Ask The Reading Specialist

Hi everyone! I am encouraging you all to post any reading questions, concerns, comments or stories you may have related to any reading issues you yourself, your child, or student is facing.

I want to hear what YOU have to say, and help answer any questions you may have so that you (or your child, student) can be a successful reader!


  1. My child is just learning how to sound out words. I am starting out with small words like 'cat' and 'sit' and he very often sounds them out right, but then says them with the first letter either missing or wrong.
    Is this common?
    What should I do?

  2. @Anonymous:
    Yes, this problem is very common. I see it often when students are just learning to sound out simple consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words and are often over-thinking the task. Most students pass through this phase as they begin to connect the sounds together as they read them.
    What to do:
    Try having him sound out the letters a little faster and without pauses between the sounds. In other words, show him how to continue carrying the sound of the first letter into the sound of the second letter, into the third. Once he can master this higher-level blending skill he should become more successful at remembering the initial sound.
    Repetition of this skill will help increase his speed, and with increased speed will come higher success rates for identifying the correct word.
    Just don't get frustrated! I understand how that is difficult given that they sound out the word correctly, but then repeat back a completely different word with a transposed letter or incorrect first letter :)

  3. Can you help me help my son. His teacher sayd she thinks he has working memory problems. What are somethings I can do to help him

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    I would be happy to help you with your son's memory problems, but I will need some more information first. Would you like me to consult with you via webcam/phone, or do you have a specific reading question you would like answered?
    Please email me at:
    myreadingspecialist (at) gmail (dot) com

  5. Hello,
    I have a question about how one should read when they are reading silently.

    I was recently talking to a friend who is a very good reader. He told me that when he reads, his eyes see the words and the words "click" (or rather the meaning of the words "click") in his brain and he understands them. He told me that when he sees numbers, they slow him down because he has to actually say them in his head.

    I realized that when I am reading, I actually say every single word in my head, as if someone was reading it aloud to me.

    So I have a few questions about this.
    1: Which method is more efficient; actually saying every word in one's head, or being able to look at the word and instantly understand its meaning?

    2: As I suspect the latter, how does one acquire this?

    One more, slightly off-topic question. Is it possible to learn to read multiple words at once? Is it possible to learn to see and understand say 2, 3 or even four words at once, so when you are reading you are able to read by moving your eyes less and less sideways and thus you can read much faster? If yes, how might one acquire this?

    Thank you so much!

  6. @ Anonymous,
    Thank you so much for your comment. I do have A LOT to say in order to answer your questions and I think the best way would be to write a post. I will respond to you this way so that I can answer all parts.
    Make sure you subscribe via email so you will see it right when it goes live.

  7. @Anonymous,
    Here is my post to answer your questions. Please let me know if you found it helpful, and/or if you have more questions.

  8. Hi, I am applying my 4-year-old for a dual Spanish/English immersion program when he begins kindergarten (English is his primary language and we do not speak Spanish in our home).

    During the school tour, the teachers recommended that parents continue reading and speaking to children in their primary language at home, but not try to TEACH them to read in it as they will become confused when they are taught to read a different language at school. They also said that dual immersion students will lag a bit behind single-language students until about the 2nd or 3rd grade.

    Do you know anything about this? Should I bother working with my son to help him read in English between now and when we starts school (fall 2012)?

  9. Michelle,
    Thanks so much for your question. I can only answer based upon what I know about how kid's acquire the skills necessary to read, and what I have seen in the past with Spanish immersion programs in my area.
    First, I completely disagree with the suggestion that "it will confuse the child to teach learning to read in both languages." Studies have shown that children can easily learn in more than one language at the same time and that there is no deficit.
    As for NOT teaching reading in English, this is completely disturbing to me as it has been shown (through numerous studies) that children MUST learn English phonics before the age of 7 in order to fully acquire the necessary skills for reading.
    From what I have seen of students who have attended immersion schools, and then transferred into my public school (after 2nd grade), I have had a VERY hard time getting them caught up in reading (and often are unable to). This I found was often due to the lack of phonics in English being taught during the prime learning time (before age 7).
    I hope that you will continue to get more feedback about your concerns, and possibly ask the school at what age they begin to teach phonics in English. Keep in mind it should be at least 1 hour in Kindergarten a day, and go up from there.
    Was this helpful? Can I help with anything else?
    -The Reading Specialist

  10. Sorry for the delayed response to your feedback, but this was very helpful, thank you! I should mention that it is a K-8th school, so the children will be taught English as well and they recommend children NOT be transferred to an English only school prior to that, but I will definitely be doing more research!

  11. What are some differences in teaching teachers vs. teaching students?

  12. My daughter is in the first grade and pretty much on grade level for her reading ability. However, I have noticed lately that she frequently confuses simple sight words like what for that, on for no, this for that. As you can see they are usually sight words that have either a similar beginning or ending sounding. So I was just wondering if this was normal still in the beginning stages of reading or should I be more concerned? She is a very visual learner, so I was thinking of maybe using some sight words with visuals on them. Any suggestion and should I be concerned?

  13. Grisel C,
    Thanks so much for your comment. Not only is it very normal, but it will likely increase as her fluency (reading rate) increases. Kids at this age tend to want to move rapidly now that they are "readers" and will often make more mistakes at times that seem like they are backtracking. When my students read to me I try to just correct every 3rd error or so, or those that drastically change the sentence structure, so as I am not constantly interrupting their flow. As odd as it sounds, these errors are a good thing that show she has moved on from a phonetic reader into an emergent reader!
    -My Reading Specialist