Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Resource Wednesday - Reading

On Wednesdays I like to give a list of resources (either free or cheap) for homeschoolers and their parents.  This week we're going to cover reading resources that I used to teach my daughter to read between the ages of 3 and 5.  We've got a great list for you today.

1) Starfall Learn To Read - I love Starfall, and after I'd taught my daughter to recognize each letter and it's sound, we began using these Starfall books, which are interactive.  Each day we do the two activities listed before the starfall story, followed directly by her reading the story, then we watch the video that comes after the story.  

Sometimes it's slow going for her to get through one of these stories, but it's not boring for her because if she can't sound out a word, you click on it and it helps her sound it out, and also because if you click on different parts of the picture on each page, it moves and makes sounds.  The stories get harder as she moves along, but each story and game set is meant to teach kids a different reading rule, such as silent e.

2) Blending Game - I think I was lucky to have a child that picked up letters and letter sounds so quickly, but after she learned those, I had no idea how to teach her to blend those sounds together to form words, that is until I saw this game on YouTube.  We played it a couple of times and it all clicked into place for her that she could do something with those letters she'd learned about.  We even played it in the car on the way to the store and on trips.  Now she does it by herself as we drive and sounds out words of the things she sees.  It also helped her learn to start spelling.

3) Crayola ABC Coloring Pages - I like to mix subjects together when we do school, so these coloring pages came in handy.  We would print them out, and then talk about the letter, what it looks like, and the sound it makes along with some words that start with that letter, then we'd do art like coloring, glitter, pasting things onto it, etc.  She had a blast.

4) This is the 'ultimate reading' video playlist I put together for my daughter when she was learning to read.  She still watches it sometimes during school for her 'break'.  She thinks she's getting to watch cartoons, but she's really soaking in all of these letters, their sounds, and blending.  You can take the videos you like from it, and make your own playlists.  If you have a Wii or other device that plays YouTube on TV, then you can make these full screen for your young readers to enjoy.

5) Leap Reader/TAG system by Leap Frog - We've been using the TAG pen and books for a few years now and our daughter loves them.  I love that they have books that follow the popular cartoons or movies she watches, like Kai Lan or Monster's Inc, or Spiderman, and they also have their own series.  Some of the books focus on certain reading skills, while others are just stories they can read.  The pen will either sound each word out, sound out each letter, or it will read the entire page or story to them.  There are interactive games in each book as well that helps to reinforce what your child is learning.  When you plug the pen in to the computer to put a new story on it, you can see all of your child's progress.  It shows you how many hours was spent on each book, and how many questions they got right or wrong and what percentage of time they got it right in the games.  They also have interactive map books, outer space, and human body books as well.  Sometimes during the school day if my daughter is getting frustrated with something, I tell her to go play with her TAG books for 5 or 10 minutes.  She thinks she's getting a break, but she's learning while having fun, and then we can go back to our other lessons.  She also plays with these on her own all the time, especially in the car.  You can sometimes get large sets of the TAG books on e-bay for just a few dollars instead of spending $10-$13 per book at the store.  I would also check Craigslist for these if you live in a big city.  If you get a TAG pen used, be sure it works first.

6) Kindle Reading Games - Here are two games that have really helped my daughter with reading.  The first one is Monkey Word School Adventure.  I'm a big fan of this game.  For doing well it gives her rewards such as butterflies, plants, and other bugs that she gets to arrange in a live terrarium.  It teaches spelling, letters, rhyming, and more with a variety of fun games, and it increases in difficulty as she learns and gets more and more answers right.  Again, she thinks it's video game time, but she learns a ton from this game.  The second game, Tracing ABC isn't so much a reading game as it is a tracing game, where it teaches kids to write letters by tracing on the screen with their finger, but tracing upper case and lower case letters and then hearing the sound they make helps put the letter shape and sound in their long term memory.  My daughter also enjoys the Tracing ABC game though not as much as Monkey Word School Adventure, and I usually only have her complete one round of tracing in the tracing game before going to a different game.  Both of these games only cost $1.99 on Amazon.

There's a third game I'll list here, but it's more for advanced readers who are learning things like compound words and nouns.  The game is called First Grade Learning Games, and also has math and other learning games.  My five year old isn't quite up to playing the reading games on First Grade Learning Games yet, but she will be by the end of Kindergarten this year.

7) Teach Your Monster To Read - I really like this site and wish I had known about it when my daughter was still learning the sounds of the letters.  Like The Starfall Learn To Read program this is a completely free set of games.  They're well animated and easy for kids ages 4 and up to use.  Each game introduces a new letter and it's sound.  The premise of this game is that you're teaching a cute little monster from outer space to read so that he or she can fix their ship and get back into space.  My daughter has fun with it even though she already knows all of the letter sounds.

8) The Local Library - I feel like this one is a given but I should say it anyway.  It's important to read to your child a lot to pique their interest in reading.  Library cards are usually free and most libraries will let you check out 10 or more books at a time.  Just make sure to get them back in on time.  I usually take my daughter with me to the kids section, and tell her to pick out 3-5 books and then I pick out 3-5 books.  Then we take them home and read through them together over the course of the next couple weeks.  She loves going to the library to pick out new books for mommy and daddy to read with her.  Your local library may also have a weekly story time where the librarian will read to a group of kids.  They should also have a wide variety of level readers (those super easy books for beginning readers) and some also have educational videos for you to check out on reading and phonics.

9) Level Readers - As mentioned above, having a few level readers around the house and within grasp of your new reader is a good idea.  My daughter gets so excited when she can get through a whole page of a book by herself and it makes her feel good.  We find these level readers very cheap at garage sales, Goodwill, and other second hand stores, though we do still buy some of them new at the store or online.  Here are a few of our favorites:

10) PBS Kids Reading Games - It makes my 5 year old feel like such a 'big girl' to be able to play games on the computer.  Some of the PBS reading games are better than others, but all are free.  Usually I try to find one or two that goes along with whatever stage of reading she's at and let her play those once a day for a few weeks, then we move on to new games.  A good page to bookmark!

11) Funbrain Books - Here's a good resource for some free books to read to your child.  Some are mini novels, others are very short.  We like going on to Funbrain at night before bed to find a book to read.  They also have reading games but we didn't find any that we liked, so we only go on for the books.

12) National Geographic Kids Books Online - I love this site.  It has a bunch of different Nat Geo books you can read with your kids on a variety of topics.  It doesn't teach reading specifically, but the more I read to my daughter the more interested she becomes in reading and the world it opens up to her.

13) Hooked On Phonics - I'm grateful that Hooked on Phonics puts some of their videos on YouTube for us to watch for free, (some of them are in that reading video playlist further up in this post), but I also love the full reading system.  Sometimes you can get this at garage sales also so keep an eye out!  If you do pick up the system, be aware that they have one for each year/level of reading.  The one I linked to below is Kindergarten level, which doesn't actually teach phonics.  I would personally skip the Pre-K level altogether which has very little value, and start with Kindergarten.  If your child already knows the alphabet and each sound each letter makes, then skip to the first grade level.

Do you have more reading resources we haven't listed here?  Let us know in a comment below so we can share it around!


  1. Wow these are great! Just what I was looking for!

  2. I <3 Hooked on Phonics! This is how we taught our sons to read

  3. My kids have loved using the starfall website!