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Teaching children to read

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
Blood Fruit edited by James E.M. Rasmussen
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again by Frank Cottrell Boyce
The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
Deadly Décisions by Kathy Reichs
Demon Eyes by Scott Tracey
Emeraldalicious by Victoria Kann
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
f2m by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy
The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland - For a Little While by Catherynne M. Valente
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Highway Robbery by Kate Thompson
How to Dine on Killer Wine by Penny Warner
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson
Polly and the Pirates 01 by Ted Naifeh
Poor Rich by Jean Blasiar
Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer
Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender by Carrie Jones
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Six Chinese Brothers by Hou-Tien Cheng
Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick

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Teaching children to read: 02/04/13

Sean and Harriet reading a dinosaur book

Literacy is one of the best tools a parent can give to a child. While it's tempting to rush the process, the child's brain needs to ready. While children tend to reach these milestones around certain ages, children don't come with pre-programmed schedules.

What parents can do to help the process, is to recognize what stage their child is at and provide skill appropriate materials. I know — that sounds really clinical and scary. Don't worry — much of this involves playing games with your child and can be done during down times like driving in the car between errands, during meals, or during bath time, for example.


Babies are like foreign exchange students. They've been studying the language but they either can't speak it or they don't speak it well yet. To get your baby ready for reading, talk, sing (or listen to music) and read those baby board books as often as you can. Baby talk helps children learn those tricky vowels but regular talk helps too.

If you don't know any nursery rhymes — your local library will have them — often both in book and on CD. The Dewey number for nursery rhymes is 782.4

If you don't want to sing nursery rhymes — any sort of nonsense song will do. Practice your rhyming skills and make stuff up. When my son was little, I'd sing: Mister, mister, Sean —
Get your jammies on


Once your little one is up and about and babbling, start singing that old alphabet song. Along with memorizing the order of the letters, start naming things:

A is for apple
B is for banana
C is for cabbage
... and so forth.

Trying to name one thing for each letter of the alphabet helps link those letters and the things they stand for. Q, X and Z will be tricky but you can have fun with them. There are a number of these alphabet books available.

For example:

Rhyming Words:

Practice those rhyming words! Here's where Dr. Seuss's easy readers come in handy: Cat in the Hat, Fox in Socks, and Hop on Pop, for instance.

If you have PBS, you can watch Super Why! with your child. Red's power is rhyming words.


If your child knows the alphabet and can come up with words for different letters of the alphabet, he or she might be ready to try reading. The last major hurdle are the blends. You can use letter blocks, Scrabble tiles or similar to bring together letters that make different sounds together: F+L, S+H, T+H, etc.

Either version of The Electric Company (the 1970s version or the more recent relaunch) are good for learning blends. Frankly, I find the new version has more practical advice for reading but the older skits go more for slap stick and might appeal better to the younger set.

Those first books:

Harriet reading Banana

When your child is ready to start reading on his or her own, pick books that are big on pictures and light on text. Reading in those first few attempts is HARD work. Fortunately there are TONS of fun picture books available for the beginning reader. For my daughter, the book that took her over the edge and made her a reader was Banana by Ed Vere.

Last but not least:

Let your child pick out some of the books he or she wants to read. Pay attention to your child's hobbies and pick accordingly. There is no one right book for every single child.

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