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Tools that can help kids better their skills in reading and writing

So, your kid comes home with a report saying they are below the benchmark in reading. What do you do now?

At the beginning of kindergarten our child took a test on the first day of school to see where she was in reading and alphabet recognition. This shouldn’t surprise me — I worked in a school for the last six years — but it did.

When the note came home with the results saying she was going to be put in a small-group learning environment for reading, my heart sank. What have I not been doing enough of? What do I need to do now? Are other students below the benchmark? Am I failing as a mom?

All these thoughts flooded my mind along with feelings of embarrassment, anger and discouragement. How could she be behind already? Isn’t that what kindergarten is for — to learn to read? I have to admit, I cried about it to my husband with all these feelings pouring out.

Once the initial shock wore off, I decided to reach out to the teacher. I messaged her and asked her if this was an accurate depiction of where my daughter was and if so what we could do to help the situation.

She replied and instantly eased my mind. She agreed that the test on the first day of school wasn’t a good show of her skills, but that she was struggling a little bit with letter recognition. So, my mind was eased with the reading, but then I was still worried about the letter recognition problem. The teacher was very helpful in sending home instructional packets on how to teach letter sounds and recognition.

We also bought flashcards, letter tracing whiteboard books, and the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Letter Set.

We were on a mission. So, every night we have been going through the alphabet flashcards and focusing on the few letters they are learning that week in school. We take the five or six flashcards and go through them a couple times. If she gets them right, then she gets a small treat. Right now, it being October, her treat is candy corn.

The letter tracing whiteboard books have been a great tool to learn how to write the letters. She has been doing great with that! The whiteboard makes it so easy to wipe off and then have her do it again for more practice. She loves these books, so I highly recommend them for any mom looking for help teaching the alphabet. The only down side is she doesn’t know the letters she is writing.

That’s where the LeapFrog comes into play. It is this interactive toy that has interchangeable magnets that click into place. Once the magnet is in, it speaks the letter out loud and the corresponding sound that goes with the letter. This has been great for a few magnets at a time, but then she gets bored and wants to move on.

So, the easiest and the most successful tool so far has been the alphabet flashcards. We are still working as I’m writing this, but all these tools have been a huge help so far!

The most important thing in this whole process has been not being too hard on myself has a parent. I was doing the best I could then and I’m doing the best I can now. With help from her teacher, my husband and other family members’ advice, we are going to teach this little to read!

It takes a village!

ANN BURNS is a Morgantown native, raising two young children with her husband, Drake. She writes weekly columns for The Dominion Post. Contact her at