9 Great Apps for Teaching Kids to Read

9 Great Apps for Teaching Kids to Read

Nothing excites me more than seeing kids reading books and teaching kids to read.  There are many reading websites for kids and now there are a ton of apps out there as well.  One of my favorite ones is Raz kids reading.  Here is a list of some of my favorite apps out there for the ipad.  Click on the video below to see more information about each of these apps.

1.  Kindle

2.  Raz Kids

3.  Kids Reading Logs

4.  News - O - Matic

5.  Reading Rainbow

6.  Story Botsstorybots

7.  Tick Tack Pippi Kids Speed Reading Game

8.  Epic Books

9.  World's Worst Pet Vocabulary

10 Signs of a Struggling Reader and What You Can do About it

10 Signs of a Struggling Reader and What You Can do About it

You may be one of those people that wonders if your child is struggling with reading.  All kids develop at different rates and each grade level has different
expectations.  Here you are going to learn what signs to look for and identify if your child fits in that category.  You will also have the opportunity to take a look to see what you can do for your child if she is struggling with that area.  At the end of this post there is a video of a call that I did teaching parents what they can do to determine if their child is struggling.  So here are the 10 signs to look for to determine if you indeed have a struggling reader.

1.  They ask you to read something for them.Young man fallen asleep after long reading

2.  They ask you how to spell a word.

3.  They come up with excuses not to read.

4. They read word by word.

5.  They can't answer questions about what they just read.

6.  They don't make comments when they are reading.

7.  They skip words.

8.  They slur words when reading and hope that you don't notice.

9.  They keep asking you the meaning of words.

10.  They read as fast and they can.

We are going to take a look at each of these specifically and figure out what the real problem is and what some solutions are to the problem.

They ask you to read something for them

Now asking you to read something is not a problem unless it seems like they are constantly asking you to do it.  The problem is, they are suffering from a lack of self confidence about their reading.  They don't see themselves as being able to accurately read what is before them.  So you will want to find out specifically why they are asking you to read it for them.

Ask your child why they need you to read it for them.  Is it because they don't know how to read certain words or because they need help understanding a concept?  You will want to delve more into it to determine that.

Another thing you can do is ask your child to read it to you.  That way you can listen to see what the problem seems to be.  You will be able to listen to whether they are struggling with a word or they have a blank look like they aren't understanding a concept.

They ask you how to spell a word

Kids that struggle with reading also struggle with spelling.  Spelling is actually a harder task than reading because it requires you to have mastered the phonics rules, which don't always make sense.  The problem here is also a lack of self confidence.  They don't trust that they can write the word correctly, so they ask you because surely you know how to do it.  Why risk being wrong, when you have the answer.  The thing is, you don't want to be their solution.  You can't travel around with them all day long to help them with their spelling.

So, give your child an opportunity to try it on their own first.  If your child spells it correctly, then you can congratulate her and build up her self confidence.  If it is wrong, then you can write the word the correct way next to it.  Then your child can look for the errors that she made and then write it the correct way.  To give some added practice you can have your child write the word an additional 5 to 10 times to begin to lock in how to spell the word correctly.

They come up with excuses not to read

One of the problems here is motivation.  Your child would rather be doing anything else in the world than reading and the thought of having to read sounds like pure torture.  Find out why your child doesn't want to read, by asking her.  Sometimes it is because they just haven't found the right books yet.  To find books that your child will love, you can go to www.goodreads.com and type in the search bar "3rd grade books".  Insert your child's grade level or reading level and find some books that other kids their age are enjoying.

Many kids love spending time with their parents.  Some like to snuggle, some like to be close by.  Whatever the situation is for you and your child, next time do it with a book.  You can simply read to your child or switch off from page to page.  This way you can model great reading habits and motivate them more to want to read.

They read word by word

Nothing can sound more monotonous than a child that reads word by word.  The biggest problem here is fluency.  We want reading to sound like we are talking and not to sound robotic.

Repeated readings of the same text can be a way for kids to break this word by word reading pattern.  There are some fun poems on www.gigglepoetry.com that you can check out.  There are also some poetry theater readings that you can do with your child that can help them with practicing a text for meaning.  Have your child perform the poems to other family members or call grandma and grandpa to listen to it.  The poems will be entertaining for your child, and everyone will laugh.  Making reading fun is a sure way to break that word by word reading.

They can't answer questions about what they just read

The problem here is comprehension.  A child can sound like he or she is a good reader, but not actually be reading to understand.  Being able to sound out words and read them correctly is only part of the reading process.  We want kids to be able to think about what they are reading and make meaning out of it.  A comprehension problem can be based off of not thinking about the words, but it can also be based on not knowing the meaning of words.  Pay attention to what the situation could be for your child.

As you are listening to your child read, have her summarize at the end of a page periodically.  This will give you an opportunity to see if she is processing what she is reading.  If she doesn't know how to do that, then you can model with her when you are reading books to her at night.  After you are done reading a page, then you can summarize what is happening.

They don't make comments when they are reading

As we are reading, we are thinking about what we are reading.  However a child that has no thinking going on during their reading is purely just reading the words and not comprehending the text.  As we are reading many different kinds of thoughts run through our head.  We make statements, such as, "Hmmm...I didn't know that."  We also make predictions about what is going to happen next.  We ask different kinds of questions, and we monitor our reading for understanding.  Lastly, we make connections.  We can make connections between the book and our life, other books, and the world.

This is where reading aloud to your child can help.  It gives you the opportunity to be able to model the thoughts that go through your head when you are reading, so that they can begin to understand what kinds of thoughts could be going through their head when they are reading.

They skip words

The problem here could be phonics or a lack of sight words in their long term memory.  Sometimes kids skip words because they don't want to take the time to figure them out.  Sometimes they are focusing on the next big word that they see.  If you notice that your child is doing this you can have her go back and read it.  If the word is too difficult, then you can help her break it up.

Sometimes though a word cannot be read phonetically, and it just has to be memorized.  To help your child memorize the word, you can collect difficult words on index cards.  On one side write the word.  On the other side you can write a sentence that your child comes up with.  Then you can practice the words that your child has difficulty with and increase her ability to read sight words.

They slur words when they are reading and hope that you don't notice

This is usually a phonics problem.  The child doesn't know the word, so they slur it to try to skip under the radar.  Talk to your child about the importance of reading the sounds distinctly.  This will help her be able to retain the meaning of what she is reading.  Also, make her go back to the word and read it again.  You can try to help her break up the word to read it, or add it to the sight word index cards to practice.

They keep asking the meaning of words

When this happens, the problem is vocabulary.  Your child needs to increase her vocabulary.  An easy way to do this is to speak to your child more.  As adults our vocabularies are much larger than our children, so the more they hear us talk, the more they pick up words and the meanings of words.  It has been proven that children who have parents that talk to them for longer periods during the day have a much larger vocabulary than children who do not.

Make sure to eat dinner together and talk about your days as a family.  Also, the more that you read to your child, the more words that he or she will pick up accidentally.  The more opportunities that you provide for your child to hear new words the better.  There has been no research that shows kids learn new vocabulary words from watching t.v., so limit tube time and exchange it for you time.

They read as fast as they can

Again, this is a fluency problem.  The child has gotten in their head that the faster they read, the better reader they are, and this just isn't true.  There are different times when reading fast is necessary.  For example, when you need to quickly skim and scan to find an answer.  However, to read as fast as you can just so that you can be done quicker has never proven to help out with overall comprehension, so have her slow down and really take in what she is reading.

Motivation could be another factor here as well.  So whenever you have the opportunity to provide choices for your child, you will want to do so.  Kids choosing what they want to read has always been a huge motivator to slow down and understand what they are reading.

For more tips on each of these signs you can watch the video below.  Is there a sign that you have noticed from your child, and you are wondering if they have a problem?  Let me know, and we can brainstorm some solutions that might help.


Evaluating books – 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Evaluating books – 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Well, it is that time of year again. My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book. I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here. This book/blog series is called 7 Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.


This is it.  The very last post in this series.  See how easy it can be to write a book.  I started this in September, and now the rough draft of the book is complete.  It just takes consistent action each day, and it is done in no time at all.

After a highly effective reader has finished a book, they immediately have a response.  They think, hmmm... "Did I like it or not like it?"  How a book ends plays a big-human-65931_640 part in whether someone likes a book or not.  If they don't like the ending, then they most likely will not like it.

A group of 7th graders were reading the book Monsters by Walter Dean Myers and one girl said, "I have never liked a book that a teacher has suggested before.  This book has been great all the way until the end. I hate that the author ended the book with a question."  That speaks volumes for how important an ending can be.  The book was great until the last sentence.  This reader doesn't like to be left hanging, but it is allowing her to discover what she likes and doesn't like about reading certain books.

Having an opinion about a book isn't just liking it and not liking it.  It is backing up what you have to say.  Why do you like it?  Which parts did you like?  Which parts didn't you like?  If you were the author, would you change anything?  If so, what would that be?

Having these opinions about books is pivotal to figuring out your own tastes in reading.  It helps you become a better judge of a book the next time you pick one up.  If you know that you don't like a certain genre because it has never caught your attention, then you will be less likely to pick that genre up again.  However, if you did like a certain genre, then you may be more likely to pick it up again.

Getting into  the habit of evaluating a book is powerful for a child.  I am going to show you how powerful it can really be.  Remember at the beginning of the book when I mentioned that Goodreads was a good tool?  Well, now we are going to see how it is like Pandora.

Everyone loves Pandora for it's ability to customize music channels with music you totally love.  Well Goodreads does the same thing for books.  You leave your recommendation for how you felt about a book and then rate it on a scale of 1-5 stars.  Based on your reviews Goodreads will recommend other books.  Here is how the stars break down.

1 star = I hated this book

2 stars = I did not like this book

3 stars = This book was o.k

4 stars = This book was really good

5 stars = I loved this book

Have your child create an account with their e-mail address.  If your child does not have an e-mail address, then you can sign up under an e-mail address that you do not access all the time.  Then your child can become active in the community and begin rating the books that she has read.  She can add just the latest book she has read or have fun with all the books she has read in the past year.

Then she can begin adding her recommendations.  Here is an outline of information to include in a recommendation.

Introduction - List the name of the book, the author, and who you would recommend the book to.

Summary - Give some information about the book.

Assessment - Describe why you liked it?

Conclusion - Why you rated it with the star's that you gave it?

Recommendations don't have to be long.  This is a simple formula to follow that can make it an easy task.  It is not a book report, just your overall opinion.

Why is this important for all kids to do?  Well, again it helps them figure out what kinds of books they enjoy reading, and it spreads the love of reading good books to others.

What books have you reviewed lately?

Making Predictions: The 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Making Predictions: The 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Well, it is that time of year again.  My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book.  I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here.  This book/blog series is called Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.


Before a scientist ever begins an experiment he always makes a hypothesis.  This means that he makes an educated guess about what the outcome is going to be.  -scientist-151186_640Why is this?  Well it drives the whole experiment.  It motivates the scientist to start the experiment and continues to motivate the scientist throughout as he is able to determine how accurate he was.  Throughout the experiment the scientist continues to come back to that hypothesis and decide if he wants to keep it, or change it.  When he sees how his hypothesis is being validified he becomes excited and as he sees how it is different from his original thinking he is intrigued even more.

Highly effective readers do the same exact thing, but in reading it is called a prediction.  These readers make these predictions because it motivates them to validify if what they predicted is true and it intrigues them when it veers off from what they think is true.

Predictions also get the reader's mind to become engaged with the text she is going to read right off the bat.  In order to make a prediction a reader usually looks at

1.  The title

2.  The cover picture

3.  The table of contents

4.  The book summary on the front flap, back flap or the back cover.

After using all of this information the reader makes a prediction about what the story is going to be about.  I have witnessed many readers who go into this process without making a prediction, and they also struggle with reading.  When you ask them what they think it will be about, they respond with, "I don't know."  These readers need more guidance in how to make a prediction.  Using the list above you can begin to model the things that go through your mind as you see the them.

I will give an example of what that modeling would look like with the book Monster by Walter Dean Myers.  The front of the cover shows a young boy that is in jail.  I can tell that he is in jail because if you look at the back of the cover they show a side profile with numbers on the bottom.  Based just off of this cover and the title I can make a prediction that this book is going to be about a young man that is going to jail for a crime that he possibly committed, and he is seen as a monster because of what he did.  This is a good enough prediction for this time.  As the story proceeds I will continue to make more predictions about the book and see if they come true as well.  This makes the reading more exciting, especially when the predictions are true.

Another place highly effective readers make predictions is before they begin to read a chapter.  This is a natural place to begin to think about what is going to happen next and to back up why they believe it is going to happen.  This is a continual process throughout reading the book.

Sometimes authors leave off the ending of a book, then the reader is left to determine what happens next.  Some people enjoy this and others do not.  Whichever your take happens to be, you can use this to get the reader talking about what their prediction would be.  Who knows, maybe the author will write another story and the child's prediction will come true.

Do you find it exciting when your predictions come true when you are reading a book and intrigued when they don't?  I would love to hear what you have to say about making predictions.

Comprehension Strategies: The 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Comprehension Strategies: The 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Well, it is that time of year again.  My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book.  I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here.  This book/blog series is called Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.


I can't believe that we are already onto the last habit.  Where has the time gone?  Well, this is a big one.  See highly effective readers don't just read words and see a blank picture.  They actually think about what they are reading.  They utilize different strategies so that they can really make meaning when they are reading.  Here are the strategies that we are going to feature.  Highly effective readers

  1. use background knowledge to make sense about what they are reading.-human-20424_640
  2. make predictions before and after reading
  3. visualize what is happening in the story
  4. ask questions
  5. make connections
  6. evaluate which part of the story they like and don’t like

Today we are going to focus on how these readers use background knowledge to make sense of what they are reading.  It begins the moment that the highly effective reader picks up a book.  The reader brings background knowledge to the following areas of what they are going to read.

1.  What do they know about the genre?  Have they read from this genre before?  How is this genre set up?

2.  What experiences do they have that resonate with the front cover?

3.  What do they know about the topic?

4.  What beliefs does the reader have?

5.  What correct and incorrect facts does the reader have?

Having background knowledge about a topic a highly effective reader is about to read is not the only thing that she brings to a text before she begins reading.  She brings other background knowledge that will effect how she interprets the text.

One thing a highly effective reader brings to the text is knowledge about the genre she is about to read.  Highly effective readers have read from several different kinds of genres.  That way when they come to a how to non-fiction book, they are able to bring their understanding about how the author laid out the content.  For example, one would expect to see materials or ingredients that are needed.  The reader would also see steps to how to do what is being explained and then some sort of a conclusion.  Readers that are not familiar with this genre may skip reading certain areas because they are not aware of how the content is organized and why it is organized that way.

Specific experiences that the reader has had in her lifetime that resonate with the title or the front cover influence a reader when she is reading.  Highly effective readers use this information properly, but readers that are not as effective will bring experiences that are distracters vs. enhancers into their reading experience.

Before a highly effective reader begins reading a book, they usually look at the title and front cover to think if they have ever encountered this information before.  Highly effective readers will be open to learn new information, but not so effective readers may think they know everything already.  These ineffective readers will actually point out that they do not need to learn anything else about the topic, whereas effective readers will be curious about what new information they may learn.

Also, background knowledge consists of beliefs that a reader has about a topic.  It is amazing listening to kids who spend time listening to their parents about presidential elections.  As soon as a reader sees a book with the title Barack Obama they bring these belief systems with them into the reading that they are going to read.  The effective readers may stay true to their stance and not allow the book to persuade them.  Other kinds of readers bring these beliefs with them as well, but they may allow the author to persuade them more based on how strongly they hold their beliefs.  The effective reader may be comparing these beliefs throughout the reading and agreeing and disagreeing throughout.  However, the ineffective reader may be just reading the words and not allowing themselves to interact with the text in that way.  They just read what they are told and may be able to give some information at the end.  They have difficulty talking about what their beliefs are and comparing them.

All readers are going to bring with them correct and incorrect facts if they have any background knowledge about a topic.  However, what a highly effective reader does with these facts and what a less effective reader does is completely different.  Highly effective readers will be able to come up with strategies to either verify if what they knew before was really accurate or could have been a mistake.  Then they are able to take the meaning from the text and still be able to tell you what it was about.

A less effective reader will take their incorrect concepts and keep them, regardless if those facts were mentioned in the book or not.  For example, if a child is asked why do people run races before reading a story, they may answer because people like exercising.  But if they then read the text and it is about a race between two trains and they are asked again why do people run races according to the text, they may answer, "Because they like to exercise."  These kinds of readers have a hard time adapting this question to the information that was presented in the passage they read, and they stick to what they said in the beginning.  While this information may be correct before they read the passage, it is incorrect after they read the passage because the race had nothing to do with exercising.

Background knowledge certainly can aid or hinder readers from understanding what they are reading.  A lack of background knowledge will cause confusion for a reader, as well as incorrect background knowledge.  Asking a child before she reads what her background knowledge is will help you determine how you can help her with interpreting the text.

How does background knowledge help you as a reader?


Highly Effective Readers Don’t Skip the Punctuation: The 6th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Highly Effective Readers Don’t Skip the Punctuation: The 6th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Well, it is that time of year again.  My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book.  I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here.  This book/blog series is called Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.


Closely related to expression is punctuation.  Punctuation is like the traffic signals of reading.  If you skip a period or a comma all of a sudden things begin to not -attention-155554_640make sense and you become lost in your reading.

Highly effective readers sound so good when they are reading because they pay attention to the punctuation.  They understand that they need to come to a full stop when they see a period and that they need to stop quickly for a comma.  They also make their voice go up at the end when they see a period and use emphasis when there is an exclamation point.

Kids who are not highly effective readers do not always know to do this.  They read past the period and then begin taking breaths where there is no punctuation.  Then all of a sudden things begin to slowly not make any sense.  So the reader trudges on because they know they are required to keep reading.  They are not able to visualize what is happening, and they become bored very quickly and would rather pick up their xbox game than make their brain do so much work.

Here is an easy way to teach kids that are struggling with punctuation to pay attention to it.  Either in a book or a copied page from a book, have the child put two slashes (//) over all of the periods and one slash (/) over the commas.  Then have the child put an arrow going up over the question mark and a star over the exclamation points.  Here is what each of these marks represents.

// = knock two times

/ = knock one time

↑ = make your voice go up at the end

* = excitement

After the child has marked up the page, have her read it.  When she comes to the // she needs to physically knock on a table two times.  When she comes to /, then she needs to knock just one time.  This slowly begins training the reader to pay attention to what they are reading.

Often kids who do not read punctuation correctly will put punctuation marks where they do not belong.  For example, the most typical place a child will add a period is at the end of a line.  In simpler easy text, books are written with periods at the end of the line.  However, as a text becomes more complicated kids need to learn to go from one line to the next without adding a pause.  Adding a pause at the end of the line will cause comprehension issues for readers.  It is amazing how just one little pause can make the difference, but it truly does.

Another thing that you can do, without marking up the text is to just ask the reader to read the sentence again and stop appropriately at the punctuation.  Sometimes I will pose questions like, "What do we do at a period."  Then  the reader says, "Stop."  Then I say, "Great, try it again."  This a non-threatening way to begin getting kids to stop appropriately.  Some kids respond better to one way than another way.  So, it is always good to have a couple of tricks in the bag that you can use.  If one way doesn't work so well, then you can try a different way.

Have you ever heard a reader read without stopping appropriately at the punctuation?  How do you think this affected their reading?


How Do you Know what to Teach Kids that are Struggling with Reading?

I get asked this question all of the time.  Well, even though each child's reading difficulties may come in many different forms and in different areas, I am able to look at how they succeed with the 5 pillars of reading.  If there is an area that they are specifically struggling with, then I provide instruction in that specific area.  I love being able to help all kids who struggle with reading and make it easier for them.  Most kids who I have worked with has had a strong desire to get better.  This makes instructing them extremely easy.


Here are more details about each of these pillars.  Does your child struggle in any of these?



The 5 Pillars of Reading Instruction

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