When your child comes to an unfamiliar word or reads a word incorrectly in a book, they will use different strategies to read it correctly.
Learning Area(s): Reading and Writing
- a book at your child’s reading level that has not been read in the past
- bookmark (printable) or create your own
- crayons, colored pencils, stickers, or markers
Before you begin, have your child select a book to read aloud that is at their reading level that they have not read before. See Tips for more information on how to determine if a book is appropriate for your child’s reading level. It is important that your child has not read the book or seen a TV/movie adaptation so that they don’t guess at unfamiliar words.
It might be difficult to tell when your child is guessing at words. Often when children guess at words while reading, you will notice that they:
- insert words or sounds that do not belong in a word or sentence;
- read a word on one page but don’t recognize the same word on a different page; and/or
- mix up easier/shorter words that might look similar, like them and then
As children become more experienced readers, they are aware of when the sentence doesn’t make sense because they have misread or skipped an unfamiliar word. However, beginning readers don’t always notice when they misread a word.
Next, print and decorate the bookmark, if using it, or have your child create their own. The bookmark should include the three word-reading strategies that follow.
Sit next to your child so that you can both see the words. Invite your child to start reading aloud to you. If your child gets stuck or skips a word they don’t know, stop reading and use one or more of the following cues.
- Look for letters and parts you know. “Let’s try that word again. Look for the letters and parts you know.” Encourage your child to look for each letter, letter combination, or other small parts of words they know. You can cover up parts to make it easier to see letters, letter combinations, or chunks of the word. Show your child how to read each part and put the whole word together. Then invite your child to point to and say each part of the word. Your child should then reread the sentence with the word in it.
- Sound it out. “Let’s go back to this word and sound it out.” Point to each letter, letter combination, or chunk and say the sound. Show your child how to blend the sounds to read the whole world. Then have your child sound out and blend the sounds.
- Check it! Repeat the word your child reads incorrectly and ask, “Does that sound right? Does ___ make sense in that sentence?” Have them reread the sentence with the misread word to see if it makes sense. If needed, use one of the other two strategies to help your child read the word.
- Learning to read can sometimes be frustrating for young children, so praise their attempts at reading new words.
- Encourage your child to decode a word by focusing on the letters and the sounds they make instead of using the pictures as clues.
- You may need to remind your child to point under one letter or letter combination at a time as they say the matching sounds.
- If your child has not learned or does not remember a sound, this is a good time to tell them before you ask them to sound it out.
- If your child is stuck at a letter combination such as vowel pair (ea, oo) or a digraph (sh, ch, th, wh), tell them the sound those letters make in the word.
- Some words are not decodable or do not follow spelling patterns your child has learned, like goes and said, for example.
- Before your child reads a page, you can point out and read words like this and have your child read them with you.
- Or when you come to these non-decodable words, just tell your child the word: “That one’s not easy to sound out. It says ___.” This approach will show them that you can help as they practice these types of words.
- If your child becomes frustrated (is bored, upset, or doesn’t want to read), this may be a sign the book is above their reading level. You can
- point to the words as you read at a pace your child can follow and encourage your child to read along with you when they can
- try using the cues in this activity another time with another book
- ask your child’s teacher to borrow a book at their reading level
- review some tricks from Scholastic on how to determine if the book is too hard
- You can talk about what a word means when your child misreads or skips it.
- Decoding is when you say the sounds for each letter or letter combination or “sound it out.” For more practice using the decoding strategies in this activity, try some of the following activities: Vowels First, Change a Letter, Hop and Slide, Scrambled Eggs, FInd a Word You Know, or Making Compound Words.