Looking for the Helpers

Are you feeling pretty overwhelmed these days?  Me too. 

Amidst all the confusion and grief of the past several weeks, many people have quoted the late, great Mr. Rogers, who once shared his mother’s wise words:

Besides the unwavering energy of my own two little kids, another thing that keeps me going these days is just what Mrs. Rogers said: looking for the helpers. Artists are boosting morale by sharing all sorts of amazing things online; neighbours are helping neighbours from a safe distance.  And, as you may already know, nearly every educational company is offering some kind of online resource for free or reduced cost.  The only downside to this outpouring of generosity is that it can be a tad overwhelming.  So, because sifting through the bazillion online resources is no small chore, I’d like to help by sharing a list of the very best offerings that I’ve seen in the past several weeks.

I will add that I have some mixed feelings about this post.  On the one hand, I fully believe that schoolwork is not the first priority these days.  If your children feel safe and secure, you are doing a great job at pandemic-parenting, even if you haven’t cracked a schoolbook in weeks.  I’m sure you’re trying to juggle 5000 things at once and you shouldn’t feel guilty for one second.   On the other hand, if your circumstances allow, and if you just happen to find yourself at home for days and days, this may actually be a good time to sit down and figure out the best way to help your child with their learning.  The following resources are ideal for helping children with reading difficulties, including dyslexia, a.k.a. Specific Learning Disorder in reading, as well as young children who are just learning to read.

Online programs and apps:
  • Nessy: great program with games (can be played on computer or tablet) and printable resources.  It is currently offered at a discount to parents.  Free for home use if your child’s school signs up for Nessy, which is free for schools during the school closures.
  • PocketPhonics Stories: very nice, very simple, nothing fancy iPad app that targets reading the right way, by introducing sounds systematically, and blending sounds into words early on.  This app is less game-like than most, which actually is a bonus in my opinion.  Time on this app is spent doing actual work on reading.  Free trial.
Decodable readers:

As mentioned in a previous post, children with reading difficulties, as well as beginning readers, benefit from reading decodable texts. 

  • Flyleaf Publishing: beautiful decodable readers, available for viewing online, with accompanying activities.  Free.
  • Harcourt decodable readers: books in PDF format.  Another level is available here. Disregard the grade levels indicated; these are great for elementary kids of any age.  Free.
  • Reading Elephant: Printable decodable books.  (Tip: When you download all the packs, the file names are confusing.  It’s easier to download one pack at a time and rename the files as you go.)  These were listed as free, now asking pay-what-you-can.
Read-aloud stories:

All children benefit from listening to stories because it improves vocabulary, language comprehension, and builds world knowledge.

  • Storyline online: video storytime with actors (including Betty White!), good for younger students.  Free!
  • Vooks: great selection of popular books, transformed into audiobooks with animated illustrations.  Free for a year if you indicate that you are homeschooling.
  • Audible: audiobooks, no animations, but good selection of books for younger and older students.  Free!
Assistive Technology:

If your child was using assistive tech at school and doesn’t have access because of the sudden school closures, you might be especially interested in this.

  • WordQ: this Canadian-made assistive technology for reading and writing works in English and French.  An extended free trial is available for home use during school closures.
  • Lexibar: another assistive technology that is available for free (currently only until May 1), also works in English and French.
Are you an educator reading this?

This offer is intended only for educators, but I’m putting it on here anyway for any educators who may be reading, because it’s just too good to not yell from the rooftops: S.P.I.R.E. is offering their printable resources for free.  You need to check this out!

So that’s my list of personal picks.  Please let me know if you have any favourites not listed here!  Are you still feeling overwhelmed? Do you have questions about a specific resource?  Shoot me a Facebook message or an email. I’d truly love to chat.

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