What does it take for a struggling reader to finally read a short vowel story? In the attached short vowel story free printable (below), a beginning reader must know letter sounds, short vowels and a handful of sight words. While this seems simple enough, some kids will still need guided reading tactics to read the story from beginning to end.
Where are the research-based books for beginning readers?
I’ve created these stories (like the short vowel story free printable in this post) for young kids that struggle with reading. There aren’t enough phonics books at the K-2 level. If your student is struggling, you’ve probably been to the local library. As you perused the aisles, you likely grew frustrated: none of the books available really teach reading.
At local stores and libraries, you find books that claim to be “Level One” or even “Pre-reading Level.” Yet, when you open these books, to your dismay, you find a great variety of phonics sounds. None of the books teach phonics systematically.
You begin to wonder if Level One really is designed for kids that already know how to read.
If so, where are the books that teach reading? There are none, you resolve.
It is true that there are very few books that teach reading explicitly and systematically. Many of the books that are designed with explicit, systematic phonics principles are shut off from consumers like you. They’re part of expensive “therapy” programs and curricula available only to schools.
If you’re here, you might wonder: where are the books that actually teach young kids to read?
As I started a reading clinic in CA, I began working with many kids that were far, far below grade-level.
As I worked with struggling readers, I had great difficulty finding books for my students. Some of the books I got were incomplete, meaning the publisher started with a systematic method, and then suddenly, as if on a whim, transferred over to the whole-language global reading approach.
Whole language books don’t work for struggling readers
First, Reading Elephant does NOT use whole language methods. Whole language is a method of teaching reading that expects kids to just get it. In whole language, kids are immersed in reading and are expected to spontaneously break the written code. This method failed a generation of students in California, drastically dropping the reading scores for an unlucky few years of kids in the 1990s.
The whole language method has been shown to be ineffective in a meta-analysis done by the National Reading Panel. Unfortunately, this method still holds a powerful hold on many educators imaginations, making them believe that kids simply need to “look at pictures” and “guess” to learn to read.
Most books for young readers are designed with whole language methods. The failure of the whole language method is well documented. Therefore, many whole language book distributors slap “phonics” on their covers, claiming to use phonics while really using its antithesis.
I was surprised that there were almost no books available to the public that are truly systematic and phonics-based.
I realized that some learn to read books used phonics for the first twenty or so books and then leaped into whole-word unsystematic teaching methods—as if the child had suddenly, magically mastered all the missing phonics sounds.
Thus, I began writing my own phonics stories. It will take me some time to get them all up on ReadingElephant.com. But, right now, I’m happy to offer my short vowel story free printable called, “The Red Cat.”
Click the pdf link below. Here it is:
Be sure to click the above link for the free short vowel story pdf.
When is a child ready to read the short vowel story free printable?
Right now, the Reading Elephant offers 31 systematic phonics books. After a child reads through short vowels and some consonant digraphs, he is ready to read, “The Red Cat.”
Short vowels are:
a_ as in apple
e_ as in elephant
i_ as in igloo
o_ as in octopus
u_ as in up
Consonant digraphs are:
sh as in wish
th as in bath
th as in then
ch as in chop
_tch as in batch
_ck as in deck
_ing as in king
_ng as in long
_ang as in sang
wh_ as in when
Does your child know how to read short vowels words like hat, bin, sat, let? Or consonant digraph words like chat, ship, and when? If so, then he’s ready to read the short vowel story free printable, “The Red Cat.”
Encourage your student to read sound-by-sound
As always, make sure your student reads phonetic words sound-by-sound. In addition, explain the story through discussion questions. Phonics stories use limited language. Therefore, sentence structures can sound awkward. Your student will be delighted that he can successfully read the story, but make sure he understands it too.
You can discuss the story
“The Red Cat” is a story about a boy who finds himself stuck inside on a snowy day. The boy is bored and longingly looks out the window at the pristine snow. He asks his mom if he can go outside and play. To his delight, she lets him. Outside, he stumbles upon a cat. The boy thinks it’s a regular domestic cat. Unbeknownst to him, he’s actually encountered a wild bobcat. He plays with the bobcat and is charmed by his new companion. He asks his mom if he can keep the cat. His mom is shocked and (slightly) horrified that her dear boy has just been prancing around the snow with a wild bobcat! When the boy discovers he’s just been playing with a bobcat, he’s wild-eyed with wonder.
You can build vocabulary
As you discuss the story, you can build your student’s vocabulary. Since the story involves freshly fallen snow, you can introduce pristine. The snow is pristine because it is new, no one has yet walked on it, and the color remains pure. Explain that lakes and rivers can also be pristine if they are clear. Since the boy mistakes the bobcat for a domestic cat, you can introduce domestic. The boy might think the cat is a domestic cat, or house cat, because it is much smaller than a mountain lion. Explain the difference between domestic animals and wild animals.
Ultimately, focus on phonics
Remember that the focus of early reading instruction needs to be on phonics. Therefore, keep your conversation efficient. Ultimately, systematic phonics (and not conversation) will give your student reading independence: the remarkable ability to read on his own. Thus, discuss the story to pique his interest, introduce vocabulary words, and then get back to reading.
Sight words in the short vowel story free printable
Focus on sound-by-sound reading. Unless, of course, it’s a sight word! Since sight words break the phonetic code, help your student read them. Here are the sight words in “The Red Cat”: there, are, have, said, was, the, from, to, want. “Snow” is not really a sight word, but since it’s a short vowel story, treat “snow” as a sight word too.
I hope your student enjoys the short vowel story free printable, “The Red Cat.”
I agree whole heartedly with your analysis of how whole word method has been used in our educational systems. I’m interested in also helping to write books for you so that these resources are free to everyone! Thank you thank you thank you!
B Marker says
So happy to hear you find these resources helpful! I’m sure you’re making a big difference by implementing research-based reading instruction. I really appreciate your interest in helping Reading Elephant; right now, the best way to assist struggling readers is to spread the word on the reading science.