Free Resources to Catapult Your Emerging Reader

I’m an over thinker of all the things, so it should have come as no surprise that I was overthinking my daughter’s reading abilities.

Two years ago, my oldest was entering kindergarten and I was fully confident that learning to read would be an absolute breeze for her. We had done so much to prepare! 

We had read books upon books, she knew all of her letters, all of her letter sounds, and had even practiced simple reading skills on an iPhone app. When the curriculum started with letter identification, I was mostly concerned that it wasn’t going to be a quick enough pace for her.

heh.

Kindergarten ended, and her reading level hardly budged. It was all I could do to get her to attempt to read simple words out loud without tears being involved. 

We homeschool, so my brain was going through all the things I must have done wrong. Was it the curriculum? Perhaps her amblyopia (a condition in which one eye is stronger than the other) was making it difficult to read? What reading strategies was I lacking? Would she be better off with a different teacher?

Momma, I’m writing this to you today to remind you of three truths:

  1. You have what it takes to do this mom thing well. You know your child better than anyone else. God gave you this child and He gave you to this child. Cling to Him whatever your current struggle might be.

  2. Different children learn at different paces. Your child’s current abilities do not dictate future success. Just keep meeting her where she is.

  3. Your local library is a treasure trove full of wonderful secrets that absolutely need to be taken advantage of.

I felt pretty defeated at the end of our Kindergarten year, so I knew something had to change. Yes, we needed to keep practicing the concept of reading, but more than practice, my daughter needed to fall in love with a story.

When we fall in love with a story, our desire to know what happens next drives our desire to keep reading. I needed to let my daughter’s interests fuel her reading.

I needed a library card.

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Yup, that’s embarrassing. A writer, a homeschool mom, without a library card? It’s like trying to drive a car without the key, or entering a theatre without a ticket. Your library card is a key that unlocks a world of reading potential.

So here is what I did: I swallowed my pride and headed down to my local library, found the librarian, and signed up for a library card. “Yes, I’ve lived in the area for 15ish years, and yes, I promise I don’t have an active card elsewhere.” Oh, the shame.

But let me just tell you, it was worth it!

This particular branch has a fantastic children’s section, so I was able to guide my children toward books that immediately sparked their curiosity. The row for young readers was filled with a variety of books for every reading level. I helped my daughter pick out a book that met her ability while engaging her imagination.

That summer, we read for fun. We curled up on the couch and took turns reading. One book by me, two pages by my daughter, until we made it through her first library book. Then another, and another.

In just a few short months, her confidence had grown immensely, and she was willing to try more things.

First grade was more of the same. Sometimes we had tears and it took all the coaxing in me to get my daughter to simply try a challenging word. She’s not one who loves failure, so we are working on that. But, we kept on at the library, and in the spring, her reading took a whole new level of flight.

Instead of reading a few pages at a time, she wanted to read a whole book in one sitting! Our curriculum would divide a book out to be read over the course of two weeks, and this girl begged to read the whole thing all at once. We had turned a corner, and every week we seemed to turn another.

I share this story, because I know there is someone else out there struggling with this reading thing. It’s a big hurdle, but give it some time. Focus on the love of the story rather than the success of correct pronunciation. Talk about the book together. Create your own story together. The accuracy part will catch on later.

I have fallen in love with the library again. In addition to a complete transformation in my daughter’s reading, we found these gifts at the library:

  • Story time. Great for preschool and early elementary. There are songs, crafts, books, and video books.

  • Movies. Sometimes I let the girls bring home a movie that we will enjoy at the end of the school day. We get to keep them for a week and they are free!

  • Summer programs. This summer we completed space-themed BINGO cards. We were encouraged to learn about space exploration and astronauts through books, movies, visiting a planetarium, and drawing pictures. At the end of the summer, both of my girls earned a free book!

  • Libby. Go download this app right now. Libby links to your library card and allows you to download books straight to your kindle. It also lets you listen to audio books! We absolutely love listening to audio books when driving around town. And it is FREE!

Speaking of free, here are 3 more wonderful free resources for the emerging reader:

  1. Khan Academy Kids. This is an engaging app geared toward preschoolers, with absolutely no ads to purchase anything. The Khan Academy brand has free resources available throughout your child’s school career, so keep them bookmarked!

  2. Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival. Sign up for her e-mail list to get a free list of book recommendations. I use this list just about every time I search for a new audio book on Libby!

  3. BOOK IT! I participated in this program as a kid, and I’ve signed my girls up for this fall. It’s available for homeschools or classrooms. Free pizza for meeting reading goals? Yes, please!


What great finds have you made at the library? What free resources would you recommend for a struggling reader?

My second daughter begins kindergarten this year, so here we go again!