“Cat! You just read the word cat all by yourself! Great job, I am so . . . proud of you!” would likely be something you would hear coming from my mouth. For struggling readers, you just can’t underestimate the power of praise; it is a crucial element of your child’s success.

Suffix Families 

So now that we have learned to read our first word, let’s see what other words we can learn. Without adding any other cards yet, begin talking about which words rhyme with cat; bat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat, and sat all rhyme with cat, but why?

Say a few of these words together: cat/rat; cat/hat; cat/mat. Each word has the same -at sound at the end, doesn’t it? Refer back to your “cat” word card. Point to the C and make the letter sound, and then point to the -at and make this suffix sound.

Let’s see what happens when we take away the C card, and put the B card in its place. What sound does the letter B make? What happens when we put that B sound in front of the -at sound? What word do you think this makes? “B-at, b-at, b-at,” you say, faster and faster together until your child’s eyes light up and it clicks: “This is the word bat!”

You might find that you are now able to go through all of the -at word possibilities and your child reads straight through them, or you might struggle through each one. My biggest suggestion would be to relax and keep this as much of a game as possible. It will click one day, and sooner than later if your child enjoys what he is working on. One other word of advice would be to practice these cards daily for at least an entire week. Don’t be surprised if your child breezed right through the words on Day 1, only to be back at the beginning of the learning process the next day.

To keep the fun in this activity for the full week, vary your teaching methods. One day you could look for -at words around your home, and upon finding them, sound them out together and then see if you can determine which letters build the word, based on their sounds.

Another option would be to draw pictures of the -at words on paper, with two of the three letters written beside each picture. Your child will need to sound out the name of the object in the picture in order to discover which letter is missing in the word.

These are simple activities that one might feel are too simple to be effective, but when carried out slowly with lots of excitement and enthusiasm on the parent’s part, children are put at ease and are in a better position to learn. At the end of the week, have fun writing your -at words on sticky notes, and then race to see how quickly your child can read a word (written on a sticky note) and place it on the correct item. Speedy reading!

Mrs. Candace is a former preschool teacher turned homeschooling mother to four young children, as well as founder of Sonbeams, a Christian-based company offering families learning resources based on the Word of God. For more information about homeschool materials and KJV Bible resources, visit www.Sonbeams.com

Publication date: August 6, 2012