With the push for better reading skills, my grandson in first grade brings home word lists containing words like "detective," "clues" and other challenging words. However, he misses simple, basic ones like "that," "his," "what" and "when." He sounds out many words effectively, but I think he should immediately recognize the basic words and have stories reinforcing these instead of the long stories of many pages assigned in his reader. He gets discouraged, and I think he will miss out on the fun of reading. What do you think? - Concerned Grandmother


It's great that your grandson can sound out difficult words. This means that he really understands the relationship between letters and sounds. However, he will not be a good reader until he can cruise over the small, basic words without any hesitation. Unfortunately, these words must be memorized, as few of them can be sounded out. Besides, it is inefficient to try to sound these words out, as they appear so many times in every paragraph or even every sentence.

Whether your grandson is reading easy or more challenging materials, the words that he will encounter most frequently are basic words. Get a list of these words from his teacher, or go to Skill builders under Resources.

You might be able to accelerate your grandson's learning of basic words by doing a repeated reading activity with him. Begin by working with material that he can read without too much difficulty before advancing to more challenging material. Have him read a paragraph to you, and help him with the words that he cannot readily read. Next, have him practice by himself. He should read the paragraph several times, either out loud or silently, before he reads it to you again. Then have him go on to do several more paragraphs. This really helps most children if it is done frequently.