


Fortunately, audiobooks are easy to find these days, and the cost doesn’t have to be prohibitive.

My favorite way to get audiobooks for free is through Overdrive, a network of libraries and schools. With a card from a participating library, you can check out any eBook or audiobook for as long as 21 days. Unlike many sites that feature free audiobooks, Overdrive provides access to just about any title available. This is important because you will want access to quality children’s literature.

The easiest way to purchase audiobooks is through Audible by Amazon. You purchase credits by the month or in bulk, and then use them to buy audiobooks. (Each audiobook costs one credit.) Credits start at $14.95 per month for one credit and range up to $229 for 24 credits.

Credits do roll over from month to month, but not indefinitely. Be sure to check the current terms of service. The selection of available titles is vast and up-to-date, and Audible offers a 30% discount on any additional titles you purchase.

To start your family’s free 1 month Audible trial, click here.

Looking for a thoughtful, meaningful gift for a birthday or holiday? Audiobooks are a fantastic gift option for anyone from families to individuals of any age. To give the benefits of audiobooks through Audible by Amazon, click here.

I hope you’ll make audiobooks a part of your family culture today. The benefits are priceless, and I promise you won’t regret it!


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The Ultimate Quick and Easy List of Dyslexia Resources

The Ultimate Quick and Easy List of Dyslexia Resources

Just a no-nonsense list of resources to help you learn more about dyslexia and how to help your dyslexic child learn to read.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, A Family of Readers earns a small commission.


Websites to Learn More About Dyslexia

The International Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia Help at The University of Michigan


The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

The Reading Well

Bright Solutions for Dyslexia

The Dyslexic Advantage

The Dyslexia Training Institute

Homeschooling With Dyslexia


Books About Dyslexia

Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning by Ben Foss

Proust and the Squid: The Story and the Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf

The Dyslexia Checklist by Sandra F. Rief

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock L. Eide


What is the Orton-Gillingham Approach?

The Reading Well

Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators

Decoding Dyslexia OH


Orton-Gillingham Reading Programs and Teaching Materials for Dyslexia

All About Learning Press

Pride Reading Program

Barton Reading & Spelling System

Logic of English

Reading Horizons


Homeschooling with Dyslexia 


dyslexia resources pin 1dyslexia resources pin 2pin 3


Does My Child Have Dyslexia?

Does My Child Have Dyslexia?

If you have a struggling reader, you may have asked yourself this worrisome question – “Does My Child Have Dyslexia?” Dyslexia is an inherited neurological condition that makes it difficult to read, write and spell, despite having average intelligence overall.

It takes a licensed educational psychologist or a neurologist to formally diagnose dyslexia. However, and fortunately, parents and teachers can certainly be on the lookout for valuable warning signs of dyslexia in children. If your child demonstrates three or more of the following behaviors, consider more thoroughly researching dyslexia and what can be done to treat it.

The following information regarding dyslexia warning signs is excerpted from Bright Solutions, a fantastic dyslexia resource for families and teachers.

unhappy preschooler looking at a bookSigns of Dyslexia in Preschoolers

  • delayed speech
  • mixing up the sounds and syllables in long words
  • chronic ear infections
  • stuttering
  • constant confusion of left versus right
  • late establishing a dominant hand
  • difficulty learning to tie shoes
  • trouble memorizing their address, phone number, or the alphabet
  • can’t create words that rhyme
  • a close relative with dyslexia

Dyslexia Warning Signs in Elementary Schoolelementary school child holding face

  • dysgraphia (slow, non-automatic handwriting that is difficult to read)
  • letter or number reversals continuing past the end of first grade
  • extreme difficulty learning cursive
  • slow, choppy, inaccurate reading
  • guesses based on shape or context
  • guesses based on shape or context
  • skips or misreads prepositions (at, to, of)
  • ignores suffixes
  • can’t sound out unknown words
  • very poor spelling
  • often can’t remember sight words (they, were, does) or homonyms (their, they’re and there)
  • difficulty telling time with a clock with hands
  • trouble with math
  • difficulty memorizing multiplication tables
  • trouble memorizing a sequence of steps
  • confusion about directionality
  • when speaking, has difficulty finding the correct word
  • extremely messy bedroom, backpack and desk
  • dreads going to school

Dyslexia Warning Signs in High School

Consider all of the above symptoms plus:unhappy teenager looking at book

  • limited vocabulary
  • extremely poor written expression
  • large discrepancy between verbal skills and written compositions
  • unable to master a foreign language
  • difficulty reading printed music
  • poor grades in many classes
  • may drop out of high school

Signs of Dyslexia in Adults

Education history similar to above, plus:

  • slow readeradults with dyslexia
  • may have to read a page two or three times to understand it
  • very poor speller
  • difficulty putting thoughts onto paper
  • dreads writing memos or letters
  • still has difficulty with right versus left
  • often gets lost, even in a familiar city
  • sometimes confuses b and d, especially when tired or sick

If your child shows three or more of the warning signs above, consider digging in and doing some research. Fortunately, plenty of information about dyslexia and how to treat it is readily available.

To learn more about dyslexia in general, visit these links:

To learn more about how to help your child with dyslexia learn to read, visit this link:


Homeschooling with Dyslexia

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Sad girl holding head in hands, wondering if she has dyslexiaUpset boy with head in hands wondering if he has dyslexia

How to Help a Child With Dyslexia

How to Help a Child With Dyslexia

If your child has a dyslexia diagnosis, or even if you just strongly suspect dyslexia, there is plenty of information available to help you decide on next steps. Decades of scientific research have given us clear, concrete information about how to teach a dyslexic child to read.

Kids with dyslexia must be taught to read with the right method, at the right level of frequency and intensity. There are methods and approaches that research has proven to be effective, and fortunately they are easy to find. Research tells us that dyslexic readers need the right instruction for at least two hours per week in order to make strong gains.

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How to Effectively Teach a Child With Dyslexia to Readyoung girl receiving tutoring for dyslexia from her father

In addition to being provided at least twice per week, reading instruction for children with dyslexia must be:

  • Individualized – An effective reading method can be adjusted to meet individual needs. This means that even after you choose a program, the instructor will need to modify as your child progresses. Learners may master some concepts quickly and need more review on other concepts. Dyslexic readers need a program that can be readily adjusted, and an instructor who is skilled at individualizing instruction.
  • Multi-sensory – Reading instruction for kids with dyslexia must include as many of the senses as possible: seeing, hearing, feeling (touching), and movement (kinesthetic). The most powerful learning happens when more than one sense is used at the same time.
  • Direct and Explicit – Everything must be presented directly, deliberately, and clearly. Children with dyslexia should never expected to infer or deduce in order to learn how to read. Each piece of information or idea must be taught, practiced and discussed.
  • Systematic – Systems or procedures for learning must be taught and used consistently to learn new material. Kids become so familiar with these procedures that they become automatic, leaving more brainpower available for learning the information being presented. Within each lesson the procedures are followed in the same format, creating a framework that allows the deepest learning to take place.
  • Sequential and Cumulative – The organization of material to be taught must be logical and sequential. The sequence must begin with the easiest and most basic concepts and progress to more difficult concepts. Learning should be cumulative, meaning that each step is based on concepts that have been previously mastered.
  • Synthetic and Analytic – Synthetic (part to whole) means taking the individual parts of reading (phonics) and showing how they are put together (reading words). Analytic (whole to part) means looking at words and breaking them into individual sounds. Good readers must be able to think in both ways.

Taken together, these elements are referred to as Structured Literacy or the Orton Gillingham approach. These are not specific programs or curriculum. Think of Structured Literacy or the Orton Gillingham approach as names for the collection of components that must be included in any instruction for a child with dyslexia.


boy receiving Barton tutoring for dyslexiaHow to Find the Help Your Dyslexic Child Needs

Now that you know the type of instruction that your child with dyslexia needs, how do you find it?

Thankfully, many public school systems have begun to implement English Language Arts programs based on the Orton Gillingham approach. Talk to your child’s teacher or principal to make sure that the elements of Structured Literacy are being used to teach your child. In many districts, this is already the case. You may be able to arrange for your child to participate in “intervention” Structured Literacy lessons that are more targeted and intense.

For a child with dyslexia, whole group or even small group instruction in Structured Literacy might not be enough. Even if your dyslexic child has a well-trained, highly skilled teacher who is using a program based on the Orton Gillingham approach, your child may need additional support.

If intervention support hasn’t helped significantly, you may want to talk to the teacher or principal about evaluating your child for special education services. In the best of circumstances, this could result in your child receiving exactly the Structured Literacy instruction they need. It can also be tricky, because public school educators are constrained by federal criteria for special education eligibility that often doesn’t “catch” dyslexia. And if your child is eligible, you may disagree with the school about what services are appropriate.

Kids with dyslexia can benefit enormously from the right one-on-one instruction, either from a parent or a private tutor.


Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Parent-Friendly Reading Programs for Children With Dyslexia

There are several Orton Gillingham-influenced programs available that have been designed specifically for parents or private tutors to teach children with dyslexia how to read. Although I settled on using the Barton Reading & Spelling System in my private tutoring practice, there are other options available.

In researching each of the products below, I truly felt that the authors or publishers of the programs are deeply committed to helping struggling readers. There are differences in each product, but I believe that no matter which one you choose, you’ll be providing your child with a research-based program that works. These are widely known as the best “at-home” reading programs for struggling readers.

tutor providing dyslexia tutoring using the Barton Reading & Spelling SystemLet’s talk about the Barton Reading & Spelling System first. It was designed for parents and tutors to be able to use, almost “right out of the box.” Each level comes with training videos, and the manuals are carefully scripted. The company offers unlimited support to anyone who purchases the Barton Reading & Spelling System. The founder, Susan Barton, has created tons of valuable instructional videos available on the Barton website, her Brighter Solutions website, or YouTube.

All About Learning Press is a company that publishes two Structured Literacy products. All About Reading and All About Spelling are both based on the Orton Gillingham approach. These programs are scripted for parents and tutors to use, and the company describes them as “open and go.” All About Learning Press offers plenty of support through its website and blog, along with an offer to contact them by email or phone if you have any questions.

Logic of English is a comprehensive, completely scripted program that aims to make the Orton Gillingham approach available to anyone. The Essentials materials cover reading, spelling, writing and grammar. There is also a separate program that teaches handwriting in a multi-sensory way. The materials are easy to use and include optional activities categorized by learning style to allow parents or tutors to provide individualized instruction.

Reading Horizons offers instruction through online software, instructor-guided written materials, or a blended program using both. Plenty of training is provided through the website and blog.

The Pride Reading Program is also meant to get parents and tutors up and running quickly with their student. The manuals are scripted, and training videos provide clear instruction on each part of the lesson structure.

If you have a child with dyslexia, or a struggling reader who needs to catch up, you may choose one of these programs to teach your child yourself, or you may want to hire a tutor. Either way, you’ll know that you are providing the right instruction for your child with dyslexia.


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          How to Help a Child with Dyslexia


How to Motivate Kids to Read

How to Motivate Kids to Read

How to Motivate Kids to Read – In the world of kids and reading, interest and motivation are hugely important. Increased interest equals increased motivation!

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For a young child, interest in books and reading translates into motivation and readiness to learn how to read when the time is right.

For a struggling reader, interest in books and reading can translate into motivation to keep going when learning to read doesn’t come easily.

For a reluctant reader of any age, interest in books and reading can ignite motivation and liberate an avid reader within.

Here are helpful tips for increasing your children’s motivation by raising their interest in books and reading.

Create a Family Culture of Reading

The best way to support your children’s interest in books and reading is to create a family culture of reading, right from the start.

how to get kids interested in reading1. Read aloud to your babies from the very beginning.

2. Launch your family library with a variety of awesome board books and cloth books designed especially for babies.

3. Keep a few board books in the crib, in baskets around the house, and in the car. Your goal here is to make books as readily accessible as toys all through childhood.

4. As your baby becomes a toddler, create traditions and rituals around reading, such as a nightly bedtime story routine.

5. Make reading time fun, and make sure your child can see how much you enjoy it. Your little ones are looking for you to model what is important in your family. In this case, it is books and reading! If you take delight in books, so will your child.

6. For kids of all ages, let them see you enjoy reading on your own. Keep books and e-readers around the house where your children can see them, and see you reading them. Let your kids hear you talking with other adults about what you have read.

Discover and Follow Your Child’s Passions

when do kids start to read7. Make regular trips to the library and/or the bookstore so that your child can explore different types of books.

8. When your child shows an interest in something, provide books on that topic. I really can’t emphasize this enough. With toddlers and preschoolers, you are embedding books and reading into all parts of your child’s life. With older kids, you are showing them that reading is a way to enrich any part of their life. This tradition can continue for years – I still bring home relevant books for my young adult children, and my parents still pick up books for me on topics they know I am interested in!

9. With older kids who may not be spending enough time reading on their own, find engaging books that match their passions, and are slightly below their independent reading level. Read a few pages out loud each day, and leave the book in a visible, accessible place, without comment. It may take a while, but eventually you are likely to see your child pick up the book on their own. Another variation of this strategy is to read the first book in a highly regarded series, and leave the second book in a handy place.

Use these tips to super-charge your children’s interest in reading and books, and watch their motivation soar!

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Cute blond boy laying down and looking at a book.young girl with pigtails and glasses resting folded arms on a stack of booksyoung girl standing between bookshelves in a library





How to Choose Great Books for Kids

How to Choose Great Books for Kids

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What is a Great Book?

A great book pulls kids in, and then holds their attention.  It has clear, engaging illustrations, or uses language that makes it easy to visualize the story. A good book might be comforting and familiar, or new and exciting. It might be an award winner that comes up in your Amazon recommendations or on Pinterest, or a simple board book you pick up in the checkout line at the grocery store. The bottom line is, a great book is any book that your family enjoys.

How to Choose Great Books

Take look at current favorites. Do your kids love silly rhyming books with whimsical illustrations? Or do they gravitate towards non-fiction books with realistic photography? Is there a chapter book series they enjoy? Consider current interests.  Has your child recently become obsessed with buses or garbage trucks?  Or do your kids settle right down when you reach for a book that depicts warm cozy family or school situations? Ask your kids for input – what would they like to learn more about?  What is their teacher reading out loud right now? What books do they see their friends reading? Involving your children in this process will skyrocket their buy-in and excitement for reading.

Books for Infants and Toddlers

Look for:How to Choose Books for Babies and Toddlers

  • Books with big, bold, colorful pictures of familiar or everyday objects or activities.
  • Sturdy books made of heavy cardboard, washable cloth, or plastic.
  • Small books that are easy for little hands to hold and turn the pages.
  • Stories told in short, simple sentences with pictures that explain the text.
  • Poems and rhymes that make the book fun to read aloud and fun to listen to.

Books for Preschoolers (Ages 3-5)

Look for:

  • Books that highlight basic concepts, such as colors, shapes, letters and numbers.
  • Rhyme and repetition.
  • Photographs and illustrations that are clear, colorful and engaging.
  • Simple, fun plots with action that moves quickly.
  • Stories about everyday life and familiar events in a child’s day-to-day life.
  • Main characters (human or animal) who are your child’s age or just a little bit older.

Books for Elementary School Kids (Ages 6-11)

Look for:

  • Books that reflect your child’s interests and passions.
  • Other books with your child’s favorite characters, or by favorite authors and illustrators.
  • Illustrations and photos that directly support the text and give clues to the meaning of unfamiliar words.
  • Project, craft, and recipe books with clearly worded instructions and supportive illustrations.
  • Picture books your child enjoyed hearing when they were younger. Most picture books are written at a third or fourth grade level, and are terrific to revisit when your child becomes a more independent reader.
  • Chapter books that your child can read independently, or higher level chapter books for you to read aloud.
  • Fact books, such as world record books, trivia books, and almanacs.

Books for Adolescents (Ages 12 and Up)

Look for:
How to Choose Books for Adolescents

  • New genres – biographies, mysteries, spy thrillers, classics, historical fiction, and mythology.
  • Books about places in the world that interest your child, or that they are studying in school.
  • Novels that depict characters dealing with the daily challenges of growing up.
  • Graphic novels that re-tell classic stories.


Involve Your Child

Perhaps most importantly, involve your kids in choosing new books.  Encourage them to join you as you look for new titles, and model your thought process as you consider new books to add to your family library. Learning how to choose great books is a reading skill that your child will use forever.