Strategies to Teach Reading – Homeschool Reading Tips

Strategies to Teach Reading - Homeschool Reading Tips
By Matthew Glavach, Ph.D.

Some students learn to read nearly on their own, but most students need instruction and proper reading strategies.

Typical instruction is usually phonics-based, which works well for most, but not for all. Even with their best efforts, some students cannot grasp phonics as initial reading instruction. These students often read word by word, have difficulty blending sounds, and need a sense of the whole story before reading.1  The following strategies to teach reading have helped many of my students who struggle with phonetic learning. Read on the learn more about the research around this group of students and strategies to teach reading.

They Learn to Read in a Different Way

While teaching the students who could not learn to read with phonics, I found that many learn in a different way. They respond better by going from the whole to the parts. In phonetic reading instruction, students go from the parts to the whole. They break unfamiliar words into parts and then join the parts to form words.

By learning letter-sound relationships, students learn how to recognize unfamiliar words. Phonics is great instruction for students who respond to it. But in phonics, students must rely on one cuing system—one that for these students may not be developed.2

The Research: Strategies to Teach Reading

While reviewing reading research, I found that, for some students, slowing the presentation of the reading book makes it possible for their brains to extract the letter sounds. They then organize the sounds into the brain’s word-form area to be used for decoding, or recognizing, words.3 I used the reading research to develop specific reading strategies to teach reading while reading a book orally. When students read orally, they are using more than one sensory mode. They see, pronounce, and hear the words, which helps them remember the words. They also can receive corrective feedback.4

I identified eight strategies to teach reading. The strategies were built on repetitive reading. In repetitive reading, students orally reread a passage until they reach a specific reading level and speed, which develops fluency.

Fluency is reading quickly and efficiently with good expression. Fluency can be built through repeated reading of a book passage or book part.5

Eight Strategies to Teach Reading & for Develop Fluency

Begin by choosing a book or have the student choose a book. (The book should challenge the student.)

Reading Strategy One: Story Information Network Building

Introduce the story for beginning-level books. Look at pictures in the book with the student. Ask the student to tell what the story is about. This builds a network of information related to the story and gives the student a sense of the whole story before reading.

Introduce the story for higher-level books. Look at chapter titles or the beginnings of paragraphs with students. Ask the student what the story might be about.

Reading Strategy Two: Phrase-Cued Reading and Adding Phrase-Cued Markers

Phrase-cued reading is breaking the text into meaningful phrases. Phrases help students who read word by word and have difficulty grouping words that go together. This limits comprehension because the meaning of a passage is carried more by phrases than by individual words. Phrase-cued reading is used in books at a first-grade reading level and above.6

To add phrase-cued markers, read the text and mark natural phrases and pauses heard as you read. Make slash marks /and//between phrases and sentences. There is no right or wrong way for slash marks. Read the text and mark where you make a slight pause. Commas and periods are natural pauses.7 An example of a phrase-cued reading passage follows. See the example:


(Use a Picture of a Bear)
Bears / are big animals.//They are strong.//They have thick fur.//

(Use a Picture of a Bear)
Some bears // sleep all winter.// They get ready. //They eat / a lot of food.//

(Use a Picture of a Bear)
Bears sleep in dens.//The dens / can be caves.//

Example of Phrase-Cued Reading at Higher Reading Level

The Space Shuttle

The space shuttle / is like a plane / that can travel / into space.//It takes off / like a rocket.//It orbits / like a spacecraft.//And it lands / like a plane.// It takes only / 8 minutes / for the space shuttle / to reach a speed / of more than / 17,000 miles per hour.//

Reading Strategy Three: Parent Reads Story, with Slow Pacing

  • Read the story to the student, with slow pacing. For very short stories, such as in a primer or pre-first grade book, read the whole book. For longer stories, divide the book into parts.
  • While you read at a slow pace, but not so slow as to lack expression, the student should listen to the story and track under words with his writing hand. (Tracking keeps the student’s eyes focused on the words and establishes left-to-right eye movement.)
  • To start, sit facing the student and track above the words with him while reading at a slow pace. (Initially, check student tracking. Then, check as needed.)

Reading Strategy Four: Parent Reads Story, with Normal Pacing

  • Read the story to the student, with normal pacing.
  • While you read, the student listens to the story and tracks under words with his writing hand.

Reading Strategy Five: Read Book or Book Part with Student.

At first, read slightly ahead. Ask your student to read the words with you and track under the words. After practice, have your child read alone. You read words that are difficult for the child and have him continue reading. Do not stop to sound out words.

Reading Strategy Six: Practice Imitative Reading, as Needed

In imitative reading, you read difficult passages while the student listens and tracks under words. You read a phrase, sentence, or paragraph. Your student reads phrase, sentence, or paragraph, right after you read.

Reading Strategy Seven: Timed Reading (above first-grade reading level)

Timed reading helps the student’s reading become automatic. Putting too much energy into decoding words interferes with comprehension.8

  • -Type 50 or 100 words from book part. Use larger type and double spacing.
  • Student reads passage for one minute. (If finished reading before one minute, the student starts again at the passage beginning, reads until time is up, and adds to the total number of words already read.)
  • Subtract one point for each missed word. If the student hesitates, stumbles, or reads the wrong word, you say the word. Fluency is the goal, rather than sounding out words. Practice until student reaches 70% fluency or better.
  • It is best to have the student do three timed readings. Between timings, have the student reread the passage and practice difficult words.

Reading Strategy Eight: Reading with Expression

Reading with expression develops comprehension of the passage. It also taps brain areas that help with reading.

  • Parent reads the passage with expression.9
  • Student reads the passage with expression.

Are the Students Learning to Read or Only Memorizing Passages?

Students develop general word recognition skills while they practice reading. Some students begin to recognize words in other contexts almost immediately, others may take months. Interestingly, most students also were able to benefit from phonics instruction after reading books with repeated reading. These results confirm the research that, for some students, slowing the reading presentation makes it possible for their brains to extract the letter sounds and to organize them into the brain’s word-form area to be used for decoding words! Slowing down the reading presentation also helps children with the most common cause of dyslexia, auditory processing of the sounds of language.10

Repeated reading improves reading of books chosen by parents or students. For students needing more extensive reading intervention, special education teacher Warren Pribyl and I developed a recommended list of excellent children’s books that can be used with repeated reading. It takes students from pre -primer to a fourth-grade reading level. With great success, we used repeated reading with hundreds of the most difficult readers in schools and homeschools. We have testimonials from principals, reading teachers, and parents. The reading list and testimonials are posted at [].

Note: for information about the reading instruction program or for help in setting up the program, please contact Warren Pribyl at: [email protected] or Matthew Glavach at: [email protected], or at his website

Matthew J. Glavach, Ph.D., teacher, researcher, and writer, has authored and coauthored over 40 educational programs, including Reading with Donny and Marie Osmond, a music-based reading program, and numerous research articles. He is on the editorial board of The Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professional. With his Northern California company, Glavach and Associates (, Dr. Glavach is committed to improving student literacy.


  1. Wolf, M. (2007). Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
  2. Willis, J. (2008). Teaching the Brain to Read. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Wolf, M. (2007). Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
  5. Rasinski, T.V. (2003). The Fluent Reader. New York, NY: Scholastic.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Rasinski, T.V. (1994). “Developing Syntactic Sensitivity in Reading Through Phrase -Cued Texts,” Intervention in School and Clinic, 29(3),165-168.
  8. Wolf, M. (2007). Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
  9. Willis, J. (2008). Teaching the Brain to Read. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum.
  10. Ibid.

Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November-December 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.


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