Emergent Readers: Transitioning to Independent Reading Time

We’re striving for more independent reading time with my 2nd grader. As an emergent reader, he still reads aloud daily to me so I can teach, cheer him on and keep tabs on his progress.  But, he’s finally doing well enough that it’s time for him to find his own pleasure in books.

Here's a plan for helping emergent readers transition into independent readers using high-interest books.

Transitioning to Independent Reading

At this stage in reading, things can get tricky – especially with boys.  New readers can be hesitant to believe in themselves enough to want to read alone.  There’s also that nagging stigma (even amongst homeschoolers) that it isn’t cool for boys to read.  And, there’s the long standing problem of finding books that hold the attention of busy boys.

But boys or girls, the plan for transitioning my kiddos into independent reading time has always been the same.  And it’s really simple…put a small bookshelf in their room, fill it with high interest books of all sorts and set a timer daily.

Here's a plan for helping emergent readers transition into independent readers using high-interest books.

Only one of my children has chosen books over other sparkly things in life.  So, a required independent reading time is a must for everyone else.  And for my 2nd grader, because I’ve purposely filled his bookshelf with high-interest books, he’s quickly settling in to the new habit of independent reading – and enjoying it!

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What Are High-Interest Books?

I choose books on topics in which my little man is interested.  Or, books on topics that I know will spark his interest even if he doesn’t already know it.

Here's a plan for helping emergent readers transition into independent readers using high-interest books.

Let me explain.  Eli is intrigued by science experiments.  He never necessarily asked to read books about science experiments, but I placed Utterly Amazing Science by DK Publishing on his shelf and he has been enthralled.  Because this book talks about (deep) science in small chunks with the use of pop-ups and flaps and lots of color, it holds his attention and makes him want to read things over and over again.

That strategy has worked time and time again.  So that means I find all kinds of books that are heavy on illustrations and small chunks of text (but pack a big educational punch) to add to his bookshelf.  Some of Eli’s current favorites in this genre include: A City Through Time, Lift-the-Flap Picture Atlas, The Usborne Book of World History and A Year on a Pirate Ship.

Here's a plan for helping emergent readers transition into independent readers using high-interest books.

Not all the books on his shelf are highly illustrated, informational books.  I also include readers that are below his reading level and picture books we have read together a million times.  Why choose readers that are slightly below his current reading level?  They give him confidence that he can read alone – and read well.  While the picture books we’ve read a million times give him familiarity of the text and storyline so that he can have comprehension success.

The point is to give him a variety of book choices that cover several genres and topics. 

I change out the books on his shelf frequently so he’s constantly finding fresh material to read.  And, by all means, if he wants to bring his own book choice to independent reading time, I absolutely allow that.  (It’s kind of the end goal, really.)

Tell me how YOU encourage independent reading time with emergent readers?

Picture Books to Teach Grammar

When you think of teaching grammar to your elementary student, does the word “boring” pop into your head?  Maybe not your head, but your children’s perhaps?

Well, I have two pieces of good news for you!

1.  Formal grammar lessons aren’t all that important in elementary school!  Really.  A little here, a little there and you can hold off on daily grammar instruction until middle school.

2.  You can get in a whole lot of gentle and efficient grammar teaching by reading with your children!  Seriously.  Reading instructional picture books can be a fabulous way to teach grammar concepts.  Especially if your read the same books several times over the course of a few years.  And, especially if you make conversation about the concepts at other times  – you know, as you run across examples during other lessons or in real life.

Use picture books to gently and effectively teach grammar in the elementary years.

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Okay, here’s my living literature disclaimer.  You know I’m a BIG fan of living literature, right?  Well, not all of these grammar books are perfect examples of what one might consider “living.”  Many of them have some forced rhyming text and goofy story lines.  However, I’ve personally found enough value in their teaching, that I’ve been able to look over a bit of twaddle.  Not to mention, they’ve kept my children engaged and motivated – and that’s a big deal.

And now, here’s the list of books I’ve used to help teach an intro to grammar in the early years.


Merry-Go-Round: A Book About Nouns by Ruth Heller

A Mink, A Fink, A Skating Rink: What is a Noun? by Brian Cleary

A Lime, A Mime, A Pool of Slime: More About Nouns by Brian Cleary

A Cache of Jewels and Other Collective Nouns by Ruth Heller


It’s Hard to be a Verb by Julie Cook

Kites Sail High: A Book About Verbs by Ruth Heller

To Root, To Toot, To Parachute: What is a Verb? by Brian Cleary

Slide and Slurp, Scratch and Burp: More About Verbs by Brian Cleary


Many, Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives by Ruth Heller

Hairy, Scary and Ordinary: What is an Adjective? by Brian Cleary

Quirky, Jerky, Extra Perky: More About Adjectives by Brian Cleary


Up, Up and Away: A Book About Adverbs by Ruth Heller

Dearly, Nearly, Insincerely: What is an Adverb? by Brian Cleary

Lazily, Crazily, Just a Bit Nasally: More About Adverbs by Brian Cleary


Mine, All Mine: A Book About Pronouns by Ruth Heller

I and You and Don’t Forget Who: What Is a Pronoun? by Brian Cleary


Behind the Mask: A Book About Prepositions by Ruth Heller

Under, Over, By the Clover: What is a Preposition? by Brian Cleary


I’m and Won’t, They’re and Don’t: What’s a Contraction? by Brian Cleary

Synonyms and Antonyms

Fortunately, Unfortunately by Remy Charlip

Pitch and Throw, Grasp and Know: What is a Synonym? by Brian Cleary

Stroll and Walk, Babble and Talk: More About Synonyms by Brian Cleary

Stop and Go, Yes and No: What is an Antonym? by Brian Cleary

Straight and Curvy, Meek and Nervy: More About Antonyms by Brian Cleary

Comparatives and Superlatives

Breezier, Cheesier, Newest and Bluest: What are Comparatives and Superlatives? by Brian Cleary

Homonyms and Homophones

Dear Deer: A Book About Homophones by Gene Barretta

Truman’s Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan

How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear? What are Homonyms and Homophones? by Brian Cleary

A Bat Cannot Bat, A Stair Cannot Stare: More About Homonyms and Homophones by Brian Cleary

Plural and Singular

Feet and Puppies, Thieves and Guppies: What are Irregular Plurals? by Brian Cleary

Compound Words

Thumbtacks, Earwax, Lipstick, Dipstick: What is a Compound Word? by Brian Cleary

Prefixes and Suffixes

Pre- and Re-, Mis- and Dis-: What is a Prefix? by Brian Cleary

-ful, and -less, -er and -ness: What is a Suffix? by Brian Cleary


But and For, Yet and Nor: What is a Conjunction? by Brian Cleary


Fantastic! Wow! Unreal! A Book About Interjections by Ruth Heller

Cool! Whoa! Ah and Oh! What is an Interjection? by Brian Cleary


Punctuation Takes a Vacation by Robin Pulver

The Punctuation Station by Brian Cleary

The Punctuation Celebration by Elsa Knight Bruno

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference! by Lynne Truss

Twenty-Odd Duck: Why, Every Punctuation Mark Counts! by Lynne Truss

The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes! by Lynne Truss

Greedy Apostrophe: A Cautionary Tale by Jan Carr

Do you have any wonderful books to add to the list?

For those of you who really want to add some quality, gentle grammar lessons into elementary school, might I suggest Living Literature Grammar Packets?  The lessons are short and sweet and cover everything expected of a 3rd or 4th grader concerning standard scope and sequences.

Living Literature and Grammar Packets give your 3rd-5th grader gentle, efficient and thorough language arts lessons.

Worth Rereading: 10 Creative Homeschooling Posts

Our Journey Westward takes a look back to her 10 favorite creative homeschooling post from 2014.

As I began making plans for 2015 here at Our Journey Westward, I naturally took a look back at 2014.  I jotted down my personal favorite top 10 posts in an effort to see if it’s clear where my heart is in this little cyber space.  Most of you know my heart is to share creative homeschooling ideas with a heavy focus on the Charlotte Mason style.  I certainly hope that shines through in my posts!

So without further ado, here are the posts I chose as the top 10 of 2014.  Do you agree?

Creative Homeschooling 2014

Need ideas for living math lessons? There are more than 100 here!

With the lessons I highlighted in this post, plus the lessons linked by other bloggers, there are WAY more than 100 living math activities! I seriously use this post all the time when planning our homeschool week or when desperate for a way to explain a concept in a better way.

Around the USA Elementary Homeschool Unit Study

We are having so much fun traveling around the USA through living literature this year.  This post is my go-to resource each week as I plan for the new states we’ll visit.

Our family has found several great books to prompt Bible study and discussion!

Speaking of living literature, this list of books to encourage Bible study includes our very favorite books to read time and time again.  You know the books you’ll save for your grandchildren?  Yeah, these are those.

Narration help: story order

Whether our children are struggling with story order in narration, dictation or creating their own stories, these story order lessons can be very helpful.  My son’s ability to retell stories with full detail has really improved since implementing these ideas.

How do you bring science to life? Nature study! It's real science, real life, real learning and really fun.

Charlotte Mason really was right about nature study.  I’ve put it to the test (for years) and realize what a major impact nature study has had through all subjects and disciplines – and how well-prepared my children are/were for higher level sciences because of it.

We have been utilizing nature journals in our homeschool from a very early age.  They have helped our children with writing, art, noticing nature detail and much more.

Why nature journals are important is another nod toward nature study and how it reaches into far more than just the biological sciences.  This post takes a look at some of our notebooking pages from preschool-middle school.

Enjoy this nature walk any time of the year!  Includes fun follow-up ideas, too.

The next three of my favorite posts each happen to be a fun nature walk with follow-up lesson ideas.  Our fossil walk was a bit of a scavenger hunt that brought us back home for some serious identification research.

This nature study photography project is good for all ages

We have used this photography walk idea many times over with different nature themes.  My children have always been very motivated when I hand the camera over to them!

Learn about the rock cycle with hands-on activities that kids love.

This hands-on rock cycle lesson is always so much fun!  It builds serious understanding of the rock cycle and helps my children make better observations & identifications during nature walks.

Homeschooling is funschooling when you open the game closet!

Our homeschool wouldn’t be the same without the games in our game closet.  Games make learning fun and the proof of their benefit is in the results you see from adding them to your lesson plans.

After a trip to the ocean, Cindy's 1st grader wanted to learn more.  Here's how they followed the trail of interest-based learning

Not everything has to be perfectly planned out in homeschooling.  Allowing our children some freedom in their learning promotes interest and independence.  In this interest-based ocean study I documented how my elementary student helped lead the learning.

And there you have my favorite creative homeschooling posts from 2014.  Now, off to keep writing into 2015.  Thanks for joining me on Our Journey Westward!

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Winter Homeschooling with Pinterest


Winter homeschool lessons can be fun and educational with the creative ideas on these Pinterest boards.

Have the winter homeschooling blues set in yet?  When the blues come around our house, my first line of defense is to kick up the interest level of our lessons.  This might mean adding some fun art projects, science experiments or (cold) nature walks to our typical daily schedule.  Or, it might mean setting aside regular lessons for a week or two while we dive into a wintery unit study.

Like many of you, I save the best learning ideas I come across on my Pinterest boards.  Ahem…I have more than 100 learning boards now – but, hey, I’m more organized than ever before!

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Winter Homeschooling

Which boards will I be perusing to find this year’s winter learning ideas?

Educational Winter Pinterest BoardMy general Winter Board includes ideas across all subjects.  You can find simple one-time lessons – or entire unit studies.  My favorite new pin on this board is a Hans Brinker literature-based unit study.

Coping with the Cold - Winter Pinterest Board

The Coping with the Cold Board goes along with my Coping with the Cold NaturExplorers study and covers everything having to do with animals in the winter – hibernation, migration and adaptation.  Whether you like to get outdoors in the cold weather or not, this topic makes a great winter science study.

Snow and ice make a great winter study topic!

My Snow and Ice Board is full of ideas to go along with the Snow and Ice NaturExplorers study.  Take advantage of the cold days and all the crazy weather with fun lessons to learn about anything and everything having to do with snow.  This topic makes for motivating lessons in my house!

Educational Valentine's Day Board

Don’t forget one of the bright spots of winter – Valentine’s Day! Make the holiday educational and fun with a few of the ideas pinned on my Valentine’s Day board.  My favorite new pin on this board happens to be a pretty little handicraft project – heart wreaths.

Read Through Winter

There’s nothing better than snuggling with a good book (or ten) on cold winter days!  Before you start making plans, take a peek at our very favorite winter-themed book list.

Top Living Literature Picks for Winter

How do you beat the blues?  I’d love to hear your ideas for homeschooling in the winter.  Feel free to add your ideas (or links) in the comments!

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Art Fundamentals in One Lesson a Week

My 2nd grader and I are loving this plan for once a week art instruction that teaches fundamentals and gives plenty of practice with various media and techniques.

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Art Fundamentals in 2nd Grade

I ran across Adventures in Art, Level 2 by Laura Chapman at a used curriculum sale this summer and it’s been such a treasure!

I’m not much on textbooks, but this happens to be a fabulous textbook that both my son and I have been pleased to use.  Written specifically for a 2nd grade reader, the lessons can be read by my son.  I love that!  (Even if the text is a bit twaddle-like.)

I also LOVE that each lesson teaches a particular art fundamental and gives at least one example of that fundamental used in real (often famous) artwork and gives simple, illustrated directions for an art project to try at home.

In one lesson per week, Eli has been learning about things like color, pattern, texture, line, movement, form, balance, unity and variety.  He’s completed all kinds of simple projects that teach the art concepts and give him experience with various art modes and media.

All I have to do is gather the necessary art supplies then snuggle in with Eli for the short reading lesson and oversee the art project!

A Few of Eli’s Projects

This is one of the art lessons we did in 2nd grade as we're spending the year learning about art fundamentals.

This lesson focused on the fundamentals of shape and expression through the creation of a paper collage.  Before the lesson, I gathered some old scrapbooking paper, cardstock, glue sticks and a pair of scissors.  No special art supplies were necessary – and that rings true with most of the projects.

This is one of the art lessons we did in 2nd grade as we're spending the year learning about art fundamentals.

The fundamentals of shape and pattern were taught through this fun printing activity.  Before the lesson, I gathered some tempera paints and paper.  Eli helped me find things around the house that might make interesting prints.  We pulled out forks, cups, whisks, sponges, blocks and other fun tools.

This is one of the art lessons we did in 2nd grade as we're spending the year learning about art fundamentals.

We again focused on shape during this lesson, but expanded the teaching by talking about about similar shapes (a geometry connection!)  We created our own stencils from index cards and used paints with foam brushes to create stencil prints.

It looks fun, right?

It has been!  We’ve only gotten through about 10 of the 60 lessons so far.  During the winter months, I might pick up the pace to get through two or three lesson per week.  Otherwise, we’ll have plenty of lessons to keep us busy during the summer!

Other Art Resources You Might Like

Our Charlotte Mason homeschool usually focuses on one artist per month where we do picture study and biography study alongside the art.  You’ve heard me say many times, though, that a homeschooling method is a guide – not a rule.  This year, it’s working better for us to do art the way I’ve mentioned above.  Next year, we’ll probably get back into the regularly scheduled plan of once-a-month artist study.

A Complete List of Cindy West's Monthly Artist Studies

Tricia Hodges is one of my very favorite people in the world!  She and her mother have created curriculum that teaches you step-by-step how to work with chalk pastels.  You and your children will become immediate artists using their easy approach!

Chalk pastel tutorials make artists of your children!

And, of course, I have a couple of Pinterest boards dedicated to art projects and artist study.  I only pin the best of the best from cyber world, so you should find only meaningful, doable projects and ideas.

Cindy West's art boards will give your homeschool plenty of ideas for art lessons!

So, tell me – do you make time for art in your homeschool?  What are your favorite resources?