Back to School – Make Your Own ABC Book!

It’s nearly fall and children are going back to school.  Whether you homeschool or your children attend public or private school, you may enjoy doing this activity with your preschool or kindergarten student.


At ages 4 and 5, children should still be playing a lot of the time, so learning should be casual and informal. If your child shows an interest in learning the alphabet, you can teach the letters in many different ways. You might post a large letter on the wall or refrigerator (one at a time) and talk about its name and sound at random times during the day. You can read ABC books together.  You can point out words for objects that begin with a specific letter.

Your child might also enjoy making his/her own ABC book. This is a fun activity for your preschool or kindergarten students that can help them begin to recognize letters and learn letter names. Teach just one letter at a time.  It really does not matter at this age whether you teach a letter every couple of days or one a week. Let your child’s interest be your guide.

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Your child will need to be able to cut reasonably straight lines with scissors first.  Then he/she will be able to do this activity with just a little guidance from you. Use plain white cardstock or typing paper for each page and bind it when you complete the project—or purchase an inexpensive spiral notebook to paste the letters and pictures into. Give your child the pictures for just one letter.  Ask her to cut out each picture for the letter she is learning. Show her how to paste the letters and pictures onto the paper. It doesn’t need to look perfect. Use a glue stick rather than liquid glue. Young children may find it easier to use a glue stick that looks purple when applied, but dries clear, so they can see where they have put the glue.

Here’s where you can get your FREE Cut & Paste ABC Book from Sound Bytes Reading:

ABC Cut & Paste Book – part 1 & part 2


All Students Reading at Grade Level by the End of Third Grade?

Should the cutoff point at which we must get students reading on grade level be as late as third grade?  Perhaps we should rethink our starting point and begin to remediate all struggling readers in the middle of first grade, when the gap is not nearly so great.

Ohio is one of 14 states that plan to retain students who do not achieve grade level in reading by the end of third grade.  Writer Alexander Russo recently posted this 8-minute PBS NewsHour clip that questions the value of this approach.

Twenty five years ago, educators said if we provided kindergarten for all students, then all children would enter first grade ready to learn.  Back then, we expected to teach the A-B-C’s to many, if not most of them, in first grade. So we provided free kindergarten for all students in our public schools. Did it make a difference in reading achievement?

Fast forward 25 years. Now, we say we need to provide preschool for all students so they will enter kindergarten ready to learn.  Now, as then, some children enter kindergarten with no skills, some knowing the alphabet, and some already reading.  Now, as then, we have an achievement gap. We have an achievement gap that begins BEFORE children even enter school.  Kindergarten did not solve the reading problem, and if we do not change how we teach, preschool will not solve it either.

Approximately one third of students enter school not knowing the names of the letters of the alphabet.  These same students are the ones who are still behind at the end of third grade.  These students should be receiving extra help at the beginning of first grade because they can catch up if they are provided with an intensive, systematic reading program.

Is this an unrealistic expectation?  Just how much can we expect to achieve with a good reading program? Watch how well this student reads:



Approximately one third of our fourth grade students cannot read even at a basic level, another third read at a basic level but are not proficient, and about a third are proficient readers. This has been the case at least since the early 90’s. No significant change in reading achievement.

Children who come from low income families are more likely to start behind, but this is not always the case. Low SES does not mean kids can’t learn—but they may have more obstacles to overcome.  Factors that influence student learning have been well documented—issues with hunger, safety, parent education level, parent involvement, attendance, student behavior and motivation will all influence student outcomes in achievement.

Schools have greater influence when it comes to choosing what reading programs are taught to students and mentoring teachers so they can learn to be more effective.  Principals, teachers, and school leaders have an obligation to research which reading interventions produce results and then use them.

If the curriculum that our teachers are provided to teach our children with does not work for a third of our students, it’s time to take a look at what does work, and change what we are doing.

Every child reading on grade level by the end of third grade?  No! 

Our goal should be:  Every child reading on grade level by the end of first grade!  With this goal in mind, we should be using effective research-based reading interventions as soon as we see children start to fail—before the end of first grade—and before they have fallen so far behind their peers that many of them will never catch up at all.

Teach every child to read by the end of first grade!

See statistics here:

Pre-Writing Skills for Preschoolers – Drawing Stick People

Reading is an essential skill.  It opens doors to so many learning opportunities. Writing and spelling are a big part of reading, but children cannot automatically spell or write well just because they know how to read.  Parents can help by introducing preschoolers to activities that can help prepare them for reading, spelling and writing.

Last week we talked about how learning to draw geometric shapes can strengthen young children’s small motor control. Drawing lines, triangles, and circles is good practice to help prepare for the time when children will need to learn how to write the letters of the alphabet.  For many children, learning to draw is more engaging than copying letters of the alphabet.  They will learn some of the same skills while drawing pictures that they will need to write letter symbols later on. So why not make it fun?

This week, I am posting another drawing activity for your children that will help them continue to develop the small motor dexterity that they need before they begin to practice handwriting. Learning to draw may also help increase a child’s attention span if it is something he takes an interest in doing.

Free Preschool Activity – Color & Shape Matching Game

During summer break, children are still learning. You can use this activity with preschool & kindergarten age children anytime.  Try it when you are waiting for a meal in a restaurant.  Print two copies of the above shapes onto heavy card stock and cut them out. Save the pieces in a snack size baggie. You can play two ways:

1 – Ask a younger child to match the cards while they are placed face up.

2 – Play concentration with your child. Place the mixed up cards face down in rows. Ask your child to turn over two cards at a time and try to find two cards that match. If the cards match, remove them from the row. Try to find another pair that matches. If the cards do not  match  the second player takes a turn.

How does this activity help children get ready to learn to read?  They learn to pay attention to what is the same or what is different.  Here they are matching colors, but if you print it in black and white, they will need to pay more attention to the shapes. Noticing the differences in shapes prepares them to look for the differences in the shapes of letters which is an important reading skill.  We’ll talk about that a bit more next week.