What I Wish I Knew: Reluctant Readers

by | February 25, 2020 | 36 comments

Recently my girlfriends and I got together for a pedicure, and the question was “IwishIknewhow ..Ismykidbehind? WhatcanIdotohelp?” In my first piece, I have explained the vital research that backs up 3 core principals that are required for children to learn: self-efficacy/collective efficacy, background culture of belonging, and social cognitive excitement about learning. These are basic […]


Recently my girlfriends and I got together for a pedicure, and the question was

“IwishIknewhow ..Ismykidbehind? WhatcanIdotohelp?”

In my first piece, I have explained the vital research that backs up 3 core principals that are required for children to learn: self-efficacy/collective efficacy, background culture of belonging, and social cognitive excitement about learning. These are basic core components backed up by research that improve student learning.

The next series will focus on how kids learn to read. To quote the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s or OHRC they are worried about our kids learning to read. “According to recent Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) results, more than one-quarter of Grade 3 students, and 53% of Grade 3 students with special education needs, did not meet the provincial standard for reading. Life-long consequences can include under-employment, homelessness, involvement with the criminal justice system, and even suicide.”

“Reading is the foundation for success in school, work and life,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane. “Learning to read is not a privilege, it is a human right.”

They are so worried that the OHRC launched RIGHT TO READ, a public inquiry for different school boards across Ontario. http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-launches-right-read-public-inquiry

So, how can we help our kids learn to read? Over the next few blogs, this will be an in depth focus on the scientific research to help your kid learn to read (and write)!

For Blog #2, let’s start with the first step. Kids learn to read by learning and practicing sound and symbol relationships.

The Ontario Ministry regularly publishes bulletins regarding professional notices to help teachers and parents with Numeracy and Literacy. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/ literacynumeracy/inspire/research/capacityBuilding.html

In March 2010, The Reading Fluency article states several steps that help young children learn to read and write. Step 1 is to find simple objects and play! http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/ reading_fluency.pdf

Let’s start with a simple CVC word such as b e d. Identify the letter/sounds in the word bed – b e d.

Hands on toys really help, especially when you use magnetic letters or letters printed on paper to make the word. Basically, choose a object or toy; then associate each letter sound you make with an alphabet letter. Research suggests you begin with small CVC words (consonant vowel consonant or 3 letter words). Say each sound and have your child find the letter that corresponds. Place each letter/sound in a small box as you make each sound


It is generally best to begin with 2 soft vowels with 5 or 6 other consonants to create these CVC words. For more info, see the links in the works cited section.

These lovely squares or boxes are called ‘Elkonin boxes.’ https://www.readingrockets.org/ strategies/elkonin_boxes

Practice with your child as he or she places each letter into the box while stating each sound. Aha! Making or articulating each letter sound verbally will help your child to create newfound cognitive connections in his or her brain!

Even more recent research completed by Willy Blevins in his book, A Fresh Look at Phonics explains several steps that assist in kids learning to read. He encourages parents and teachers to use blue for consonants, red for vowels.You can make your own letters with paper, or buy some of these things in the local discount store.

Coloring the background of printed letters on paper with red or
green crayons is a free resource. It is possible to buy magnetic alphabet letters in red and blue. Either works well to isolate the different sounds for children. It is best to begin with lower case letters.

Blevins uses some unique terms such ‘chin dropper’ to describe those ‘red’ vowels because when you make those sounds, your chin drops! My students love to play and imitate the ‘chin- drop’ of each vowel sound. We often over emphasize and practice each of these different ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ vowel sounds. For example, the soft ‘e’ sound such as ‘b e d.’


You can see in the third photo that I practice creating one or two rhyming words, and then change one sound at a time working with three to five words. Begin with one rhyming word, then change either the beginning (onset), middle
(medial) or final sounds, taking it one step at a time.

This helps the child see that sounds change and represent different letters, not always relying on making a single rhyming word pattern. I’ve always done this, but I didn’t know it was best practice until I read about it in Blevins book!

I’ve made it a practice to include silly or nonsense words when using letters. If you’re asking which sounds to begin with, buy Blevins book. Or better, look on the Corwin Press website https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/a-fresh-look-at- phonics-grades-k-2/book248966#contents to see which consonant and vowels he suggests to deepen your focus on sound and symbol relationships. I’ve used magnets as Elkonin boxes, or black squares from a base ten block base. You can even enjoy making the letters and small Elkonin boxes with your child.

Furthermore, please observe the child’s energy and tension. To close gaps in your child’s learning one would want to remain in the middle area to of the Thayer Matrix (https://self-reg.ca/ download/11591/) to benefit from this work.

Additionally, each of my next few blogs with focus on that step by step process to teach your child to read. I utilize all of these steps in my early morning language practice; the total time is about a half hour. This first step should only take you about 5 minutes or less. Keep the first small mini-lesson quick. Increase the amount of words each day. Social engagement is everything as you enjoy the relationship between you and the child.

Keep your eyes peeled here for the next few blogs! Remember, kids just want to have fun!

Works Cited
Capacity Building Series


Ontario Human Rights Commission http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-launches-right- read-public-inquiry

March 2010, Capacity Building Series Reading Fluency


Elkonin Boxes


Blevins, W. Fresh Look at Phonics (2019)

https://www.amazon.ca/Fresh-Look-Phonics-Grades-K-2/dp/1506326889/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1? keywords=willy+Blevins+Corwin+press&qid=1577910407&sr=8-1-fkmr0

Self-Regulation Thayer Matrix khttps://self-reg.ca/download/11591/

Self-Regulation https://self-reg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/5DOMAIN_printable.pdf?pdf=5- domains



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