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Singing the Beginning Reader Bedtime Blues

It’s Thursday at 7:30 p.m. It has been an especially long week. As the minutes count down for bedtime, you remember that Sam’s Kindergarten reading contract is due tomorrow.

As you drag yourself into Sam’s room, you absolutely dread the bedtime reading routine: Sam struggles through the book that you have chosen for him to read. While you are genuinely trying to help Sam sound out the words, you just cannot help yourself. “The word is dog, Sam. Remember, we just read that word—D-O-G.”

Before you are aware, your mouth is moving and a string of words is coming out as your hand smacks your forehead. “Come on, Sam. Had. The word is had. Does hat make sense there? Think about what you are saying before you read it.” Sam’s voice becomes barely audible as he stammers through the rest of the story.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Reading with your beginning reader can become a dreaded chore. Here are some ways to bring the fun back into bedtime reading:

  1. Children love reading about themselves. Using the words that your child can already recognize, write a short story with him as the main character. Incorporate a couple of words that are unfamiliar but can be easily sounded out. Write one short sentence per page and limit the number of pages to five pages. For example, if your child has learned the “at” word family, write a story about Mat the Fat Cat. Let him illustrate the pictures. Letting your child practice his reading with familiar words will boost his confidence, and he will love his special book.
  2. Let your child read to a pet on occasion. Pets do not correct or criticize. They can be good listeners, especially a hamster in a cage. Children who are reluctant to read out loud seem to open up and read to pets. No pet? No problem. Read to a stuffed animal instead.
  3. Give your child at least five seconds of wait time to try to say the word correctly. Being impatient only creates more reluctance for the reader. If your child is truly stuck, sound out the first letter for him. Have him look for clues to help with the word: context clues, pictures, or word families. If he is unable to successfully read the word with cues from you, tell him the word and have him repeat it to you.
  4. Make sure that you praise your child when he does read. Give words of encouragement such as: “I really like how you did not give up when you were sounding out the word cat.” Or: “I noticed how you read car for cat, but you went back and corrected yourself. By doing that, you were really paying attention. Nice job.” You can always find something positive to say even if it is, “I really like how you raised your voice at the end of that question.”
  5. Let your child choose the book that he wants to read. It sounds simple, but letting a child choose his reading selection can make a difference for a reluctant reader.
  6. Why can’t my child read? You may have forgotten, but learning to read is a difficult task—understanding the relationship between letters and sounds, as well as word recognition, is hard stuff. Children learn to read at different paces. If you think that your child is not progressing at an appropriate pace, discuss your concerns with his teacher. She may be able to identify where the problem areas are and suggest strategies for home practice. Problems for a beginning reader can arise in letter-sound relationships, blending sounds, rhyming, and memorizing sight words, just to name a few.
  7. Here are some of my favorite books for beginning readers:


Goodnight Moon
by Margaret Wise Brown

Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino

Alligators All Around  by Maurice Sendak.

Hop on Pop  by Dr. Seuss

The Lady with the Alligator Purse  by Nadine Bernard Westcott


Hopefully, singing the Bedtime Reading Blues will be replaced with the Bedtime Reading Boogie. To quote one of my favorite authors, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”—Dr. Seuss

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