It's halfway through the year, and my first-grader hasn't gotten the hang of reading. He just doesn't seem to know what the process involves. Unfortunately, I didn't read a great deal to him when he was younger. What are some basic principles of reading that I can help him learn? -- Poor Reader


If you have a struggling beginning reader, there are certain things that these children need to know in order to develop into readers. They definitely need to know that reading is saying the words on a page rather than making up a story based on the pictures. Plus, they can't substitute similar words for the words on a page. "Car" is "car"; it is not "auto." Children also need to know the conventions of print. Pages are read from left to right and from top to bottom. Finally, they need to know that what they read should make sense.

You can help your child understand these principles by reading words to him wherever you see them. For example, read words on signs like "Stop," "On," "Off" and "Exit" so he begins to understand that different combinations of letters form different words. Help him identify the letters in these words. Then read stories to him at least 15 minutes every day. To help him learn the conventions of print, run your finger under the words in a story as you read to him so he learns that books are read from left to right and top to bottom.