Reading is a fundamental skill that builds the foundation for lifelong learning, so it is important to start teaching reading early in your child’s development. With the right approach, you can help your young reader gain confidence and become a successful reader.
Helpful Information for Teaching Reading
Meet Margaret Craig. Miss Margie is a retired teacher with years of experience as a Title 1 Teacher and Reading Recovery Specialist. In her book, The Young Reader, Margaret Craig shares helpful and practical tips that will help you teach your child how to read. In this article, you’re going to discover…
- A podcast episode and a video interview with Margaret Craig.
- Information about how to make an ABC book for your child.
- Practical tips and strategies that will help you teach your child how to read.
While The Young Reader is geared toward parents of younger children, you can use the strategies in this book to help anyone of any age learn how to read.
The Young Reader by Margaret Craig
My name is Jackie, and I’m the host of the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast. I want to introduce you to an excellent book that will help parents and teachers guide early readers toward a love of reading.
If you want to help your child build literacy skills, then get The Young Reader by Margaret Craig. This quick & easy to read book is filled with tips and strategies you can use as you teach your child to read.
Whether you’re reading board books with your toddler, early chapter books with your elementary-age child, or even helping a slow reader or an older reluctant reader, you’ll find these guidelines to be useful.
Who Is Margaret Craig?
Margaret Craig is an award-winning language arts and Reading Recovery teacher who has worked with hundreds of students.
In her book, Ms. Craig has taken her wealth of knowledge and experience and distilled it into practical steps that parents can use in a variety of situations.
Her specialty is in analyzing what a child is struggling with as they are learning to read. She helps children figure out what they need to do while learning to read.
Through her book, The Young Reader, Margaret Craig is helping parents guide their children as they learn to read.
The Young Reader: Tips & Strategies to Help You Teach Your Child How to Read
The Young Reader is not curriculum. It is a gathering of tips & strategies that help parents teach their children how to read. You can apply these strategies to any book you read with your child.
Here is what Jackie, the host of the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast, says about the book.
This book is an easy, interesting, useful, and quick read for busy parents.
In my opinion, teaching your children how to read is one of the single most important things you can do as a parent, because when your children know how to read, they have greater access to information.
I like Margaret’s book a lot, because she focuses on giving parents simple tools and strategies to get their kids started with reading.
Can You Get That Word Started?
On the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast, Ms. Craig shared that she approaches reading as problem-solving.
Miss Margie says that one of the best questions you can ask a child who is learning to read is, “Can you get that word started?”
In The Young Reader, Margaret Craig states that the question above “just might be the single most important question to ask your child if they get stuck! If they can’t get it started, find out why. It could change your child’s life!” (page 68).
If your child has a difficult time getting the word started, then they might need help learning the sound that a specific letter or group of letters makes.
In our interview, Margaret shares an example of a child who was trying to read the word “Help.” However, when the child read the word aloud, she read it as “Play (Pleh).” The child had read “help” backward, from right to left.
After asking the girl a few questions, Miss Margie realized that she didn’t know the sound of the letter “H.” As a result, the young girl started with the sound she knew, “P.”
By asking questions and being curious, Miss Margie helped this child read a word that was difficult for the child. As a parent, you can do this too.
Interview with Margaret Craig on the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast
Listen to this interview with the author of The Young Reader, Margaret Craig, nearly anywhere you listen to podcasts.
- Click here to listen to the podcast episode with Margaret Craig.
- Watch the video interview with Margaret further down this page.
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What Is An ABC Book?
In our interview, Margaret talks about the importance of an ABC book. She said that children need an ABC book that they know inside out.
Essentially, an ABC book has a picture of an object that a child will easily recognize. The page has a capital and lowercase letter corresponding to the first letter of the pictured object.
For example, the first page of an ABC book might have the capital letter A, the lowercase letter a, and a picture of an apple. The following page would have the letter B with a picture of a word like “Ball” and so forth. It is important that the letters be on the upper lefthand side of the page because we read from left to right.
If the child were to see the word “ant” in a book, they might see the first letter, “a,” and think, “a… a… apple” as they recall the ABC book with an apple in it. Then the child might think, “maybe the word “ant” starts with the “a” sound.” After figuring this out, your child can start sounding out the word “ant.”
The book Miss Margie showed during our interview was handmade and had only one picture on each page. This makes it easy for the child to recall the word when they are later trying to get a word started.
Homeschool Curriculum for Your Kids
Video Interview with Margaret Craig: Author of The Young Reader
In this interview with Title 1 Teacher and Reading Recovery Specialist Margaret Craig, you’ll learn tips and strategies that will help you teach your child how to read.
Type a word or phrase you are looking for into the video search bar.
For example, when you type the phrase “ABC book” into the search bar, our advanced video search engine will take you to the exact moment that this word was said in our interview.
Video: The Young Reader with Margaret Craig
How to Use an ABC Book
Miss Margie made a simple ABC book at home. Here’s how you can use a similar book with your child.
On the title page, there is a picture of a cat. Underneath it, she wrote “A red cat.”
In this book, you would ask your child to put their finger under each word, “A red cat.” This tells you if your child is actually reading what the author wrote.
If a child doesn’t have the skills to read, they might simply say, “This is a red cat” or “This is a blue cat.” Unless your child is pointing, you really don’t know if they’re reading the words or simply stating what they see.
When reading, some children don’t know that the spaces are there. For example, your child might say, “TheRedCat,” as though it were one word. However, when your child points to each word separately, “The – red – cat,” you can see that the child is actually reading each word.
Tips for Teaching Your Child How to Read
- Choose a book that will be fairly easy for your child to read.
- Miss Margie says, “Sit next to your child. Make sure their eyes are looking down at the book.”
- While your child sits next to you, they can use their pointer finger and read. When your child puts their finger under the word, they should put it under the first letter. This can help them get the word started.
- As your child is reading, watch your child read. Don’t interrupt if they make a mistake. Simply observe to see if you need to adjust the level of books that your child is using to learn to read.
- When a child comes to a word that they can’t read, simply ask, “Can you get that word started?”
Use an ABC Book to Help Your Child Learn How to Read
- When your child cannot start a word, ask if they remember what word in their ABC book starts with the same letter.
- For example, if your child is trying to read the word “ant” in the book they are currently reading but doesn’t know what sound the “a” makes, the child can think back to the ABC book. Your child might say, “apple.” The sound is “a.”
- Help your child understand that the sound at the beginning of the word “apple,” the “a” sound might be used in “ant,” too.
- “Ant” could start with the same sound as “apple.”
- When the child can go through this process, reading will become easier for them.
The ABC book is simply a tool that allows a child to help themselves. Help your child connect the dots from the letters, words, and sounds in their ABC book to the book they are currently trying to read.
Guiding Your Young Reader
- When you and your child come together, and you’re both excited and having fun, that’s when learning happens. If there are tears, it’s an indicator that your child might not be ready for the lesson you are teaching.
- When you’re teaching, teach just one thing at a time. Teach one thing, get your kiddo excited, and praise your child.
- Be sure to read just for fun too.
More Reading Tips From Our Interview With Margaret Craig
- Margaret says, “I think I do mention in my book that some people, we have no idea how they learn to read. It’s like, how can some people run five miles without getting out of breath? Some people just learn how to read. I don’t know. And some people have to pay more attention, maybe they even struggle. They have to do some reading work. So I call this reading work.”
- Help your child speak “like a turtle” when they are learning to read a word.
- Make sure your child is reading from left to right.
The Oldest ABC Book? A Apple Pie
Is this the oldest ABC book? I’m not sure, but I suspect that it might be.
I found this classic 1886 children’s ABC book on the Library of Congress Website. It’s called, A Apple Pie by Kate Greenaway.
Can you figure out which letter is missing in this rare book that was published by G. Routledge and Sons? Do you think this letter is missing because the author forgot to create a page for the missing letter, or did the missing letter page fall out?
This book introduces the letters A to Z while following the fortunes of an apple pie.
Is This the Oldest ABC Book?
A Apple Pie: Circa 1886!
Details for A Apple Pie
- Author: Greenaway, Kate
- LCCN: https://lccn.loc.gov/85211404
- Published/Created: London; New York, G. Routledge and Sons 
- Request in: Rare Book/Special Collections reading room (Jefferson LJ239)
- Download Cover Image: [JPG 2979K] | [TIFF 21718K]
Highlights with Margaret Craig: Author Of The Young Reader
- Margaret believes that children are natural learners. Here is what Margaret says about children, “They just try. If it doesn’t work. They try something else.”
- When Margaret worked with the Reading Recovery Program, one of her goals was to get a child to a point in reading where they could say, “What could I do to help myself?” Instead of just saying, “I don’t know,” or “it’s too hard,” or putting the book down, Miss Margie wanted to give them enough tools and ways to think so that they could actually be thinking, “What could I do to help myself?” Margaret shares that, unbelievably so, these skill transfers into other areas of a child’s life.
Learning How to Read Is About Problem-Solving
When I asked Miss Margie how she decided that learning to read was about more than reading, that it was about problem-solving, here is what she had to say.
“Well, I worked one-on-one with, well, over a hundred children and for 60 lessons each.
So much of what I know, I learned from them.
So that turning point, I’m quite sure, probably came from watching children.
Children are our best teachers. They show us what they need to know.
They show us what they need to do. And it probably was part of the Reading Recovery Program where you can suggest to children to help each other.
And sometimes you’ll see… With my grandchildren, I’ve watched the older one helped the younger one.
They might say, if they’re stuck, ‘Put your finger under it, get it started.’
They learn prompts to help each other.
So somewhere in there with teaching them and learning how to teach them and learning from them, it became evident that they are natural problem solvers.”Margaret Craig, Reading Recovery Teacher
Spelling & Reading With Magnetic Letters
- If you are helping your child learn to spell “run,” give them the magnetic letters for the word. Give your child the letters R, U, & N, and put them in their hand. Ask your child to make the word “Run.” They could put the letters on a magnetic whiteboard. As your child does this exercise, have her say the word very slowly, so she knows whether to take the R of her hand first and put it down, the U first, or the N first.
- Kids like to touch and feel magnets, and they are good for practicing their spelling words.
- Parents can learn a lot about how their child is doing when using magnets. For example, if your child is getting the first and last letter correct when spelling a word but mixes up the middle letters, it isn’t time to memorize. It’s time to say the word slowly and hear what comes right after the first letter. The child should say the word “like a turtle” as they hear what comes next. As you place letters on the board, run your finger under them very slowly so the child can see if the letters on the board match the sounds coming out of your mouth.
Sight Words Strategies
- While sight words matter, they are secondary. It is helpful for a child to know sight words for words whose sounds don’t match the spelling. For example, in the word “Light,” the GH is silent. When your child sounds out the word “light,” they would say, “LI-G-HUT.” As a result, the word “light” is a good sight word.
- Sight words are fun for some kids and frustrating for other children. Less is more with the sight words. Use the ones that they can do easily.
- The technique of saying a word like a turtle is really to help yourself learn something new. If you know the word “Mom,” you surely don’t want to go “Mmmooommm” every time you see it. So once you know it, it becomes a sight word, but many words can be backed up by knowing why they say what they say.
- Let’s compare sight words to basic math facts. It’s good to know how you arrived at a fact, but there is a time when you just need to know the facts. For example, it’s good to understand why 2×3=6. However, you don’t want to manually add 2+2+2 or 3+3 each time you need to know the simple fact that 2×3=6.
Books for Your Young Reader
Below is a list of children’s books and picture books that you might like. Some are recommended by Margaret Craig, while others are some of my personal favorites.
- Have You Seen My Cat? by Eric Carle
- Little Bear by Elsa Holmelund Minarik and Maruice Sendak
- The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Seuss
- Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- Are You Ready To Play Outside? by Mo Willems
- Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping by Peggy Parish (Author), Lynn Sweat (Illustrator)
For more early reader books that are organized by reading level, be sure to check out The Young Reader by Margaret Craig.
Do You Have Helpful Ideas or Comments?
We’d love to hear what you think of this interview. Leave your questions, comments, and suggestions in the comment box below!
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