Hesitant Reader No More!!!


Guys its here!

The day has come!

Hesitant reader in my house??!!



I don’t know if I could necessarily nail down the exact date my middle daughter went to bed a hesitant reader only to wake up a blossoming one. But one thing’s for sure, she is hesitant no more! I cannot begin to express the joy, pride and relief I feel even writing these words. So much so I couldn’t sleep and had to get up at 6am to pen this post!

It also feels anticlimactic for my soaring six year old to make such huge strides in her academic progress and I not share it with the world!

READ Blocks Cropped

Her hard work and perseverance deserves no less! But how was she able to do all this you may ask.

This is why I write this post.

Today, I’ll switch gears from concerned mama and let you see things from the side of a teacher determined to make a difference in her pupil’s life. We needed a fresh approach…a sort of happy medium. The all or nothing kinds of full on phonics or sight word only reading programs never quite clicked for my girl.

In fact, my last post was all about things coming to a head and my decision to chuck it all! And if you go back to January 2017 when I first realized I needed to have hope for the hesitant reader in my home, you will be able to appreciate this post even more!

Hence, the second reason I write this post.

I’m happy to say we’re now at the end of Week 5 of our most successful approach. By God’s grace, I figured out a way to marry the two previously insurmountable concepts.

Here’s my method:

1.) File Folders for Focus:

Using simple file folders, I devised a Five Week “trial period”. I labeled the folders by the week: “Week 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9” (FYI, by the time we switched approaches, we had already completed four weeks of school).

5 Week Trial folders

Each week, we’d focus on two word families and no more than two to three sight words.

Word families group similar ending/rhyming words together and sight words are the immediate identification of words you aren’t able to sound out. Together, these early reading skills are supposed to ease the reading process.

However, this, ladies and gents was the root of all my daughter’s troubles! She wasn’t connecting the fact that when she read words from say Dr. Seuss, she was in fact simply reading word families and sight words.

This kid knew her letter sounds. Yet, her knowledge almost seemed to be a crutch. It kept her from really excelling. She was sounding out EVERY word! Even if she read something like,

“Dot hops. Hop Dot hop.”

Don’t you see the repetition in this sentence? Well, for some reason, my lady love didn’t.

And don’t get me started on sight words! For my little literal one (and trust me, I mean this literally! lol), sight words





She was so bent on sounding out each letter that by the time she made it to the sentence’s end, the meaning was lost and she was frustrated beyond belief.

To remedy this, we focused on the folders. In them, I placed a book featuring word families from that week, related worksheets for each day of the week and instructions for a possible craft or activity.

2.) Youtube Playlists:

I created a Youtube playlist for each week’s set of word families with no more than five or six videos. On Monday, she would tune into that particular playlist to build a familiarity with what we were trying to accomplish that week.

Here’s an example of one video from the Week 8 playlist when we covered “at/op” words:

3.) Read the House:

Then we moved on to an activity called “read the house”. I forgot to mention that my mother who is a proud 40 year teaching veteran from the public school system was my secret weapon in all this. She suggested this simple yet effective activity.

For Week 5, (the first week), I wrote as many words I could think of related to the two word families on sticky notes and posted them all over the house. I also included the sight words I had chosen as well. We then went on a mission to “read the house”. We used this funky pointer stick she loves to point with that has a weird plastic hand on it (don’t ask, lol) to read the words out loud.

Read the house

For subsequent weeks, my daughter was tasked with the responsibility of making her own sticky notes and posting them throughout the house and completing this activity.

4.) Worksheets CAN Work!

We then moved on to the set of worksheets I previously selected for that week. After reading the directions together, she completed it independently.

This day, or any other in that week we also got out a related easy reader stashed in her week’s folder. We then plugged away at it for the rest of the week until we had read it all. A sampling of some of our books:

5.) Games aren’t just for playing:

After a day’s work, my daughter then played a game related to the word family. One game consisted of her standing at the bottom of our steps. I’d call out words from the walls and she had to spell them. A correctly spelled word meant she could hop up one step. The goal was to make it to me at the top for a hug or high five.

Another game all my kiddos joined in to play was this one:

ABC Letter Game

She was also able to get in on some online gaming action too. My girl loves to play games on sites like Starfall, Abcmouse, Abcya, Teach Your Monster to Read and PBSkids. I preselected games focusing on the word families and copied and pasted their links into a Word document I had created for the weeks’ activities. Under each day, I pasted a link to one of the games. Playing it was  her reward by the end of her lesson.

For instance, Week 5 was all about “an/en” words so she played this game on Starfall:

Make a Word: EN

6.) Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate!!

Each week, we continued in a similar rotation in which we reviewed the word families, completed worksheets, played games, and read related books. But, MOST importantly, we celebrated! We were sure to celebrate even the tiniest milestone!

Layla progress

She received stickers, hugs, small pieces of candy and even got to FaceTime with daddy when he was at work to tell him about her success.

But you may be asking, “How’d it REALLY go?”

As far as her progress went, the first two weeks seemed rather routine but something clicked somewhere into Week 3. Like I stated earlier, I don’t know when exactly or how but there was a day I can remember distinctly in which the kid went from sounding everything out to simply saying the words with ease. Compared to five weeks ago, her pace, her flow and her confidence are like night and day!

Honestly though, after Day 1 of Week 1, I did feel a change in the air. I even remarked on the refreshing feeling our school atmosphere had when my husband got home that night. There was a sense of relief and enjoyment in both of us. But by Week 3, there was no denying that this new approach really was working!

So now at the end of Week 5 (and the formal end of my trial period), I am beyond thrilled to let you all in on my excitement. I’ve been bursting for weeks!

Here’s a link to how each week was specifically mapped out:

Five Week Reading Trial

As I close, I hope more than anything that this is not just a braggy post. I mean let’s face it, I HAVE to brag on my girl because I’m so proud of her! But more than that, I hope it gives you a sense of the reality that homeschooling succeeds when it’s flexible. Likewise, if you’ve got multiple children, what works for one may or may not work for the others.

My little love bug couldn’t afford for her mommy to give up on her. I had to be in tune with how she best received information. I especially had to know what didn’t work for her. Had I not taken the time to become a student of my student, we’d still be banging our heads against the wall!

If you are at your wit’s end, my prayer for you is that this post will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to jump back in the saddle. Your hesitant reader is counting on you!




Published by Courtney B. Dunlap

Christ follower. Wife. Mother. Friend. Writer...and excited to grow! I believe there's a need for more down-to-earth online spaces in which moms like you and me and anyone else in-between can explore the in's and out's of homeschooling free from competition yet rich with encouragement. My hope is that all that you find here will provide just that!

4 thoughts on “Hesitant Reader No More!!!

  1. I love how you pushed through, and were able to finally see results. This such a cool and creative way to teach words, so glad it all paid off. I will never forget gobbling up books when I was little. It is truly a wonderful thing to see kids enthusiastic about learning and reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Its actually pretty embarrassing how late I am with this reply Casey! But THANK YOU for the feedback and encouragement. I’m so grateful that things have been on the up and up for my little one. She’s been sounding things out like a champ more smoothly and reading words that shock me so I’m really excited for her!


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