Teaching Reading Strategies: Tips From a Reading Specialist - Part 1

Teaching Reading Strategies: Tips From a Reading Specialist – Part 1

This year I have been blessed to have a wonderful teacher by the name of Mrs. Deborah on my team. She tutors my daughter once a week in reading and math. I interviewed Mrs Deborah back in November on the ins and outs of teaching reading. The interview went very well and, Alhumdulilah, I learned quite a few strategies I can use to teach reading. I thought I’d share our conversation so others could benefit as well, inshalah. I think you will find the interview as informative and inspiring as I did. The following is part one of our conversation.



Me: Alright before we get started can you tell us a bit about yourself?


Mrs. Deborah: Sure. This is my 15th year teaching. I am a special education teacher and I  started out in Ohio. I taught 11th and 12th grade students at a career tech center and that was a really great experience. The first year I taught math and language arts but for the 9 years following I taught the students language arts only. And then I moved back to San Diego and I taught at Gompers for two years and worked with students in middle school and high school. Then I taught art at Patrick Henry. After that, I was at another home school before coming to teach at my present school. This is my second year here and I love it! I think the whole school is very responsive to parents and especially the special education department. It’s exceptional, so I’m really happy to be here.


Me: Sounds good. Thanks for speaking with me today. So I wanted to get some information from you on what a parent should do if they suspect their child may have a learning disability. Specifically when it comes to reading. What should a parent do if she/he has been teaching their child and working with them for a while but they just seem to not get it? What is the first thing a parent should do when you realize that your child is not progressing?


Mrs. Deborah: Well, if it’s OK, I’d like to kinda start back at the beginning because you probably have little ones and some of your readers may have little ones too. I want to talk to you about,  first of all, what parents can do if they have little ones, so they can set a strong foundation. And then we’ll talk about what to do after you’ve laid that foundation and you start to realize that the student may have some issues.


Reading is the number one way for children to learn how to read. Even as young as 6 months it’s recommended that parents start to read little books to children.

Teaching Reading Strategies: Tips From a Reading Specialist - Part 1

I actually read to my granddaughter at 4 months. I would start reading to her and she would get very excited. She didn’t even know what I was talking about but she would just get so excited. Every night either myself, her mother or her dad would read to her and so when she got to kindergarten she had already learned how to read without any instruction. I had taken a class to become a reading specialist, so I started practicing what I was learning with her and now she’s reading at a college level and she is in 8th grade.


The other thing is turn off the TV and have family reading time. So that the children see mom, dad, everybody reading even if it’s just for 20 minutes. And also for younger children, preschool and babies, you’re always using sounds, your singing songs, you’re making gestures, you’re using rhyming words all the time. So you’re always filling that child with vocabulary.



If your homeschooling reading instruction should last 60 to 90 minutes. They’re reading, they’re writing and they’re learning letter sounds, spelling, all of that should be about 60 minutes to 90 minutes a day. And then if you see a child is struggling with it in kindergarten or first grade, it’s really helpful to spend extra time with them on just those specific areas. And also you could work through the summer. That’s one good thing to do even if you have a child in a public school. You know, stopping during the summer really does effect how far behind a student gets. Keeping those skills going over the summer is really important.


So when we talk about reading instruction we’re including letter sounds and blending and also new words and meaning. So you’re always teaching them new words even if they’re not able to read yet. Always teach reading with writing connections. Read to each child each day from a different book. Easy books at first when they’re young. And you want to be sure that you keep the flow when you have both younger and older children read. You don’t want to stop them in the middle when their trying to sound out words. You’re just keeping in your mind what kinds of words they may be struggling with (If they ask for help, help them but otherwise don’t interrupt their flow). You just tell them the word and let them go on. You always want to try to find a book that they can read successfully.

 Teaching Reading Strategies: Tips From a Reading Specialist - Part 1

Read with your child for at least 20 minutes a day. If a child likes to reads a favorite book over and over let them, because that helps with fluency. Like my granddaughter, the one that learned to read early on, she would bring this one book, I can’t tell you how many times. She’d get a book and we’d read it 15-20 times you know, but we kept reading it to her. We didn’t go, “Oh, go get another book”. She eventually got tired of it and got a different book. So always encourage them, even if it’s the same book and you have to read it over and over again.


My granddaughter’s dad passed away when he was 28, so he was with her up to the age of 4. He had dyslexia and he got through college but he made a point to read to her. Either my daughter or my son-in-law read with her every night. Even though my son-in-law struggled with reading. He would have my granddaughter help him, but she didn’t realize it. It was a struggle for him, but I think it made a real big difference, even though she only knew him for 4 years. I think seeing dad read was really, really powerful and that’s something that’s probably powerful for most children. A lot of times dads think that their role is to bring home the money, but they should be involved, not all the time necessarily, but try to set apart one or two nights for him to read with the kids. This is very beneficial.


Another point, when you read with your child point to the words so they see the words and associate the words with the written print. Also they understand that you read from left to right. Discuss new words that you come across. As you come to a word that you think they are struggling with or it’s if a vocabulary word, that’s a great time to talk about it and then to look at it in the context of the sentence.


Read some stories that have rhyming words too. Kids love poetry. That’s a good thing to work on with your child also.

 Teaching Reading Strategies: Tips From a Reading Specialist - Part 1


There are five essential components of reading. Some people think it’s just reading, but there are five really important things you need to include in a reading program. One of them is recognizing individual sounds that create a word. Phonemic awareness. Some of the students that I’m working with say that it’s very difficult to hear the ending sounds. So it’s difficult for them to then go read because they can’t hear the end sound. Or a child may have difficulty hearing the beginning sound. So that’s one thing that parents can be aware of. As you read with your child, have them break apart words, for example, tell them to say the word “cup”. Ask them if they can break it up: c-u-p.  Start to listen to whether they’re hearing those sounds. That is very important. Ask them to break apart words without looking at them. Don’t have them spell them, actually have them sound out the sounds. So that is phonemic awareness and that’s the number one thing students need to have.


The next thing is understanding the relationships between written letters, spoken words or phonics. Once they understand that words are made up of these separate sounds and they can hear them, then you can start with phonics and the phonics, of course, is: this letter makes this sound and then you’re putting them together to form a word.


The next essential component of reading is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. Fluency is extremely important. So have the student read a text over and over with a goal of so many correct words per minute and then have  them work on beating their own time.  And so next time they read it they should get higher and you, the teacher, record it. That’s a really important component.


The fourth one is learning the meaning and pronunciation of words or vocabulary. Vocabulary’s really important and introducing new vocabulary words. Breaking them apart so that the child can decode those words once they learn how to do CVC (consonant vowel consonant words)


The next and the last is acquiring strategies to understand and remember and communicate what is read. Like reading comprehension strategies.


All of those strategies are extremely important as you begin to teach your child. When you’re going through the reading process with him or her you want to choose a quiet place. You want to make the reading enjoyable. Maintain the flow, meaning don’t interrupt when they’re reading and make it very positive. Find books that they can access and have 1 or 2 words they might be struggling with. If the child is always having to be corrected then that book is not a good fit for them. So you want to find a text that they can read fairly easy, but has a couple of challenging words in it. Always be positive when you’re teaching them to read. Success is the key. Again if they can feel confident in reading something over and over than that builds their confidence and then they will have a desire to keep reading. They won’t want to shut down.

 Teaching Reading Strategies: Tips From a Reading Specialist - Part 1

 Take them to the library regularly and let them pick out their own books. Kids get so excited about picking out their own books. Talk about books. Read a book together with your child. Like you could read the same books and then discuss what happened in the books. You can discuss some incident, for example say, “Hey wasn’t that cool what happened in chapter 1?”.  That’s a good way to connect with kids. And then variety. A lot of variety to get them to see what kinds of books they like to read.

I hope you enjoyed part one of the interview. You can continue on to part two HERE.


© Jamila Alqarnain and Muslim Homeschool Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamila Alqarnain and Muslim Homeschool Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This post may contain affiliate links – any opinions stated are strictly my own!


 Melanie Holtsman– Little Reader  photo courtesy of Melanie Holtsman at flickr  CC license (some rights reserved)

Children’s Literature is Central to Children’s Literacy courtesy of  Denise Krebs  at flickr  CC license (some rights reserved)

Birds on wire courtesy of sunsurfr at flickr   CC license (some rights reserved)

Reading courtesy of ThomasLife at Flickr    CC licence (some rights reserved)

Jamila is a homeschool mom, author, blogger, entrepreneur and sometimes gardener.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *