Become a Member
Support the programming and educational initiatives of Idaho Public Television by joining today.
home ready to learn k-12 adult education

Overnight Schedule

Ed. Rights

Learn Cable


Teacher Toolbox

IdahoPTV Learning Services



Skills Children Need To Read
by Carrie Kinnard
Boise State University

Grade: For parents or educators of infants and children birth to age six
Time Allotment: 90 minutes
Subject Matter: Reading and Language Arts

Today there is a very real concern among parents and educators about children's ability to learn how to read. In this lesson, adults will participate in a series of discussions centered on the video "What Children Need in Order to Read." There will be discussion before viewing the video and after viewing the video. Small groups of no more than three to four adults are suggested so everyone can participate. Following the video portion of the lesson, adults will identify at least one thing they can do immediately to promote reading.

Learning Objectives:
The adults will be able to name the three categories of factors related to reading. The adults will be able to name at least one activity they could do in each of those three areas to promote reading.

Head Start Performance

Standard 1304.21(a)(2)(i) states "parents must be invited to become integrally involved in the development of the program's curriculum and approach to child development and education;" and 1304(a)(2)(ii) states "parents must be provided opportunities to increase their child observation skills and to share assessments with staff that will help plan the learning experiences."

Standard 1304.21(c)(1)(i) states "grantee and delegate agencies, in collaboration with the parents, must implement a curriculum that supports each child's individual pattern of development and learning;" and 1304.21(c)(1)(ii) states "grantee and delegate agencies, in collaboration with the parents provides for the development of cognitive skills by encouraging each child to organize his or her experiences, to understand concepts, and to develop age appropriate literacy, numeracy, reasoning, problem solving and decision-making skills which form a foundation for school readiness and later school success.:

Media Components :
"What Children Need in Order to Read."
DeBeck Educational Video
3873 Airport Way
P.O. Box 9754
Bellingham, WA 98227-9754


  • Television
  • VCR
  • Paper
  • Writing utensils
  • One children's book for every two participants
  • A copy of Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London; Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 (ISBN 0-14-054457-7)

Prep For Teachers
Read over the entire lesson plan. When using the video, be sure to provide the adults with a Focus for Media Interaction, a specific responsibility to complete during or after the viewing of each video segment.

Introductory Activities
Setting the Stage

  1. Ask adults to share their experiences with reading (positive and/or negative). What did they like best about reading and/or learning to read? What did they like the least? Did they use whole language, invented spelling, rhyming (word families), syllables, phonics or ____?
  2. Was learning to read easy or hard for you? Why?
  3. Using reflection, ask them what they would change, if anything, about the experience.
  4. Have the adults give reasons why being able to read is so important.

Learning Activities

  1. During the first segment of the videotape provide adults with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking participants to jot down the activities they observe children involved in that are related to reading (reading books, pointing to each word, computers, creating own book, matching object to first sound in the object, clapping syllables). Pause the video when the children say "What Children Need in Order to Read." Break into small groups and have participants share their immediate reactions.
  2. Before viewing the second segment of the videotape ask participants to write down what they think children need to know in order to read. During the video provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking parents to jot down or listen to what the narrator says about learning to read (each letter has a certain sound). Pause viewing the video when the narrator says, "Because with that initial letter sound in sight comes the basic logic of how this system is going to work." Break up into small groups and share.
  3. Before viewing the third segment of the videotape, the instructor will talk about the current technology researchers are able to use to determine skillful reading (use computers with eye movement technology). During the video provide participants with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by having them write down or listen for the findings using today's eye movement technology (they read virtually each and every word and visually process each and every letter within the word). Pause the video when the narrator says "When you probe that ability, it turns out that it rests critically on their recognition of the letters within the words and their translation of those letters to speech." Share the findings in small groups. Have each participant get a partner. Pass out one children's book per pair. Have one person read while the other watches the eye movement. For the observer: what did he/she notice about the person's eye movements? For the reader: did you read each word, each letter? Switch roles. The reader becomes the observer, and the observer becomes the reader.
  4. Before viewing the fourth segment of the videotape provide adults with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking participants to listen for the best predictors of how well a child will learn to read (how much she/he understands and cares about reading when entering first grade) and what the outcomes could be for children who do not read well by the end of first grade (poorer reading later, poorer ability scores, poorer aptitude scores, lesser economic opportunities and greater risk of dropping out of school). Ask participants to predict what they think a child will need to know in order to read well and to predict what they think the implications are to a child who does not read well. Pause the video when the speaker says, "After we pare the whole thing down, the best predicator of how well a child will learn to read by the end of the first grade is how much she or he understands and cares about reading on entering first grade." Compare answers in small groups.
  5. Before viewing the fifth segment of the videotape, give participants the three names of the categories for learning to read (familiarity of alphabet; awareness of sound structure; and text awareness). During the video provide participants with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by having viewers identify one example for each category (familiarity - sing them; sound structure - rhymes; text awareness - front from the back of the book). Pause the video when the narrator says "…whether a child knows when I read the story over and over again, whether the child believes my script is coming from the pictures or the black scratchy stuff on the page." Involve participants by allowing them to share in their small groups.
  6. Before viewing the sixth part of the videotape provide participants with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to look for activities they observed children engaged in to become familiar with the letters (sing them, say them, write them, book reading, alphabet magnet play). Pause viewing when the narrator says "…instead it's a comfortable familiarity with them to the extent that the children can't perceive letters as letters, then how are they going to perceive words as a pattern of letters?" Share in small groups.
  7. Before viewing the seventh part of the videotape, define invented spelling (spelling the word like it sounds) and give an example (flawr for flower). During the video provide participants with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to write down a benefit of invented spelling (letters of a word printed from left to right, it is an encryption of speech sounds) and to listen for the connection between learning the sounds of the language and invented spelling (letters make a certain sound; children must think about the letter that makes that sound). Pause the video when the narrator says "…presenting words that encourage the child to examine the letters left to right, to use that alphabetic principle" and allow time to share in small groups.
  8. Before viewing the eighth part of the videotape, read aloud the book Froggy Gets Dressed. Ask participants what they enjoyed about being read aloud to in class. During the video provide the participants with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to jot down the benefits of reading aloud to your children (see how much your child enjoys the book, introduce how print works, powerful forum for language development, language of books different than the language of the real world). Pause viewing when the parent sharing the book with a child says "the Emerald City" and share in small groups.
  9. Before viewing the last segment of the videotape provide adults with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking participants to listen for what the narrator says is the real tragedy in regards to reading (when people say that children will get it when they are ready). Stop the last videotape when the parent reading the book to his three children says, "…do one side of the street first and then turn back and do the other side." Have participants share one thing they learned or that really stood out for them during the video. Then have each participant name one thing they could implement at their home or in their work with young children.

Culminating Activity

  • Have participants make an activity to promote letter learning, sound awareness or text awareness. (Ex: laminate letter cutouts, make a flannel board and story to go with it)
  • Have participants create a web, choosing one area to focus on: letters, sounds or books.
  • Have participants make a blank book for their child.
  • Put together a rhyme book with each participant sharing his/her favorite. Photocopy for all.


Learning letters, sounds and text awareness can be incorporated in each of your child's subject areas (i.e. social studies, language, spelling, math). For the preschooler, it can be incorporated in dramatic play, blocks, art, manipulatives and reading/writing corner in addition to songs.

Public libraries, story times at bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble, Idaho State Library, Head Start and public schools.

Search more than 3,000 free lessons and activities on PBS TeacherSource!

Type in a keyword or words, then click go.

Utilization Strategies

Lesson Plans




The National Teacher
Training Institute
is made
possible through the
generous support of

Cisco Foundation Logo

GE Fund Logo

Thirteen WNET New York Logo


Idaho Public Television Homepage