Pete and RepeatSuccess-stair-step

I’ve talked about this before, but I’m going to talk about it again because it’s so important. I’ll say it differently this time, so you won’t get bored.

Two Choices

One choice is effective and the other isn’t, so of course you know what my recommendation’s going to be!

CHOICE ONE: The “start-and-stop method” is used sporadically for years, with parents giving reading support maybe a couple of days a week for a few minutes, on and off. This method includes the indispensible addition of a school system using a teaching method which doesn’t work for your child. The end result of all this is a teenager or adult who is frustrated and discouraged.

CHOICE TWO: The “pedal-to-the-metal method.” You hit it consistently starting with 5 minutes twice a day for maybe 3 years, and then you successfully retire as your child’s reading teacher. You’re done, because he’s launched as an independent reader. This scenario is, of course, my favorite.


Shawn reading one of his Frog & Toad books

Shawn reading one of his Frog & Toad books

The young man in this picture is Shawn, whose mom homeschooled him (and his older siblings) and kept the reading pedal to the metal. She brought him to me for some help with fluency and speed, and at that point the poor kid had TWO feet keeping his reading pedal to the floor mat. The result? Shawn is an absolutely wonderful reader. And so proud of it.

Please Start Small

Here’s your prescription: 5 minutes twice a day.

That’s it.

successImagine that this picture of success pieces linked together is how you’re going to achieve launching your child as an independent reader:

5 minutes+ 5 minutes + 5 minutes + 5 minutes +5 minutes + 5 minutes + 5 minutes spells success. You just have to link all those mini-sessions together to get to the end goal.

Q. Do I stay at just 5 minutes forever?

No. Here is the exciting part: as your child’s confidence and success grows, and you say, “Okay, we have to stop now,” your child is going to ask for MORE. “Really?” Yes, really. As progress continues, you both become so excited that the building of “teaching time” happens quite naturally; you don’t have to force anything.


S.J. Scott has written a handy book titled, “Habit Stacking: 97 Small Life Changes That Take Five Minutes or Less.” He talks about keeping a new habit to 5 minutes so we don’t get overwhelmed.  I give that idea two thumbs up. When I recommend 5 minutes twice a day to the parents of my students, I can see their lives flashing before their eyes…No time! I don’t have the time!!! 

But what they don’t understand is that I REALLY MEAN 5 MINUTES TWICE A DAY. I don’t mean a half hour. Really. Just start that mini-habit by building it into your day as a habit, and that will do it. You know how our kids love ritual, right? So make it a fun ritual.

Don’t get overwhelmed. 5 minutes, twice a day.

Good luck! Oh, and take two Dove chocolates and call me in the morning.


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Showing 8 comments
  • Shelly Curnutt

    This sounds absolutely wonderful. Thanks for the info.

  • lisa

    I just started teaching my daughter to read yesterday. Yesterday and today we did about 5 minutes, twice a day so reading this was very encouraging! And a good motivation to keep up the routine. Your blog very helpful and I’m sure I’ll be combing it over in the coming weeks. I just read about “fast flash” and will be giving that a try soon. Thank you!

  • Susan mahoney

    At what age do you recommend starting the 5×2 reading habit?

    • Natalie Hale

      Susan, you can start as early as 2 or 3, depending on the child’s readiness. The guideline from DS Edu International is: begin when the child can match picture to picture and has a receptive vocabulary of at least 50 words. (Receptive, not expressive.) Good luck!

  • Lizz

    Hi Natalie. What is the difference between receptive and expressive vocabulary? My son is nearly 2 so he’s too young plus he just wants to crawl commando style continuously – he doesn’t want to be still!!

    • Natalie Hale

      Hi, Lizz-
      Receptive vocabulary is the language your baby understands when someone speaks it to him; expressive language is what he can actually say (or sign.) Good luck with your energetic son–have fun!

  • Sandra Gifford

    My son who has Down Syndrome is 23, doesn’t read or write. Had a few sight words memorized many years ago but could not actually read them when they were put together in a sentence. Never had a teacher who was interested or had the time to make the effort. I tried, and the results were the above referenced memorized words & a book I made about his family with simple sentences & photos. He did learn to read the 4 page book. He couldn’t progress beyond that & zoned out immediately upon anyone trying to teach him more than a few 3 – 4 letter sight words, so we all gave up.

    He has been placed in the lowest functioning level in his Day Hab program, and to be moved to the next level up (which I would like because he’s more social then those he is now with) he must be able to read just a little, & write his first name. He just cannot write a single letter – we’ve worked on it 17 yrs, but I wondered about tackling the reading again using this program.

    Do you think this program could work for him – provided I truly stick with the twice daily 5 minutes?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Natalie Hale

      First, don’t give up on the handwriting! My son (DS, now 31) couldn’t even write “JON” legibly by age 15, and we had tried to teach him that for 10 years with no success! The answer for us was “Handwriting without tears” ( I worked with Jonathan 1-on-1 and 6 weeks later, he wrote the HWT founder a thank you note. I kid you not. It’s the method and the daily effort with a superb method that is the answer. As for reading, my Emergent Reader bundle is the place to start. It’s got everything he needs, and a tremendous amount of instruction for you so you know what to do first, second, third, etc. It takes the student from zero to reading. But it will take my “5 minutes twice a day” method. You can’t drop the ball; he’s already gotten discouraged. When you start rolling, you have to keep it up. It’s also vital that you learn to create really “cool” personal books. Type “personal books” into the search box on my blog page and you’ll get many articles on how to do that in a highly engaging, brain-friendly way. Good luck!