Susan from Minnesota asks about...

                                           Trouble Learning to Rhyme

                                   "How do you teach a child to hear or understand
                                  rhyming if they aren't able to do it by first grade?"

     What a great question, Susan.  Being able to recognize, reproduce, and "play" with rhymes can be an important part of learning to read.  That's because the ability to identify and manipulate sounds is the basis of using phonics, and phonics can be very important in learning to read.  Let's take a look at helping a child develop the rhyming skills that will help them become a strong, confident reader.
     Because your child is in first grade, I'm going to assume that the
usual methods for teaching rhyming have been tried, such as reading lots of poems and rhyming stories, emphasizing the rhyming words as
you read them (Dr. Seuss books are great for this!), and doing lots of oral practice by modeling rhymes "cat-fat-sat-bat-mat-hat", repeating several times, and encouraging the child to join in.  Each of these activities and all of their variations focus on teaching a child to rhyme by using oral instruction which relies on a child's ability to "hear" the rhyming sounds.
   However, some young children have great difficulty hearing rhyming sounds.  It's unclear as to why, and it's usually a developmental [problem in that they eventually have no trouble rhyming.  Until then, though, teaching rhyming visually can be very effective for these students.  Here's a fun way to do that...
  • Using a plastic Easter egg, write the letters  c, b, h, m, r, s  around the edge of one half, and the letters at on the other half.  By twisting the egg, the child learns to rhyme by seeing and hearing the rhyming words as they read them.  I've found this to be the secret for those children who've had trouble learning by listening alone.  There are lots of word families that offer great beginning practice such as  in (tin, pin, win, bin, kin); an (man, tan, ran, can, pan);  and ap (cap, lap, nap, rap, tap, sap).  As the child progresses you can use longer word endings such as and (land, sand, band, hand); and est (rest, best, test, nest, pest).  If you don't have any Easter eggs, you can write the letters and rhymes on note cards which the child can match to make rhyming words.

        I've seen this little activity work beautfiully for students who've had trouble learning to rhyme, and I hope you will, too.  Please write back, Susan, and let me know how it works for you and your child.

Welcome to
  Ask the Reading Specialist
       Reading Help Live
     Welcome to Ask the Reading Specialist.  For over 30 years Deborah Davis, Ph.D, has been helping students and families with questions, concerns, resources  - everything that relates to students and reading! 
     Ask the Reading Specialist is offered as a free service to home schooling families, students whose schools don't offer reading specialist services, and to anyone with a question or concern about reading and kids. 
   Dr. Davis has been answering questions from around the country.  Here are a few...

         boys and  independent reading;
         Tips and tricks

    Guests to our site are invited to ask a question, which Deborah will respond to personally.   Answers are then posted on our site with the intent of helping others with similar concerns. Our hope is that you'll find reassurance, resources, guidance, and personal attention so that every child you love will love to read!
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       Tip...  The best way
to help your children continually
improve their reading skills is
to feed them a steady diet of wonderful books on topics
they love!
   Books For Sports Lovers!
            Catch great books for  
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American Idol and Learning to Read?

Tina from Washintgton asks:

"I have twins who've learned the alphabet and letter sounds, but reading just isn't  interesting to them right now.  They love anything to do with music, and want to be in a band like their older brother.  How can I get them interested in reading?"

  That's a great question, Tina!  Have you heard of software program that's called JUMPSTART READING WITH KARAOKE?  I have to admit that I was skeptical, but this delightful, interactive, learn-to-read program has received great
reviews from parents and kids alike!  From a reading perspective, I like the sequence of skills, the amount of repetition, and, well, the just plain fun the kid have learning to read.  It 's educa-tionally sound, reason-ably priced and is something kids of all musical abilities seem to enjoy.  They  espe-cially love hearing their voices played back on the computer as they sing along with the songs that are a part of each lesson.  Anything that makes learning fun is a winner in my eyes, and you might want to give it a try!  If you'd like a closer look at it, you can find it on our RESOURCE PAGE.

  Sandy from Oregon

"I homeschool my three children, and my oldest is in the fourth grade.  She struggles with reading compre-hension, and I'm worried.  I've used everything my homeschool curri-culum offers, but she needs more.  Do you have any suggestions?  I'm thinking that something on the computer would be a fun change for her if you know of anything."

  Thank you for writing, Sandy!  Many children struggle with reading comprehension, and one of the best soft-ware options I've seen is by Merit Software Company, called  READING COMPRE-HENSION BOOSTER (GRADES 3-5).  Children find it engaging, success producing, and confidence building.  I like the compre-hension skills it includes such as using context, sequence, inference, main idea, supporting details, and determining the meaning of unknown words, among others.  I know that families have been pleased with the progress children make using this fun program, and I think it is something your daughter would enjoy and benefit from, too!
If you'd like to learn more about this software, please check our RESOURCE PAGE.
Dear Guests to our Site,
  We've been "UNDER CONSTRUCTION" during February.  You've probably noticed subtle changes here and there, as well as a continuation of our January information in some portions of the site.  I am still able to receive and answer your questions, but posting them on the site is taking longer than usual.
  Thank you for your patience, and be looking for our March issue, coming SOON!
                                     Happy reading,
                                          Dr. Deb

             Don't stop reading to your children
once they've learned to read.  Move from picture
books to reading from a chapter book each day.  You'll
be delighted by how much your family will look forward
to this, and as you share a wonderful story together your
children will experience new vocabulary, develop
memory skills, comprehension skills, and be inspired
      by your modeling to become lifelong readers.
To our guests.....
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You'll also notice that we've added a membership option, as well as a new format for asking questions and receiving answers.  We've been providing all of our services free-of- charge, but we've learned  that starting and maintaining a website is an expensive proposition!  Getting a website designed, purchasing domain names, paying for hosting fees...everything really adds up, and it keeps on coming.  So, we were faced with the need to shut our site down.  But the positive response we'd received from guests during the past year caused us to think again.  So,  to keep us out of the red, and to enable us to continue our mission of helping parents help kids, we've added nominal fees for the services we provide ($1.99, or $5.99).  Please come and visit us at

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