Help Your Child Read, Not Guess

How parents of early readers can support their child’s progress
Josh Applegate, Unsplash
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Schools don’t always give parents timely, actionable information about their child’s progress. I experienced this firsthand. It came as a surprise to me when I discovered that my son was using guessing strategies when he came to unfamiliar words. He was guessing, not reading.

I know he picked up this habit at school. I distinctly remember attending a celebration at his neighborhood school after his class learned “picture power” and other guessing strategies. I was naive at the time. I was just happy to see him enjoying books.

And then the pandemic hit, and silent reading time felt like a win for both parents and child. Bad idea. That simply reinforced his guessing habit. Last year was his first year back in school full-time. His teachers like him. He’s got a good vocabulary, and he loves graphic novels.

But he struggles with books without pictures. And when his standardized test scores (finally) came in, we noticed that his reading comprehension scores were not great. They certainly didn’t match what we believe he’s capable of.

My wife and I are working with him now to slow down, sound out words, use his finger to track his progress, and think about what he’s reading. But it’s slow going, and it’s harder than if he had learned good habits from the beginning.

My personal experience lined up with what I was seeing professionally. As an education researcher, I anticipated the harmful effects that school closures would have on children.

I wracked my brain with what I could do. And I came up with an idea for a reading newsletter for parents. I had read all the phonics textbooks I could get my hands on, and I believed they could be distilled into simple, bite-size lessons parents could use with their children.

I called it Read Not Guess. Over the summer, I ran a pilot, back-to-school program to help parents work with their children on sounding out letters, blending sounds into words, and building words into sentences. The program ran for five weeks and had over 1,100 subscribers, and I got enough positive feedback to convince me it was worth expanding.

I’m now launching a school-year version of Read Not Guess. Parents who sign up will receive three emails a week with simple phonics lessons to work on with their child. I am charging for the program—$40—for the entire school year. That’s mainly to cover my time for writing the lessons. The program will run from October-May.

The lessons are designed for busy parents. They should only take 5-10 minutes a day to work through. Through repeated practice, parents will be able to teach their kids to sound out words, help promote a love of reading, and instill good reading habits from the beginning.

There’s a big push right now for schools to revamp their reading curriculum and shift away from the harmful guessing strategies. That’s nice to see, but reading is too important to leave to chance. If you have a young reader in your life, I hope you’ll consider signing up for Read Not Guess to support—and, frankly, to monitor­­—your child’s reading progress throughout the year.

Chad Aldeman
Chad Aldeman is a father and the creator of ReadNotGuess.com. Readers can use the “CHALKBOARDREVIEW” discount code to get 20% off if they sign up by October 3rd.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chalkboard Review team.

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