Teaching Your Child to Read
5 True Reading Stories

By sharing actual experiences of how to teach a child to read, the following tutoring service examples consist of spelling tips and reading lessons plans that illustrate learning to read guidelines.  Additionally the intent in sharing these personal reading tutor stories is to show how to develop a family literacy household, create personal tutors or teacher apprentices for new and emerging readers and remove many challenges parents and guardians experience in their efforts to help their children become lifelong avid readers.

Story #1
Teaching decoding / spelling skills: an elephant of a task made easy

A frustrated father and colleague, who was aware of the fact that I had a private after-school tutoring practice peered over into my cubicle and implored:

How in the world can I help my 7-year old son 
remember how to spell nocturnal
on his upcoming spelling test? 

I responded the best way to answer this question is with a riddle probably enjoyed by most 7-year olds: 
What's the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!!!  
Children can be taught how to understand and break down the sounds inside of words, also known as phonics, by viewing words as puzzle pieces.

Words are made up of 2 or more of 7 possible puzzle sound pieces.

If a child as young as preschool age, (see 4-year old Mikey's report card,) is systematically taught, one-piece-at-a-time, that every letter in all words represents a specific sound piece, a word such as       nocturnal can be viewed as something concrete (puzzle pieces) instead of a jumble of meaningless markings on a sheet of paper.

The primary decoding puzzle pieces of the word nocturnal are the partner-sounds, and the irregular or clowning-sound the letter is making in this word.

Because puzzle solving utilizes several brain functions at once:
  • reasoning
  • deduction
  • analysis
  • logical thought

Consider this thinking approach to learning to read  which can be clearly understood by the reading guardian and the reading student through comprehensive decoding training and visualization.

Story #2
JUSTICE for (partner)SOUNDS 

Early on in my private practice I paired kindergartner, Brianna and first grader Justice,
(both of which tested at the same reading skill level).
The girls were asked which of them knew what sound the lettemade.

Justice eagerly shouted out that this letter made the sound, like the first letter sound heard in the word snake.  Brianna wrinkled her brow and declared:  no it doesn't it makes the c-sound like in cat."  Justice countered,it makes the s-sound, just like in my name!

My dilemma was that both girls were correct. However, Justice had forced us to briefly fast forward to level 2 (signal vowel partners) of the alphabet letter-sounds relationship hierarchy before there was a solid understanding of the initial loner sounds.

Before explaining what and how signal vowel partnerships operate, here is a little background about the phonics levels of the alphabet:

26 letters of the alphabet fall into 3 primary learning levels. 
1. Single Sounds(26-total) 
2.  Partner Sounds (36 pairs)
3.  Team Sounds (26 teams)

Partner Sounds

Partner sounds are when two specific letters, (sound-pictures) are paired together they make a brand new distinctive sound.

Easy Partners: like /ch/   /sh/   /th/  are initially and ideally introduced to Preschool 1st Graders.  

Signal vowel Partners:like /ce/   /ci/   /cy/  are typically introduced later in the program.

Using the stop light analogy, 
(red-light, yellow-light, green-light  GO!
here is a sampling of a worksheet 
illustrating how to look for specific signal 
vowel sounds as a clue 
that a letter sound-change will take place.

STOP:If you see the letters c  or g
LOOK:for a signal vowel:  /e/   /i/   /y/
LISTEN: for a sound change:

If the letter is followed by a signal sound  
the letter(as in cat) changes into the sound.

*See how the same signal-sound partner rule applies for the letter


Story #3

9-year old Ishy loved to play baseball and just as passionately claimed on a bi-weekly basis how much he hated reading.  However, on several occasions Ishy would get so caught up in a story that we were reading, that his whole face would light up! 
If only I had a camcorder to record our tutoring sessions to show him how much he really liked reading.

During one class, Ishy was reading a story to me and he came across the printed word, important and he declared with much conviction and purpose impossible!

SCREECH! Stop the Presses!!!

Did he just turn a pumpkin into a carriage?  
If ever there was a clear indication that guessing and not readingwas taking place, this was it.
*(See "Thank You Whole Language")

Ishy is a physical, action-oriented hands-on learner, (kinesthetic). Instead of being able to easily visualize word parts as pieces of a decodable puzzle, Ishy is the type of learner that thrives when allowed to interact with words and identify the possible word parts by manipulating or acting out sound-motion-symbols for the puzzle sound piece categories as shown in the following action spelling example.

Sound Motion Symbols  for decoding words / Sound-out-Steps
  • cut off scissor sounds
  • check for tagger sounds
  • box the teams
  • find the partner(s)
  • circle the ice-cream sound(s)
  • sandwich the vowel(s) 
  • listen for clown sounds

Story #4
Thinking Visually: one picture can trigger a 1000 words

1.Written test favor children who think in pictures.
2.Visual learners typically receive higher grades.
3.Children can be taught to become high visual learners,
(in addition to their preferred or natural learning styles).

I introduced thePeter Piper tongue twister to 9-year old twin sisters, Angelica and Britney during a tutoring session.  After several failed attempts and recovery from a bout of giggles, the girls were asked to close their eyes and visualize a boy named, Peter Piper, (going to the store) and picking a *pack of pickled peppers,(the pack was bundled like a pack of Oscar Meyer Wieners). Then we successfully played the
Visual Memory Screen Game 


Your thoughts are the remote control
Your brain is the TV screen.


*substituted the word peck with pack

Story #5
Mikey's Report Card

Preschoolers Accomplishments:
Reading at first grade phonics skill level: after 6 months
Reading at a second grade phonics skill level: after 1 year 
*word-blending skills: early third grade phonics level

One of my youngest students was a preschooler, aged 3 years and 11-months named Mikey.  After systematically teaching Mikey how to identify the sounds inside of words, (phonics), he became reading literate at the age of 4, prior to entering kindergarten after having only learned 3 ½ of the7 puzzle pieces sound-categories decoding tools.

​                                                                 Preschoolers Progress Report

Because of his solid phonics, decoding and comprehension head start, Mikey entered kindergarten loving to learn and had the luxury of progressing emotionally and socially at his leisure!
Vanessa Peters, Mikey's Reading Tutor