Empowering Parents to Teach- The Three Books That Taught My Kids to Read

The Three Books That Taught My Kids To Read

There are three books that I have to credit with helping my children learn to read.  They are all part of the Beginner Books Series from Random House. While we have an enormous amount of books in our house, these three stick out to me. Through simple language, rhyming, repetition, and fun illustrations, my children read these over and over again. Today, I’d love to share these with you. If you are looking to add books to your home library I suggest you add these! Usually, I would suggest getting books form the library, but these I recommend buying to have at home so your child can read them many times. You can purchase them from the links* in this post or at your local book store.


Hop on Pop by Dr. Suess

(click on picture to purchase on Amazon)


How this book helps: This book relies heavily on rhyming.  Hearing rhymes helps children detect patterns in our language.  When the child starts reading, seeing these patterns in print helps the child relate the sound patterns to how they look in writing.  The rhyming words are first isolated so it’s very easy to draw attention to the word endings and how they look the same. Afterwards, children see the word used in a very short rhyming sentence.  It gives the child immediate practice recognizing the word in context.

This book  was one of the first books my oldest read out loud when he was little.


Put Me In The Zoo by Robert Lopshire


(click on the purchase to purchase on Amazon)

How this book helps: The rhyming in this books helps the child anticipate what word may come next.  It also uses a lot of the same words through out the story. This gives the child practice reading the words over and over again, helping to commit the words to memory.

This book was one of the first books that my youngest liked to read out loud.


Go, Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman


(click on the picture to purchase on Amazon)


How this book helped: This book does not rhyme, but it does uses a lot of the same words over and over again.  This helps the child rely more on the context of the story than the rhyming pattern. The pictures help the child figure out tricky words; for example, if the child has trouble reading the word “three”, s/he can count the number of dogs in the picture.


Before my kids attempted to read these books independently, I read them out loud to the boys many times. This gave them an understanding of the story and let them hear the words used.  What I like about these books is that they are long, so the child will not likely memorize the whole entire story. While memory of the story is involved, they still have to use their reading skills.


If you are still not sure if your child is reciting a story from memory or really reading try two things. One, have the child point to the words as s/he reads. Are the words matching? That’s a good sign. Is your child’s finger running over the words too quickly or slowly? Then, s/he may be reciting from memory.  Two, after your child reads a sentence ask him or her to point to a word. For example, after reading the sentence A green dog on a yellow tree ask your child, “Where is the word yellow?” Can s/he find the word? That’s another good sign that s/he is using a reading skill!


Enjoy reading together :)

Empowering Parents to Teach- Three Books


For more easy to read books, check out this list: 15 Really Easy To Read Books for the Beginning Reader


Empowering Parents to Teach- 15 Really Easy To Read Books

15 Really Easy To Read Books For The Beginning Reader

It’s exciting when your little one begins recognizing words and wants to learn how to read! You want to encourage his or her new found skill, but don’t want your child to get discouraged reading books with too many words that s/he doesn’t know. Feeling like a good reader is so important! I compiled a list of books that are super easy to read. Hopefully, by reading these, your child will gain confidence and feel like a successful reader.


First, some tips that worked for my little ones:

1. Read the book to your child first.  This will expose your child to the words contained in the book.  Remember, reading the book is not a quiz or test to see what words s/he know. You want it to be a successful, enjoyable experience.


2. When you read, point to the words. When your child reads to you, encourage him or her to point to the words as s/he reads. If your child doesn’t want to point to the words, you can be the pointer.  Remember, there’s no pressure, follow your child’s lead.


3. If your child is stuck on a word, you can have him or her sound out the word or simply tell them the word. My general rule for this reading stage is that if the word is short and can be sounded out letter by letter, such as “big”, I have my child sound it out. If it’s a tricky word that requires advanced phonics or doesn’t follow any phonetic rule, I will simply tell him the word. The main point is to keep the continuity of the story. I tend to tell more words than we sound out at this early stage to keep the flow of the story and foster comprehension.


4. Most of the words in the book should be known by your child already.  Of course, you will want some new words so that your child is stretching his or her reading ability. The new words are not as intimidating when everything else is easy for them. To me, the earliest reading stage is about confidence building.



I encourage you to find these books at your local library. We found many of these at our library. If you want to purchase a book from Amazon, I have included a link.  If you click on any of the pictures it will take you to an Amazon link. Disclosure: This is an affiliate link, which means I make a small percentage from the sale at no extra cost to you. I hope you find this list helpful!


Here they are:

Scat, Cat! by Alyssa Satin Capucilli


The Fly Flew In by David Catrow


I Have A Garden by Bob Barner


Down On The Farm by Rita Lascaro


Oh,Cats! by Nola Buck


I Can Help by David Hyde Costello


The Ear Book by Al Perkins


What I See by Holly Keller


Bears On Wheels by Stan and Jan Berenstein


Pig Has A Plan by Ethan Long


Dinosaurs Do, Dinosaurs Don’t by Steve Bjorkman


Dog’s New Coat by Margaret Nash


Dot and Bob by David McPhail


The easiest books of all:

Hug by Jez Alborough

Tall by Jez Alborough


I hope you and child enjoy reading together!  Have fun :)







Empowering Parents To Teach- Learning To Read Is A Ball

Book Review: Learning To Read Is A Ball by Kimberly Scanlon


Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for purposes of review. I was not financially compensated in any way. All the opinions expressed are my own.


Kimberly Scanlon authored a new book called Learning to Read is a Ball designed to help parents of pre-readers develop their young ones’ literacy skills. With an extensive parent guide in the back, this book is a good tool for the parent or caregiver that wants to teach his or her child pre-reading skills. I was invited to review this book and share my thoughts with you.


Scanlon’s book is like a two for one. It’s a picture book and it’s a how-to guide for parents. In the opening, she asks parents to refer to the parent guide in the back of the book. By reading this guide, parents learn many strategies to use while reading the story. Using the story in the front of the book as a reference, Scanlon shows the reader how the strategies can be implemented.


With this understanding, the parent can begin reading the story to the child. The story has simple language, rhyme, salient print, and meaningful pictures that are necessary for pre-readers to comprehend the story and begin to recognize print. Not only that, this story is interactive. Scanlon intentionally leaves places for the child to write on the pages which helps the child make the story his or her own. Both the parent and child learn from this book. The parent learns how to further his or her child’s literacy development with strategies that have been proven to be helpful and the child practices early literacy skills.


While this book is intended for pre-readers, I read this book with my beginning reader and he enjoyed the story. As we read, he asked good questions and interacted with the pictures. I used the strategy that Scanlon recommends called, “Complete the rhyming word”. As I read, I left off the second rhyming word for my child to anticipate and say on his own. These words are underlined in the story helping both the parent who is new to this strategy and the child.


My goal at Empowering Parents to Teach is to equip parents with the tools they need to teach their kids. Scanlon’s book is aligned to this goal. It’s not just another picture book, it is a teaching guide for parents who want to help promote their child’s early literacy. With the skills learned in this book, you can promote your child’s literacy anywhere or with any story.


Visit http://www.scanlonspeech.com/ for more tips to help your child’s speech and language development.


*Note: When this post was originally published (May 1, 2015), there was a giveaway. The giveaway is now closed and the winner received her copy of the book.


To purchase this book or Kimberly Scanlon’s first book, click on the links below or order them at your nearest Barnes and Noble:

*These are Amazon affiliate links.

Empowering Parents To Teach- Definition Detective

Definition Detective: Poetry

When it comes to reading comprehension, it’s important for children to be able to decipher the meaning of unknown words based on context clues.  This will greatly help his or her fluency and understanding of a story.  Imagine if you had to look up every unknown word in a story. It would interrupt your flow of reading, possibly impacting comprehension. If a reader can understand the meaning of an unknown word based on how it is used in the sentence or paragraph, s/he can keep on reading without disrupting the flow of a story and can continue to understand what is happening.


For example, in the very first sentence of this post, I used the word “decipher”.  This may be a new word to a child. If the child reads the sentence in its entirety, s/he may be able to figure out that decipher essentially means “to figure out” based on how it is used in the sentence (its context).  For some children, this skill comes naturally; others need to be taught this skill.  Even if a child seems to do this naturally, it can still be beneficial to reinforce this habit through a learning activity (such as this one) that focuses on this skill.


To practice this skill, I like to use poetry since it frequently contains words that we don’t often see in other books.  I chose the book My Dog May Be a Genius by Jack Prelutsky for this activity.  Prelutsky’s poems in this book are clever, funny, artfully done, and of course, have vocabulary words that might be new to many elementary school kids!


The Activity


*This post contains affiliate links.


Set Up:

1. First, I read through the book to find poems that contained a new vocabulary word for my son. I also wanted to make sure that the definition of the word could be figured out in the context given.  You may want to do the same for your child, or you can use the same words that I chose if it fits for your child.


2. As I came across a poem that had a good vocabulary word, I wrote the title of the poem on the top of the post-it note and simply posed the question, “What do you think ‘insert vocab word here’ means?”  In the top corner, I noted the page number of the poem in case the post it note fell out.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Definition Detective



1. To introduce the new skill, have your child think of a detective. Tell your child, “Detectives have to examine clues around them to figure out something that happened.  You are going to be a very special kind of detective– a definition detective!  Inside these poems are new words that you may not know the meaning of.  But, there are clues to their meaning, you just have to look for them.  Clues can be hiding in the sentence, paragraph, or even the pictures. We just have to find them! Like detectives, we will have look carefully for clues so that we can figure out the definitions to these new words!”


2.  To model the skill, read a couple of the poems together showing how you would analyze the sentence or text to figure out what the new word means. For example, on page 22 there is a poem titled I’m In A Muddle Puddle.  In it, one line says, “I cannot extricate myself, and I don’t know what to think”. Extricate may likely be a new word to a child.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Definition Detective


As a model, the teacher/parent could say, “I don’t know what the word “extricate” means. I am going to think like a detective and search for clues to its meaning. I will first look at the sentence that I found the word in. Hmm, it’s hard to figure out its meaning just by this one sentence alone. I will widen my search for clues. If I look back at the beginning of the poem, it describes how a person is sinking. That’s a clue. I also noticed that the previous sentence states, ‘The harder that I struggle here, the more I seem to sink’. So if the narrator is saying that he cannot extricate himself, I think it’s his way of saying that he can’t get out of the mud puddle. Putting all these clues together, I think ‘extricate’ must mean to get out of or free yourself from. That would make sense in the sentence since he can’t get out of the mud puddle! My clues fit and I think I solved the meaning of this word.”


Teaching Tip:  Modeling your thinking is a powerful teaching tool.  Simply verbalizing your thoughts gives your child a look into your thought process, giving them tips and tools for them to use as they attempt to figure out the meaning of these words.


3. If your child needs more guidance, try a couple more of these together. Have your child attempt to solve them while explaining his or her thinking to you. Help as needed.


4. Once your child seems to have the hang of the skill, let your child finish solving the definitions of the unknown words that you preselected from My Dog May Be A Genius independently.


Empowering Parents To Teach- Definition Detective


5. Once your child is finished, have him or her check the definitions in a dictionary to see if s/he was correct.  If your child struggles with this, s/he may need more guided practice with you.


Continued practice:

When your read with your child and come across a new vocabulary word to try to figure out the meaning from the context clues!  This is a real application of the skill your child just learned!




Empowering Parents To Teach: Grammar With Linking Cubes

Teaching Grammar With Linking Cubes

Grammar is one of the hardest subjects to teach.  It’s not because it’s that difficult to understand, it can be so dry in how it’s presented.  My oldest hates anything that has to do with writing and loudly protests or avoids activities that require him to write.  Of course, he still has to do some writing, that’s just life, we write stuff. However, if I can find a way to teach him something that would normally require a lot of writing in a way that actually appeals to him instead of make him want to rush through just to be done, I have to get creative. That is how I came up with teaching grammar with the linking cubes. My son is a very hands-on, visual learner so this appealed to him. He also has a penchant for colors, which made this one of his favorite activities. He actually asks to do this! It is one of his favorite things to do.



  • Linking cube guide (blank or color)
  • Sentence strips (or paper)
  • Linking cubes
  • Sharpie (or marker)


The idea:

First, I color coded each part of speech to a corresponding color in our linking cube set.  If your linking cube set contains the same colors as mine, simply print out the color guide.  If your set has different colors, print the guide with the blank squares and use crayons or markers to fill in the squares according to the colors of your set. I suggest laminating your guide.


Using this color code, the first thing we used the cubes for was identifying parts of speech.  I wrote sentences on a sentence strip and had my son place a cube on top of each word identifying it’s part of speech. Once each word was identified, he linked the cubes together to represent the sentence.


Empowering Parents To Teach: Grammar With Linking Cubes

Color coding each word


When we first started this activity, he did not know all of his parts of speech. After a few times doing this activity, he knew them all.  I used a simple assessment to determine what parts of speech he already knew.  As we worked, I concentrated on discussing/explaining the parts of speech that he did not know yet.


An interesting thing happened as we worked, my son began to notice patterns in the colors, which of course correlate to patterns in the sentences. It was a visual representation of how the words are often found together in sentences.  On top of that, some of the words were a little tricky to ascertain it’s part of speech.  Naturally, many words can be more than one part of speech depending on how it is used in the sentence. It’s not also so cut and dry, he really had to think! This led us to research certain words and understand the grammatical uses of the word to help us determine what part of speech it was in that particular sentence.  By doing this, we got into some great discussions. I never thought I was be discussing grammar so critically with a nine year old!


Noticing patterns

Noticing patterns



Once my son learned all nine parts of speech, we turned our focus to other aspects of grammar, such as prepositional phrases, compound sentences, etc.


To illustrate a prepositional phrase, he first determined the part of speech for each word in the sentence and put down the corresponding cube.  Next, he had to find the preposition and figure out which words were working together to make the prepositional phrase. Once the words were identified, he linked just the prepositional phrase to show the relationship of the words. At first, this was new to him so we worked together. It only took one example, and he was able to do this independently with new sentences.




Color coding each word

Color coding each word



Empowering Parents To Teach: Grammar With Linking Cubes

Linking the prepositional phrase


Empowering Parents To Teach: Grammar With Linking Cubes

Combing the beginning of the sentence


Empowering Parents To Teach: Grammar With Linking Cubes

Putting it all together


This same idea can be used to illustrate compound sentences. Using two sentences with their corresponding cubes, you can show how two sentences can be put together using a conjunction.


You can illustrate how a pronoun takes the place of a noun. Locate  pronouns in a sentence and determine what word the pronoun was referring to.


You can connect the subject or predicate. You can connect clauses. You can connect appositives.  The list goes on and on.  You can use the cubes to show so many different language patterns and parts!


Naturally, you will want to incorporate the things that you teach your child about grammar into their writing projects. When your child goes through the editing process in writing, have him or her look for grammatical errors.  Help your child recognize the elements that you’ve taught with the linking cubes in his or her own writing. Can s/he use what was learned to improve his or her writing? You can also point out great examples of grammar usage in books and stories that you read together. Reading is continually essential in your child’s education. It is through reading that your child hears proper grammar.


Read, write, and link to better grammar.   :)