How to Turn Emergent Readers into Super Readers

Blog, She Wrote: How to Turn Emergent Readers into Super Readers

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We hope that when our children learn to read they will be on fire for reading and will devour books left and right. But, how do you get there? How do you move from early reading to consistent independent reading?

Our Experience with Reading

Before I answer the big question, I want to make the disclaimer that I am not a reading specialist nor do I have formal training or classroom experience in reading instruction (outside of graduate school courses in reading within content areas- science). What I have is the experience of a homeschooling mom who has taught 4 children to read.

  • Children who have varying abilities and interests.
  • Children who learn in different ways.
  • Yet they all have one thing in common. They read often and they read very well.
  • All of our veteran readers started reading independently at different ages.
  • Each of them came to the skill in a similar way through different learning styles.
  • One of them came by way of apraxia, a severe speech delay- a condition which often rears its ugly head when it is time to begin reading. Often the same pathway disruptions that affect speech are the ones necessary for reading as well.

I also want to say this post is not targeting children with other special learning issues that might influence their reading progression from the start. However, I think some of the tools I mention will be helpful to all emerging readers.

What Is an Emergent Reader?

An emergent reader is a child who has mastered phonics and has begun to read words on his own, but is not reading fluently yet. This is for parents who want to know what happens after the completion of a phonics program before a child is reading independently by choice and doing it well. Maybe you see your child in the following situations:

  • We are finished our  “x,y, z” reading program. What do I do now?
  • My child is not really reading much independently. How do I get her to read more?
  • You want more phonics instruction because your child just needs a bit more or somehow there must be a magical stepping stone of workbooks or short readers that will bridge the gap between just starting to read and reading on their own all the time.

Blog, She Wrote: How to Turn an Emergent Reader into a Super Reader

What Do You Do When the Reading Program Is Complete?

I have concluded there is just one remedy for the “the space between”. My answer every time is just have your children read!

  • Sometimes but not always, an emergent reader is reluctant to read independently so, I have my kids read to me.
  • When children know the mechanics but are not reading fluently yet, I have them read to me out loud often. If she can’t read for long, it doesn’t matter. I like to switch off while we read. So, we sit down and the student reads a paragraph to me and I read the next paragraph to her. We keep going like this for a chapter at a time at least.
  • As the student practices, his fluency will improve.
  • If he can only begin with reading a sentence at a time, then just start with alternating sentences.

The idea is to have them read to you and practice. With time, their reading will improve. It just requires consistency, appropriate book choices, and time.

I have my kids read to me regularly and I grab any moment for the task. I love to be read to while I make dinner, for example or in the car! If I need to sit with my child and alternate at first, it is always time well spent. I will often do it at the expense of other lessons for a time.

The time you put into hearing your child read will pay back dividends far beyond any extended workbook or hands on activity when it comes to improving fluency. Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook, gives many compelling examples of how reading improves with practice and that as parents we should not be afraid to require it often.

My other secret weapon is to continue reading aloud to my kids even as they become better independent readers.  I will see my kids start to read a new series of books if I read the first one. Sometimes I even start reading one aloud until they love it and then leave it around for them to pick up on their own. I have opened up many book worlds by reading it aloud first.

Blog, She Wrote: How to Turn Emergent Readers into Super Readers

How to Choose a Book for Emergent Readers

What about book choices? I know a lot of people like phonics type books and books that are more like guided readers than interesting children’s literature for those just starting out. I prefer trade books for this purpose and not ones designed to be “readers” at any particular level. I tend to let my kids try reading any book which meets the following criteria.

  • Contains young reader friendly text- which means the text on the page isn’t tiny, there aren’t a million words on a page, and it has plenty of margin
  • Is emotionally appropriate for her age- this can be tough as readers get better fast and I have another post on that topic. Just because a child can read a book, doesn’t mean they should.

What not to choose?

  • Anything marketed as the next step, unless you have it on hand or it can be borrowed- this stage is a short one so the investment is not long term on these products
  • Books so far beyond their ability/emotional level that it will only serve to frustrate the new reader. Text that is easy on the eyes counts here too. It’s ok for text to be somewhat challenging. That’s how students grow and get better, but you don’t want it so difficult that it’s discouraging. Use discernment here!

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without the Carrot & the Stick

Resources on Reading at Blog, She Wrote

There are a number of posts on reading here on the blog. Books are an important part of our homeschool culture.

Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home- This is one of my favorite posts and it’s all about growing life long readers.

Organizing Your Homeschool Library- How to keep a home library which is easy to reference and maintain.

How to Homeschool with a Kindle- Our Kindles are one of the best tools in our homeschool. These links will show you all the ways you can enhance your school, but one of the most basic is allowing your kids a portal to many, many books. Your kids can be reading new stories in seconds. This is great for busy homeschooling moms!

100 Books to Read by the Time You Turn 20- How about a book list? These books aren’t just for older kids and teens. Get a good start on some fantastic stories.

Summer Reading Challenge without the Carrot & the Stick- How do you motivate kids to read more? How do you do it without all the rewards? I’ve put together some tried and true methods of engaging kids with books. This post is a great reminder that kids don’t have to like reading. They just have to do it! Find out more.

Take the Time to Read

Perhaps you have a child whose reading switch has been clicked but, he is not yet a fluent reader. He is officially in that space between. The best thing for him is to keep reading and then read some more. What a joyful sound to hear the voice of a new reader!

There are so many products marketed to parents and homeschoolers to help early readers. You can find any number of helps on websites and blogs for printables and ideas. Many commercial products are available as well. Yet, in my experience the best thing for improving fluency in new readers is not packaged in any form and comes at a very low price. The only currency needed is time- time for listening and reading with your child and time for taking trips to the library for more real books.

Take pleasure in hearing that new reader’s voice and share in the joy as he becomes more and more confident and fluent. Before you know it, he will be reading all on his own and it will be mission accomplished!

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My Top 10 Most Popular Posts for 2014

Blog, She Wrote: My Top 10 Most Popular Posts for 2014It’s fun to take a look back over the blogging year and see what posts were the most popular among readers. Ready for a year in Blog, She Wrote view? Here’s a list of My Top 10 Most Popular Posts for 2014.

Life of Fred {Homeschool Math}- This is also the most read post of all time here on Blog, She Wrote. It’s all about our experience with the math books from Life of Fred. We have used Apples through Trigonometry and our 11th grader is poised to begin Calculus. Read about why we love Fred.

Organizing Your Homeschool Library- As a homeschooler you probably have plenty of books in your home. How do you organize them so they can be found? This is a look at where books are found in our home and how we keep them ready for reading.

Top 10 Toys for Open Ended Play- A look at the classic toys which offer years of open ended play in our home. From the toddler and preschool years on up, this is a list of the tried and true.

The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home- This is one of my personal favorite posts of all. All four of our kids are readers whose paths to fluent reading were all different. Yet, they are all voracious readers. How do you get there? This is for parents with kids from 0 to adulthood.

Blog, She Wrote: 100 Books You Should Read by the Time You Turn 20

100 Books You Should Read by the Time You Turn 20- It must be the compelling title that makes this one clickable. This is a list of 100 books the teens in this house declared must reads!

Our {Close to Home} Summer Bucket List- People longing for a simpler time love this post, I think. This is a list of great things to do when circumstances keep you from traveling during the summer.

100 Sewing & Handicraft Projects for Homeschoolers- Another fun 100 Things post with lots of projects for sewing and handicrafts of all kinds from yarn crafting to sewing and nature crafting.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015

Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015 – Back in August I posted what the kids would be working through this year. We’re still enjoying all those choices!

My Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens- Homeschooling high school is a hot topic these days. How many of us are homeschooling our high schoolers? Find encouragement with this set of Pinterest boards.

10 (or So) Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor- This is a very popular post for folks who have kids who like to figure things out, build, and generally tinker. It’s a nice list of toys and gadgets perfect for a kid who likes to engineer.


Other bloggers from the iHN are sharing their Top 10 Posts from 2014 today. Drop in and see the great posts you may have missed!

iHN: Popular Posts from 2014

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Sewing & Design Project Based Learning

Blog, She Wrote: Sewing & Design Project Based Learning

Last spring Rebecca participated in a local contest sponsored by a reuse sewing shop to create something out of recycled materials. The creation had to include denim. What started as a creative endeavor grew into an opportunity for many new authentic experiences.

The Original Design Project

The original project, called Denim Plus, required participants to refashion old denim into something new. Rebecca took the challenge head on and came up with a dress which was nearly entirely made from reused or recycled materials.

  • Eco-Fashion Design Project – This is the story behind the making of the dress. There are layers upon layers of tulle in a skirt attached to a denim bodice. Cyndi Lauper would have paid for this garment!
  • Eco-Fashion Runway Show – The story of how the designer got to be a model in the fashion show which featured the finished pieces from the Denim Plus contest along with the results of the contest. The show featured how to have a nominal number of clothing items in your closet to pair and wear over and over. The emphasis was on less is better and letting go of “throw away” fashion we’ve all become accustomed to.

Blog, She Wrote: Sewing & Design Project Based LearningThe Invitation to a Curated Exhibit

At the end of the runway show, the director of the show told us that a local gallery curator was interested in having her dress for an upcoming show last summer. We worked with the curator to prepare the curated display of Rebecca’s dress.

  • The show was called, The Common Thread: To Sew or Not to Sew, and was a collection of garments and fabrics which highlight change in the fashion industry.
  • Rebecca’s dress was chosen to represent the reuse and refashion of many materials into one garment.
  • The show was all about change in the fashion world, moving from one-at-a-time garments made with scissors, needles and thread, to unlimited quantities produced by industries that cut with laser beams and held together with seamless seams.
  • The question for us is: do they have anything in common?
  • Rebecca brought the dress in and helped to set up her exhibit.
  • Her dress was in a great spot between the adult & children’s sections of the library within the gallery and had great traffic potential!
  • The documentation she provided for the fashion contest was included in the exhibit.
  • She was the youngest exhibitor, chosen to be among well known local designers and Cornell Fiber Science & Apparel Design students.

Blog, She Wrote: Sewing & Design Project Based Learning


Blog, She Wrote: Sewing & Design Project Based Learning


Blog, She Wrote: Sewing & Design Project Based Learning

Going More In Depth with Project Based Learning

Lots of homeschoolers talk about project based learning, but what does it really mean? To me, it means involving our students in authentic learning experiences that go beyond traditional schooling activities. Part of this is moving past the superficial parts of learning a topic or skill and going to the next layer and the next so that a student uncovers new meaning and applies new knowledge in a meaningful way. What does that look like?

  • Share Work with Others- Find ways for your student to engage others with his or her work. It could be as simple as showing off for neighbors and friends to setting up a community gathering.
  • Help Your Student to Set Goals- The project belongs to the student. The best ones have the student in the driver’s seat on the leading edge of where to go next.
  • Make Plans- Have your student make plans to reach his or her goals.
  • Compile Resources- Can your student identify what he or she will need to meet these goals?
  • Make Decisions- Along the way there will be decisions to make. Help your student to get past any bumps in the road while leaving them to be the one in charge on the project.
  • Take Time to Discuss the Work- Find out how it’s going. Check in on progress. If something seems stalled remind your student of his goals.
  • Make Time for Project Work- This is essential to being successful. Often as our children get older, we think their time is better spent doing more traditional academic work. Fight the urge to regard project time as less important! Large amount of uninterrupted time for doing project work is necessary for going deeper into projects.

Blog, She Wrote: Sewing & Design Project Based Learning

High School Credit with Project Based Learning

As our homeschooled students approach high school many of us who have always done unit studies & other, more relaxed forms of learning begin to think it’s time to “get serious” about academic work and we believe that “nose to the grindstone” is more appropriate. How can a student obtain high school credit for project based learning? I think this topic deserves a whole post, but here are a few thoughts for now.

  • Determine the Course- Based on your student’s area of interest.
  • Discuss Goals- Meet with your student and talk about the skills & concepts they would like to cover during the class.
  • Remember Skills & Concepts- Which will be necessary to learn in order to achieve the goal. Make a list of the areas your student will need to cover.
  • Consider Resources- What resources do you have available to begin working toward the goals the student has set for himself?
  • Start Making Plans- Where does the student want to start?
  • Time- Once again, large quantities of time to explore are best for moving toward an authentic & independent learning experience.
  • Record Keeping- Students will want to keep track of goals met and different avenues traveled based on decisions made. Remember that a 1 credit high school course is roughly three hours of work per week.

Blog, She Wrote: Sewing & Design Project Based Learning

Lessons Learned with the Eco-Fashion Project

In the end, what lessons did Rebecca learn doing the Eco-Fashion Project? The dress took her about 8 weeks from just a thought in her head all the way to the finished dress (considering she did work on other school work during this time). The process was invaluable.

  • Design Work- Especially design for the human form rather than a doll
  • Construction- Sewing new fabrics together like denim with tulle. She had to push through some obstacles to complete her vision.
  • Sharing- Through the contest judging, the fashion show, and the curated exhibit. Sharing also happened in mentoring moments when she needed to discuss her work along the way.
  • New Experiences- Like fashion show culture & being an artist featured in an exhibit
  • Preparing Work for Exhibition- It’s not always about what you like or who you make the garment for. There are other factors and criteria. This was true for both the contest and exhibit.
  • Exhibition- When the time came for the opening night of the gallery, she was on hand to talk with visitors and answer questions about her work.

One of the things Rebecca enjoyed the most about the curated exhibit at the library was the chance to talk with others about her work. They were interested in hearing about her design and the process. She spoke with an art reviewer (see review here) from the local paper for about 20 minutes and she loved every minute of talking with another artist and learning about his work.

As a homeschool teacher, this project took a lot of her time but it was worth every moment to see her solve problems on her own and come up with a design that was whimsical and met all the requirements. Rebecca loved the chance to have her work displayed alongside well known local designers and Cornell Fiber Science & Apparel Design students. Would she do it again? Absolutely! This project experience was a win in every way!

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