Our Preschool Studio

Resources for struggling readers and writers

So we discovered that one of our children has issues with reading and writing. At first we thought she just needed more time but after much research and discussion with her teachers, it wasn’t simply about catching up and reaching developmental milestones.  There were underlying issues and she needed help and guidance. I want to respect her privacy so I don’t really want to publish about her private life, though you can PM me directly if you are also facing something similar and might want to swap stories/strategies.

I did my due diligence.  Researched extensively and I want to share the resources we found helpful in aiding our daughters to read and in ways that appeal to their age group without resorting to paying for Enrichment classes and tuition.   In fact I actually believe if there are underlying issues, no amount of enrichment or tuition will actually help (unless of course the enrichment is focused on working around those issues which is usually not common in mainstream Enrichment classes).  In any case, feel free to use what is helpful to you and discard what you don’t need.

An excellent pre-phonics curriculum can be taken from this amazing website. Its free! Its also extremely clear, structured, well-researched and proven.  You can start as early as 2 years old and actually, you might already be doing some of these activities at home unconsciously.  Once a child has developed strong phonological and phonemic awareness, they are ready to start learning phonics or sight words proper.  If their phonological and phonemic awareness is weak, they are going to struggle endlessly and you will know because you will feel frustrated, and they will feel frustrated and you are wondering what is going on. So you will need to revisit their phonological and phonemic foundations and make sure they are strengthened before diving into blending words phonetically and making them remember sight words.

Once your child is ready to start blending letters, typically by age 4-5, there are many types of curriculums and emerging reader series they can start on to further hone their reading and also, writing skills. For us, we found success using Explode the Code workbooks, Penguin Young readers series (many of the books are available through NLB) and Handwriting without Tears activity books.  If you have lefties, Handwriting without Tears is a godsend. Left-handed children have unique struggles with writing and we found success using Handwriting without Tears.

Both Explode the Code and Handwriting without Tears is available through Amazon or Book Depository.  I have to also caution that some of the images from Explode the Code are culturally suited for American students and might not be self-evident to Singaporean students. Generally we didn’t find this a major issue overall.  Also, instead of buying the entire Explode the Code series, you can see what is covered in each book and buy the book(s) that you feel your child needs to help jump-start their learning or revisit/do more practice in an area they might struggle with.  Attached below is a summary of lessons contained in each book.

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We also tried out apps like Teach my Monster to read and Epic! but we rarely use them due to our generally low-tech policy for kids. But if you are fine with apps, I highly recommend them as well.

Generally my approach has been to spend only 15 minutes a day with them doing phonics using the resources above, and 20 minutes a day reading-aloud. We are finally starting to see improvements and everyday, we find that she is struggling lesser and lesser.

I am not recommending at all that you must do this to make your child read or that this is a sure-way to make them read early.  Most children do read on their own and develop at their own pace and all you need to do is read to them everyday and surround them with books.  But as I have learnt the hard way, not all children pick up reading intuitively and certain ones with underlying issues DO need help and intervention.  If your child falls under that category (like for example, they are 5 years old and cannot distinguish most of their alphabets by sight), then hopefully these resources will be of some help for you.

I have to add a disclaimer that for us, the problems have been on the more mild side.  If your child has more severe underlying issues with picking up language, reading or writing, its best to get them diagnosed proper and get them the help they need.

We are also actively using several curriculums for Mandarin learning. Unlike English, Mandarin has been easy for our kids (even though they get much less Mandarin instruction than English) so we haven’t really done much research on this.  Mostly we are just diligent reading with them and getting them to learn Chinese characters (at least 4-5 a week). I might still post the kinds of books we use but they are quite well-known ones so you might already know about them.

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