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Parents Talk About Teaching Kids to Read

Learn what other parents say about teaching their kids to read. Click on the links below to go to the quote. After you read the stories, tell us your own story. And come back soon. We'll be adding more quotes from parents!

We've changed some names to protect the family's privacy.

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Parents can be reading role models

  • Children learn what they see.
  • Our family loves to read!

Why they worked hard to help their children read

  • I knew my son could read well — if he got some extra help.
  • For some deaf children, reading can be easier than speaking.
  • All kids can have trouble reading — not just ones with hearing loss.

Each child learns new words in his or her own way

  • She looks at the whole sentence to figure out what a word means.
  • Cued speech and captioning help him learn new words.
  • Learning new words takes a lifetime.

Keep reading fun

  • Find out what your child likes to read.
  • We left the choice to read up to him.
  • She'd read anything — if she was interested in it.

How they helped their children learn words

  • We labeled things around the house.
  • Playing games helped him learn words.
  • Picture books helped him learn words and make up stories.
  • Making picture books didn't take a lot of work.
  • Turn on the captions on your TV.
  • Getting his own magazines made reading them special.
  • We let him read whatever he wanted.
  • Watching the movie first helped her understand the book better.

How helping their children read paid off

  • I was thrilled when he started signing books to me.
  • Reading the book first helped her understand movies better.
  • I was so happy when he chose to read "classics" by himself.

Parents can be reading role models

Children learn what they see.
"He always saw us - mom, dad, and big brother - reading."

—   B.D.

Our family loves to read!
I think reading does expand all of our vocabularies, and none of us ever stops learning. I think that's one of the reasons I find reading so exciting and never boring...
I'm glad my son does, too.

—   Darla

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Why they worked hard to help their children read

For some deaf children, reading can be easier than speaking.
"We realized that speech wasn't going to happen without an all-out commitment. We'd be better off putting the time and energy into reading.

"Looking back, I'm glad we made that decision.
Reading has opened so many doors. For some deaf kids, speech can help support reading. But with her very profound loss and the technology available at the time, English was a second language she had to acquire by sight-reading alone.
A big job, but still smaller than acquiring speech!"

—   Lorna

I knew my son could read well — if he got some extra help.
Sure, I knew the theory but I chose to ignore it. I decided that

  • He's deaf
  • Therefore he's going to learn visually
  • Reading is visual — hey, no problem!

And then I worked like the dickens to prove my theory correct.

—   B.D.

All kids can have trouble reading — not just ones with hearing loss.
"If hearing was all a kid needs to learn to read, we wouldn't have so many hearing children struggling with reading!"

—   Lorna

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Each child learns new words in his or her own way

She looks at the whole sentence to figure out what a word means.
"I was comparing notes once with another mom, and we both had noticed that our daughters read books at a level well above what their English vocabulary would indicate they should be reading. Both girls tended to 'slide' over words they didn't know, grasp the meaning in context, and go on."

—   Lorna

Learning new words takes a lifetime.
At 23, my daughter is still working on vocabulary.
A lot of her reading nowadays is for college.
So she can't just slide over new words.
But she has the confidence and drive to keep at it.
Even though no one is measuring her reading ability any more, she knows it's continuing to improve.

—   Lorna

Cued speech and captioning help him learn new words.
"His grasp of vocabulary comes mainly, as far as I can see, from the presentations of lessons and conversations in the classroom that are transliterated for him, some from books, and some, alas, from captions on particularly funny cartoons that use vocabulary in fun ways, like Sponge Bob Squarepants."

—   Darla

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Keep reading fun

Find out what your child likes to read.
"I think the biggest thing parents can do is stoke enthusiasm for reading...That means figuring out what your kid wants to read about. And only your kid can tell you."

—   Lorna

We left the choice to read up to him.
He never, ever, ever, HAD to read. Maybe at school, but at home we NEVER made him read. We let him know indirectly that reading was encouraged. For instance, he'd ask, 'Can I stay up an extra half-hour and play video games?' And I'd say, 'No, but you can read in bed for an extra half hour.' That sort of thing.

—   B.D.

She'd read anything — if she was interested in it.
"She got into Steven Jay Gould's essays on natural history in high school. The vocabulary level was way high. But she wanted to read them enough that she'd re-read and re-read and look up words and all that. She'd never do that for a teacher or me if we supplied the material."

—   Lorna

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How they helped their children learn words

We labeled things around the house.
"I got plastic bins for the playroom and labeled every one: BALLS, CARS, etc. On each label I drew a little picture of a ball or car or whatever."

—   B.D.

Playing games helped him learn words.
"I bought baby books with clear, bright photos of common objects. They had a 1- or 2- word caption on each page.
We'd look at these together. Say there was a picture of a teddy bear. I'd sign, 'See the bear,' point out the word 'bear,' and maybe fingerspell B E A R. Then I'd say, 'Where's your bear?' and put it next to the picture. And so on.

We [also] got a poster of the manual alphabet and some of those plastic magnetic letters. We'd play match up."

—   B.D.

Picture books helped him learn words and make up stories.
"We took Polaroids of friends, family, doctors, teachers, school, everything, and put them into little books. We wrote on each page what it was or the person's name. This was our 'Where are we going book,' and we kept it in the car. When we went to, say, Aunt Ann's house, I'd show him Aunt Ann's family in the book and go over all their names.

We also used this method for things we did on vacation and other special trips and occasions. Sort of simple memory books. Postcards, photos, drawings, etc., in cheap albums. We labeled all with simple sentences. Like, 'We went to the beach.
We found a crab."

Making picture books didn't take a lot of work.
"I would make little books for him. Just stick figures on post-it notes stapled together with simple words.
When he got a little older, he started making his own."

—   B.D.

We linked words to ASL.
"When we were reading a book about a cat, I fingerspelled M-E-O-W on my cheek and pointed to the cat in the book. I used my face and hands to show what the cat was feeling."

—   L.L.

Turn on the captions on your TV.
TV was never on without the captioning turned on.
If you do nothing else, do this. It's passive and painless!

—   B.D.

Use the FM system.
"When my son was in first grade, the teacher passed around a microphone when the children were reading out loud. My son had a little speaker on his desk so he could hear better. This helped him follow along what was happening in class. If he had both the FM boots and that microphone, things would have been much easier for him."

—   J.

Getting his own magazines made reading them special.
"We subscribed to magazines just for him. He started with Spider, then moved up to Cricket, then Disney Adventures, and now he's getting Discover. Having something come in the mail just for him with his name on it made it special."

—   B.D.

We let him read whatever he wanted.
"He always had carte blanche in libraries and bookstores. Nothing was too hard, too easy, or too scary for him to read.
The point was to always make reading a pleasure, and never a chore."

—   B.D.

Watching the movie first helped her understand the book better.
"She enjoyed captioned video versions of kids' literature.
It made it easier to tackle the book afterward, both because she knew where the story was going and because she liked the story. PBS aired dramatizations of several of the Narnia series by CS Lewis. She and her younger brother watched the videos umpteen times, read the books, and played Narnia in the back yard."

—   Lorna

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How helping their children read paid off

My daughter learned to read phonics!
Learning to read. We review phonics on new vocabulary. My daughter also now uses an electronic dictionary when reading and writing papers - it's much faster that way. She is a VERY fast reader. She doesn't have to hear the words in her head as I do. Her association is the meaning of the word, not the way it sounds in spoken language.

Learning to spell. My daughter also struggled with the way spelling and phonics lessons are structured for hearing classrooms. I had to get creative in finding ways to make class accessible... For spelling, we used a great program from Broderbund called Spellbound in which I entered the spelling words each week and we played games to expose her to spelling practice. We also made up signs for words that have no sign so she could practice for tests with an added visual cue (not fingerspelling).

Cued speech. For phonics, my daughter needed visual cues. Early on we used cued speech for words she wanted to say, like hippopotamus. The cued speech signs made it easier to practice the articulation, at a slower pace than conversation. That later translated to understanding the phonetic reading.

Some advice. Be ready to try some things outside the usual classroom solutions. Keep up the good work!

—   B.T.

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I was thrilled when he started signing books to me.
"One night he grabbed the book out of my hand in exasperation because I was skipping some signs. (Hey, I was tired.)
He started signing himself. I knew we had arrived."

—   B.D.

Reading the book first helped her understand movies better.
We simply don't get captioned movies in theaters in my area (rural Idaho). But we noticed that Disney movies and some others always have big marketing campaigns that include books at all reading levels. This way my daughter would know the plot outline before we went to the movie and could enjoy all the color, action, and special effects.

—   Lorna

I was so happy when he wanted to read a classic.
"My reward would be when he'd voluntarily pick out a classic. Once we were watching a remake of Romeo and Juliet.
He was quite taken with it...The next thing I knew, we were in a bookstore buying an edition of Romeo and Juliet with Shakespeare's original script on one side and a modern translation on the other. He was about 10 or 11 at the time."

—   B.D.

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