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Reading and Math Essentials

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: I have a seven-year-old niece who can't read and a nine-year-old niece who can't multiply. They are with me on weekends, and I want to do my best to help teach them the essentials. Where's a good place to start? What can I do and what are some resources that would be good for teaching them?

A: For your niece who needs help with reading, go to her teacher or the local library and get a list of the words on her grade level that she is expected to know. Find out which words she can instantly recognize and then make flash cards for the words she doesn't know. Teach her just a few of these words each weekend and be sure to frequently review the ones that she's already learned.

One of the most effective ways to help your niece is to read easy materials together. As you both read aloud, run your finger under each word as it is spoken. At first, you may have to repeat the first lines or paragraphs several times until your niece is reading in a normal fluid fashion. Read together for 10 minutes several times during the weekend. As your niece's reading improves, begin to read more difficult material. Hopefully, she will soon be able to read some of her school books.

Begin to help your niece who can't multiply by helping her understand the concept of multiplication. Place two beams or some other object on each of threes plates to illustrate the problem 2x3. Repeat this activity with different combinations. Next, use flash cards beginning with the 2's. If your niece doesn't know an answer to a problem like 2x4, she should draw 2 horizontal lines and then draw 4 vertical lines through the horizontal lines. By counting the number of intersections, she will get the answer 8. This approach lets her find the answer through her own activity.

The Department of Education offers help in teaching children how to read and do math problems through its publications at

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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