Some parents seem to have it so easy.  They read nightly to their child and then…poof, their child can read.  Well, that is not how it works for most children.  That’s not how it even worked for my own children!  Think about if a colleague handed you the meeting notes written in Chinese characters.

chinese characters

(Chinese characters taken from the site chinesebynumbers.com)

Can you read the meeting notes?  No.

Now imagine that this is what a page of words can look like to a new reader. So, why would your child want to read if you hand them a book and all they see are a bunch of alphabet letters?

The key to LEARNING to read and LIKING to read are easy…only teach your child at their instructional level and in a non-overwhelming way.

HOW? Well, I like to teach my own children in many different types of environments, such as, in the car, on a walk, in the grocery store, in the bath. These are all places where learning seems “fun!” It’s fun, because your child won’t necessarily even know they are learning. For instance, if your child is unable to read simple short vowel words, then while they are in the bath, ask them to Stretch & Catch the word “cat” by using the soap suds to spell it on the wall. If they are unable to spell “cat” model for them the sounds in the word “cat” and then spell the word for them. Just continue with that one word for the entire time in the bath (NOT OBSESSIVELY OF COURSE, JUST IN A FUN WAY!). By the end of the bath, your child will know how to spell “cat”.

You can say to them, “Wow you learned to spell a new word!” In that instant, your child will begin to feel confident about learning to read. Now continue to slowly introduce another “at” word each day, while reminding them that they already know how to spell “cat” so then if they know that word, they can spell “bat.” Here are some more “at” words for your child to spell: sat, mat, hat, fat, pat, & rat.

It’s really that simple.

Once your child can spell a few short ă words, try to find a book that concentrates on the short ă words only. For example, the BOB book series has great developmentally appropriate books for this stage of reading. You can also read Dr. Seuss books. Sit with your child at bedtime and when you get to a short vowel ă word in the book, ask them to Stretch & Catch it.

Now those alphabet letters don’t feel so overwhelming to your child! In fact, they now make complete sense.

You can find more information about teaching your child how to read in my book, Teach Your Child To Read In Less Than 10 Minutes A Day! Stretch & Catch Words.



Reading doesn’t have to be “Puzzling”

I like to look at words like a puzzle. When you are putting a puzzle together you try to put all of the pieces facing up and start to make a plan in your head. When a child encounters an unknown word, this is exactly what they need to do.

FIRST: The child must find a pattern within the word, so they will know how to Stretch (or sound the word out) and then Catch the word (or pull it quickly back together). I find that the phrase Stretch & Catch works best when referring to reading words.

Let me give an example:

If a younger child comes across the following word: bad

  1. Ask your child, “What vowel do you see in this word?” You need your child to be able to distinguish which vowel is in the word in order to Stretch & Catch the word.
  2. If your child says, “short a” have them Stretch & Catch the word and move on.
  3. If your child is unable to identify the short vowel, you will tell them it is a short A word.
  4. Next, model how to Stretch & Catch the word for them.
  5. Finally, ask your child to Stretch & Catch the same word.

WHY? When a child is learning at their Instructional level, they need to LEAN on a teacher or parent to guide them, by modeling the skill, in a lesson. The more a skill is modeled for a child, the faster that child will LEARN that specific skill.

Now this skill we are discussing is READING, so it can be VERY OVERWHELMING to both the parent who is teaching and the child that is learning!

Reading doesn’t have to be such an overwhelming task for children. Let’s continue this idea that READING is like a PUZZLE and we just need to look at one piece of the puzzle at a time!

What happens when your child encounters the following word: PAIN

Now if your child is still reading simple texts, you will have to just tell them that word. If your child is reading more complex texts, you will need to help them solve this puzzle. Figuring out the puzzle of a higher leveled unknown word is NO different than figuring out a simple short vowel word. Does your method of figuring out a 24 piece puzzle differ from a 100 piece puzzle? No, you still need to put all of the pieces face up and figure out your plan. Most people when building a puzzle try to put the corners and edges together first. When looking at a word, you need to go right to the middle and figure out what type of vowel you are looking at. In this case, it is a long vowel.

  1. Ask your child, “What vowel do you see in this word?” You need your child to be able to distinguish which vowel is in the word in order to Stretch & Catch the word.
  2. If your child says, “long a” then they understand that the “a” next to the “i” makes the “a” say its name. Now have them Stretch & Catch the word and move on.
  3. If your child is unable to distinguish that this is a long A word, then explain the rule to them.
  4. Next, model for them how to Stretch & Catch the word.
  5. Finally, ask your child to Stretch & Catch the same word.


When we take the overwhelming piece of the PUZZLE out of reading, it makes it a lot easier to teach it!

More lessons in Teach Your Child To Read In Less Than 10 Minutes A Day! Stretch & Catch Words. By: Amanda McNamara Lowe



Why Is My Child Behind In Reading?

Why Is My Child Behind In Reading?

It’s that time of year, report card season. You anxiously open the envelope and what do you see next to reading level? A minus. What? A minus sign, a number 1, a D…you see a mark that indicates YOUR child is behind. But how? But why? Is it because you are racing to football practice, soccer, gymnastics and fencing each week? Is it because after a long day of work, then rushing home to make dinner, getting homework done, running each child to practice that you were too tired to read this semester with your child? Is it because you marked off that your child read 20 minutes each night, but in reality, might have only read 20 minutes that week?

So is there someone to blame? Should you blame your child’s teacher for not being on top of it and making sure your child was getting extra help during the school day? Should you blame yourself because life is so busy? Should you blame your child for not really reading the full amount each week?


Life is so busy. This is not the 80’s. Between the competitive sports world and the competitive academic world, it’s hard to keep up. So, let’s take the blame away. Away from you, away from the teacher, and maybe even away from your child and focus not on who to blame, but how to fix the problem.

The first and fastest solution to helping a child “catch” up to their reading level is simple… High Frequency words. Every book is made up of 50%-60% of high frequency words. These are typically words that don’t follow a specific spelling pattern which in turn means you can’t sound these words out, or that these specific words appear so often in text that your child needs to automatically read them. So how does this help your child’s reading level? When a child can automatically say a vast amount of words, without stumbling on them and trying to sound them out, they have 50% of the text read. This by itself solves your child’s fluency issues with reading. It will also give them confidence while they read.

If you don’t have time to flip through a list of high frequency words with your child, I have a YouTube station called Stretch and Catch Words, where your child can watch me review these words with them. You can also download many apps that help children review high frequency words.

You can find a list of high frequency words on my website at www.stretchandcatch.com