Teaching early reading
My teaching experience isn’t with the earliest readers – all my former students were either old enough to have some strategies for reading in their native languages, or they had passed the earliest reading levels. The same happened with my 6 year old – I didn’t start working with her in reading until she’d finished up the BOB books at her kindergarten and was ready to start progressing through the levels.
I’d used DRA assessments back in New York City Public Schools, but I’ve learned about a lot of other leveled reading since then. My strategy with reading has been very much whole-language based: read aloud, read often, and keep on moving up as my daughter gets comfortable with a previous level. Many internet sites provide books at a level that matches a child’s ability, like this one (look at the “book wizard” on the left).
We mostly get library books, but the kids do get to use a $30 per month book budget to buy books they’d like to own. They’ve learned that their dollars stretch farther at stores like Half Price books (especially with coupons!). I prefer actual books to digital reading, and they seem to as well. We can’t carry much while traveling, so we use iPad apps or Kindle books when on the road. I especially like A-Z reading (Raz kids) – my older daughter’s private school used this almost exclusively as their reading program for 1st-3rd grades. Raz kids can serve as your complete travel reading program, and once a child ages out of those books he or she is ready for Kindle. Raz kids has some great book choices for lower level (especially DRA 10 and lower) publications.
Side note: I do not recommend the A-Z writing program for many reasons, but the stories in the reading program are very interesting and the kids enjoy them. You can also have the text read-aloud to you after reading the story, and you can add comprehension questions as an option as well.
For reading of all levels, Reading Rockets is a comprehensive site for any adult who is learning how to teach reading. Here’s an excellent page for understanding what is involved in building reading comprehension and encouraging kids to read.
Finding reading by DRA/Lexile score
Your child’s teacher can give you his or her DRA score (or Lexile, or whatever system they use). If you’re not sure, anyone can do a DRA assessment (I started in my first week of teaching with no instruction), but you really don’t need one. Download the A-Z reading trial and use the Raz Kids app to try out books starting with a level of your choosing. A-Z also has an assessment page here.
DRA gives specific requirements to “pass” to a higher level, but you can tell when a child is comfy with a book. After the child reads it’s important to check for comprehension – the books have questions at the end of each you can use. If a child can fly through a book but can’t answer most of the questions, move to a previous level.
Once you know your level, to find books, you can search for it online. There are multitudes of book lists by reading level. The Scholastic site, for example, has 4,737 books for DRA levels 18 and 20. Change the scores on that page and you’ll have what you need. There are many, many lists online for reading by level.
Other good sites for learning to read while traveling:
Readworks (on the road!)
- Articles to develop academic vocabulary (includes Lexile scores). This site can feel like just test prep if you only administer it. Should be used with other projects.
- Novel Study units are through with complete lesson plans
- This site is free with registration
The content on the Reading Rockets site is something to see, especially if you have a child who is struggling to read.
Learning to read is about readiness and when you’re homeschooling you don’t have to rush it. My older daughter’s reading developed during her kindergarten year, while my younger made slow progress until the end of first grade, when her reading level dramatically started rising over a few months. The love of reading is the most important piece. Read aloud often and set time to read independently all together if they enjoy it.
I can’t stress how important the reading aloud piece should be. If can, read The Read Aloud Handbook. It explains how important being read to is for writing as well.
Jim Trelease site
Shakespeare resources (for elementary school! Work them into your Poetry Teatime as well)
Mensa Reading for Excellence (lists at the bottom of the page for multiple grade ranges)