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Overcoming Obstacles When Reading AAR Stories

boy reading with his dog

One of the most important things you can do when teaching your child to read is to provide lots of reading practice. That’s why the All About Reading program includes such a wide variety of activities, games, and decodable stories. But sometimes things don’t go perfectly according to plan!

Learning to read can be hard work! Many kids see this as a fun challenge, but some kids just get discouraged.

So what do you do if your child hits a roadblock and suddenly doesn’t enjoy reading the short stories?

This post will give you lots of solid ideas to get your child back on track—and enjoying reading again. Let’s dig in!

Determine What Is Making the Stories Difficult for Your Child

The first step is to get to the root of the problem. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your child working in the correct level? (Check out our placement tests or contact us for placement help.)
  • Have you been moving through the lessons too quickly? (If so, back up a few lessons and slow the pace.)
  • Is your child guessing at words instead of decoding? (If so, start with the tips in this article on Breaking the Word Guessing Habit.)
  • Have you been following the lesson plans as written? (If not, strongly consider including each lesson component without skipping any. Each element is important.)
  • Does your child have vision problems? (Check out the signs of vision problems in children.)
  • Is your child actually making good progress, but the stories just seem harder or longer than he would like? Does he have a short attention span? Or maybe he has extremely high expectations for himself. If so, the tips in the next section will be invaluable!
Tips for Reading Short Stories Quick Guide Download

6 Ways to Help Your Child Read Short Stories

After you’ve ruled out underlying reading issues, you can tackle the problem head-on. Whether you’re using All About Reading or not, here are some suggestions:

yellow kitchen timer

Set a timer. Have your student read until the timer goes off. Choose the length of time according to your student’s ability and attention span. You may need to start with a short time such as three minutes, and then gradually build up to ten minutes.


blue book with bookmark

Divide the story into two or three parts. Have your student read just one section in a sitting. Bookmark the page. At the next reading session, have your student listen as you reread the part he has already read, and then have him continue reading on his own.


All About Reading decodable reader

Reread. Rereading stories from previous lessons will help your student gain fluency and confidence. During subsequent readings, your child will be “warmed up,” allowing him to experience better comprehension and helping him to enjoy the stories more.


mom and child buddy reading

Try buddy reading. Split up the reading duties by reading with your student. Alternate pages by reading a page yourself and then having your student read the next. For more practice, try buddy reading twice, switching pages each time, and then have your child read the story on his own.


green AAR word cards

Review. The more familiar a child is with the words in a story, the easier it will be for him to read the story. So be sure to spend plenty of extra time reviewing words with flashcards, activities, and Practice Sheets before reading the story.


great job - blue ribbon

Encourage your child. Reading stories takes a lot of mental effort—especially for kids who haven’t yet developed automaticity (the ability to read the words without conscious thought). The other tips in this section will help as your child develops automaticity, but be extra supportive in the meantime.

Do you have a child who is struggling with the stories? Sometimes it only takes a little extra push to build a child’s motivation to read, but if your child continues to struggle, please know that we are here to help.

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Heather

says:

I meant non-lesson reading time. My phone made it into Non-Stop lesson reading time!

Heather

says:

Hi,
I was wondering if you have a list of children’s books that would be good to use with level one during our non-stop lesson reading time. My son has dyslexia. He is 9 years old. We read him the Green Ember stories, Redwall, etc. But we think it would be good for his confidence to read some books on his own. I have tried to find more books that would follow the CVC patterns. The best that we have been able to find have been Little Bear and Frog and Toad. (Both of these he enjoys.) What other suggestions do you have? Thanks for all the work you do. We are loving All About Reading! It is the curriculum that has helped him the most.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Heather,
We don’t know of another set of readers that will correlate with all About Reading exactly so you may have to help with some new patterns (or teach some words as sight words which they’ll later learn are not really sight words).

Here is the list we have complied to go along with AAR 1:

Bob books, Sets 1 & 2

DK Flip the Page Rhyme and Read books: Pat the Cat, Jen the Hen, Mig the Pig, Tog the Dog, and Zug the Bug.

Usborne Very First Readers or My First Library

Sonlight’s Fun Tales (27 books in one box, using short vowel words), and I Can Read It Book 1 (the first part)

Christian Liberty Press readers, (It Is Fun to Read, Pals and Pets)

American Language Series books. The first two titles, “Fun in the Sun” and “Scamp and Tramp”, go pretty well with AAR 1 and the second two titles, “Soft and White” and “At the Farm”, would go along with AAR 2., while the last two, “On the Trail” and “Sounds of the Sea”, go along with AAR 3.

Books by Nora Gaydos (bright pictures with stories, these come in packs of 10–see the Level 1 sets)

Dash into Reading (expensive, but see if you can find a coupon or if your library has them)

I See Sam Readers (also available online for free)

I Like to Read books: I see a Cat, See Me Dig, Big Cat, Happy Cat, I Will Try, Pig Has a Plan

Cat Traps (Step-Into-Reading, Step 1)

Meg and Greg books (these books have text for the parent to read and then text for the student. They follow AAR 1 fairly well but do include two-syllable words like “rocket” that students won’t learn until level 2, so you would have to help your children with some words.)

Primary Phonics (sets 1 and 1A go pretty well with AAR 1)

Reading Teacher

Fun Phonics–the first 3 books

Progressive Phonics – Free phonics books that can be read online or downloaded and used right away.

We Read Phonics. Big pictures with one sentence. Example of level 1 is “Bugs on the Bus”. Example of level 2 is “Which Pet is Best”.

We Both Read books. On the left hand pages there is text for the parent to read and on the right is text for the kids to read. Here’s an example.

Flyleaf Publishing Emergent Readers

A Pig, A Fox, and a Box, and A Pig, A Fox and Stinky Socks. Funny, but do have a few words not taught in AAR 1. Some moms have found them accessible though.

The Core Knowledge LA Kindergarten readers are usually decodable after AAR/AAS level 1. The readers start at unit 6. Unit 10 (the last Kindergarten unit) has some silent e words, which wouldn’t be accessible yet to students doing AAR. They’re free to download:
https://www.engageny.org/resource/kindergarten-skills-unit-6-reader-kit
https://www.engageny.org/resource/kindergarten-skills-unit-7-reader-seth
https://www.engageny.org/resource/kindergarten-skills-unit-8-reader-sam
https://www.engageny.org/resource/kindergarten-skills-unit-9-reader-zach-and-ann

If you find something else, please let us know so we can add it to our list.

Sandy

says:

Great tips. All about Reading has been heaven sent for my son who was having a hard time with beginning to read. He is now on Level 3 and making steady progress.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sandy,
It’s great to hear that your son is now in level 3 and continuing to make steady progress! Thank you for sharing this.

stacy w

says:

Great tips. I’ve already tried a few of them. Rereading past stories is really helping with confidence in reading.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Stacy,
Yes, I completely agree! I have used rereading very successfully with my own daughter and it has made a wonderful difference in her confidence and fluency with reading.

Sandy Wetherill

says:

Just received a link to your site (such great timing as we explore dyslexia and avenues on assisting our daughter). Very interested to see what you have to offer.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sandy,
Both All About Reading and All About Spelling are Orton-Gillingham based, which is a proven approach for helping students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. It’s also the approach that the International Dyslexia Association recommends. The author of AAR and AAS, Marie Rippel, is a member of the International Dyslexia Association and has instructed graduate-level courses in Orton-Gillingham Literacy Training offered through Nicolet College in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. She is also a member of Pro Literacy, has previously served on the Board of Directors of the Literary Task Force in Wisconsin, and tutored students for more than 20 years. If you haven’t had a chance to watch their story about her son’s struggles, you may want to check that out (they were told he would never read). Quite amazing!

You might like to visit our Dyslexia Resources Page.

Here are some ways that All About Reading and All About Spelling can help kids with learning difficulties:

– Each lesson time is simple and explicit and will include 3 simple steps: the review of what was learned the day before, a simple new teaching, and a short practice of that new teaching.

– Incremental lessons. AAR and AAS break every teaching down into its most basic steps and then teach the lessons in a logical order, carrying students from one concept or skill to the next. Each step builds on what the student has already mastered.

– AAR and AAS are multisensory. Research has shown that when a child is taught through all three pathways at the same time, a method known as simultaneous multisensory instruction, he will learn significantly more than when taught only through his strongest pathway.

– AAR and AAS use specially color-coded letter tiles. Working with the letter tiles can make the difference between understanding or not understanding a concept.

– AAR and AAS are scripted so you can concentrate on your child. The script is very clear, without excess verbiage.

– AAR and AAS have built-in review in every lesson. Children with learning difficulties generally need lots of review in order to retain concepts. With AAR and AAS, your child will have a Review Box so you can customize the review. This way, you can concentrate on just the things that your child needs help with, with no time wasted on reviewing things that your child already knows.

– All About Reading has lots of fluency practice. One of the things that Marie noticed when she was researching reading programs is that few programs have enough review built in for kids who struggle to gain fluency. AAR has fluency sheets or a story to be read with every lesson, so children can practice reading smoothly with expression and confidence.

– All About Spelling has a gradual progression for increasing the student’s stamina and fluency in writing, from words and short phrases in Level 1, to phrases and short sentences in Level 2, to 12 dictation sentences per step in Level 3. Partway through Level 3, the Writing Station activity is introduced. In this exercise, students write sentences of their own that they make up using some of their spelling words. In this way students have begun to use words in a more real-world context through dictation and writing, to help them transition to longer writing assignments.

All About Reading and All About Spelling have a one-year guarantee. You can try them, and if for any reason you feel that they aren’t the right match for your child, return them for a full refund.

I hope this helps with your research. Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Deb

says:

We started using All About Reading this year for 1st grade. My daughter attended preschool and was encouraged to repeat her kindergarten year in public school. She struggled with reading and teachers felt she just needed more time. After much research I really liked All About Reading’s approach. After completing 13 lessons my daughter is still sounding out almost every single word. She has only mastered about 6 words. Our review stack is pretty huge. Is this normal, especially after pre-school and 2 years of kindergarten? I know children learn at their own speed and I don’t want to pressure her. I guess I’m just wondering when things might start to click for her.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Deb,
This is pretty common, especially with children that have struggled. Do not expect perfection before moving on. Reaching the goal of fluent reading will be a gradual process over many lessons. Students may need to read a word thirty times before they can read it fluently without having to sound it out! Here’s an article on How to Develop Reading Fluency that you might find helpful.

The Word Cards allow you to track what has been mastered and what still needs work. Keep word cards in daily review until she can read them easily, without needing to sound them out. Here are some fun review ideas for word cards. The Word cards will stack up as you go, so just rotate through a portion for 2-3 minutes each day and then pick up in the book wherever you left off previously.

The fluency pages can be re-used as well. You might enjoy our “Top Tips” for using the fluency practice pages. (And check out the comments as well–lots of fun suggestions in there!)

The appendices in the level 1 and level 2 teacher’s manuals have lots of ideas for reviewing word cards and fluency pages–be sure to check both of those for more ideas.

Students who struggle with fluency will also benefit from rereading the same story two or three days in a row to gain fluency and confidence. Buddy Reading can be very powerful in helping students who are in this stage of struggling with fluency.

I hope this helps. Please let us know how it goes as you continue or if you have additional questions. My own daughter had exactly this problem, so I understand completely. However, I am very happy to say that she is now close to finishing AAR 4 and reading chapter books for pleasure in her free time!

Roslyn

says:

We have used the reread and buddy read with success for this also the decodable readers from American Language Series fit in pretty well with AAR and the stories are shorter…another way to practice:)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for the tip about the American Language Series books, Roslyn. I looked at them a bit online, and it looks like the first couple titles fit pretty well with AAR 1, while the next couple would fit with AAR 2, and the last two “On the Trail” and “Sounds of the Sea” would probably be best with AAR 3 as the AI and EA phonograms aren’t taught until AAR 3. Would you agree with this?

Roslyn

says:

Yes that’s what I decided. Though with my son i have taught some phonograms ahead because he wanted to read the word. For non struggling students this works too. The stories are short, so they aren’t overwealming if your child is not decoading automatically yet. They helped us reach automatic decoding of more words. They have nice pictures that don’t give the story away. The books are definitely Christian.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you! We maintain a list of books that may go along with AAR well. I’ll be adding these to our list.

Sarah L

says:

Very encouraging. I’m always afraid I’m short changing my child’s education when I alter lessons and expectations . It really helps to hear someone else say it’s okay!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
It is okay! In fact, it is the best way to teach as it individualizes instruction to your unique student. If you keep the goal in mind, that is that your student learns to read fluently and easily with great comprehension, then making adaptations to help your student toward that goal is beneficial.

However, if you wonder if what you are considering doing may not be beneficial, just ask! We are available on the blog here, on Facebook, through email at support@allaboutlearningpress.com, and by phone at 715-477-1976.

Kasey

says:

Great tips!

Sherry

says:

Love All About Reading. Just tailor longer stories to meet the attention span of you child

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sherry,
Yes! The goal is for the student to be able to have the stamina and reading ease to handle even the longer stories, but definitely make adaptations to help your student build up to that goal.

Megan

says:

These are such helpful tips!! I’ll be using them with my daughter working trough level one!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Megan,
We’re glad to know these tips were helpful for you. However, if you ever need further help or have questions at all, we are available at support@allaboutlearningpress.com or at 715-477-1976.

Kaitlin

says:

Great tips! As always.

Carol Davis

says:

Can’t say enough good things about this program. Thank you for all of the suggestions and the encouragement.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Carol!

Susan

says:

Thanks for the tips! Love this curriculum- about to begin Level 4.

Jessica

says:

Thank you for your support and encouragement and continued training!

Kelly

says:

Begin again and again and again…

Jaclyn

says:

Great ideas! Thank you!

Tara

says:

Thank you for these suggestions on how to proceed with a struggling reader. Now I just have to figure out how to get my daughter to try them. She doesn’t like repeating the stories, because they’re still taking so much effort for her to decode them.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tara,
Have you tried buddy reading with your child? My daughter struggled a lot because of the effort to decode the stories, but buddy reading helped her both to get through the stories more easily and to build her fluency so that her ability to read smoothly increased. On the first day of a story, she read one page and I read the next until we finished the story. The next day, I would read the pages she read the day before and she read the pages I had read. On the final day, the story was familiar enough and her practice with the words allowed her to read the story herself with a fair amount of fluency. In addition, buddy reading made reading a social and together activity that was more fun.

You can also do a variation of buddy reading called “echo reading.” You read a few sentences with full expression, and then your child reads the same sentences, matching your expression as closely as possible. Do this for approximately five minutes a day, or whatever is a comfortable length of time for your child. Add in lots of praise when your child shows even a bit of improvement.

Lastly, you may find this blog post on ways to keep lessons motivating helpful.

Please let us know how things go, especially if you try these ideas and find she is still resistant to rereading.

Tiffany

says:

I just love how encouraging and helpful All About Learning Press is! Thank you for your great ideas!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Awww, you are welcome, Tiffany!

Laura

says:

Thanks for this! Good tips.

Lauren Myers

says:

A lot of libraries have a program that allows children to read to therapy or shelter dogs. What a special opportunity to buddy read! ?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lauren,
I’ve seen that! It is a great program and the dogs seem to love it as much as the children.

Hollie

says:

Just downloaded the “Feed the Monster” game; I really feel this activity will help my struggling reader. Thanks for the free download!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Hollie! Enjoy!

tina

says:

We have done the buddy reading but I will also try diving the story into three parts. We are 2/3 into AAR1 and I see he can read the stories but he is getting overwhelmed with how many words are on the page. Thanks.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tina,
One aspect of building reading skills that some children struggle with is reading stamina. As you increase in reading difficulty, stories naturally increase in length and there will be more and more words per page. Buddy reading and splitting the story over multiple days can help your student as he slowly builds his stamina. However, but sure to move forward slowly while he is in this stage, to give him time to build up his stamina before moving into AAR 2.

Please let us know if you have further questions or need anything.

Ashley

says:

Excited to try the program after hearing great reviews. This additional tips will be useful.

Patsy Foy

says:

Great ideas, as always. Thank you!

Lauren

says:

great tips!

odile bicette

says:

I was researching Reading Intervention Programmes and I came across this one. The free advice, suggestions, strategies and tips are very helpful and will be used in assisting the remedial students from my class. Thank you for sharing..

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Odile. If you have any questions or concerns, we would love to help.

Kara Haakenson

says:

These are wonderful words of advice! My oldest had so many struggles learning to read and these suggestions would have made all the difference! Now, 10 years later, as we prepare to teach our youngest child to read – these will be such a treasure trove of ideas! Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kara,
I’m sorry to hear your older child struggled so. If you ever have any questions or concerns with your youngest child, please just ask. We want to help you help your child succeed with reading!

Joyce

says:

Thank you for sharing!

Jaime

says:

Great suggestions