Early Independent Reading with Scribbles and Ink

Hi all! Today’s post is the second in a 4 part series about boosting early reading skills. If you missed the first one, click here to find it. If you missed my explanation of why I am putting together these posts, click here for that.

If you are at the point where your kiddo is beginning to read independently or has been reading independently, but you notice that he or she sometimes still struggles to decode (a teachery word for read/figure out) words, this post is for you!

My 6 ¾ yo has been reading on his own for a while now, but I still have him read to me quite often (he also has to do so regularly for his 1st grade homework). When he does, he still runs across words he does not know. I often struggle with what to tell him, how exactly to help, and when to give him the word.  

It seems to me that many elementary schools (at least around me) have adopted much more of a “whole language” approach to reading than they had when I was in school. This means that students are encouraged to use mostly context clues and pictures in order to know a new word they come across (this is not a perfect definition by any means – just my observation).

While there is apparently an entire debate out there in the education world, I will try to stay out of it as much as possible and just give you the hints that work best for my son and work best in my classroom. I think they are a mix of whole language and phonics, and I hope that doesn’t offend any of my elementary education friends!

(See this post about why I am writing these tips: Hint, if I was never taught this stuff in my secondary English education classes, I can’t imagine how other moms feel!)

Okay, so here we go.

Let’s say my 6 ¾ yo comes across something like this:


The word “delivery” might trip him up. He tends to guess based on what he thinks the word should be. In this case, they were talking about some cheese that Ink (the mouse) ordered, so he might read, “It’s coming super speedy express delicious.”

At which point, I would stop him and say, “Super speedy express delicious?? That word is not delicious, what else do you think it could be?”

He might get it from there, realize that the context is about the box coming to the house, and guess delivery. If so, we would move on.

If not, I would ask him to look at the picture and see where they are headed (the door) and ask if he can figure out what the word is from that. I may even add, “What sorts of things come to the door?”

If he still didn’t get it, I would then ask him if he knows any part of the word. He might be able to pick out the “live” in the middle of “delivery” (or I might help him find it, depending on how much patience I had that day!). If so, I would ask him to add the “de” – say “live – and add the “ry” at the end.

If he still couldn’t quite figure it out, we would go to straight phonics and sound out each letter.

And if he still couldn’t quite put all the sounds together, then I would give him the word.


It sounds exhausting when I write it all out like that! But really, the whole process is not bad, and the more he practices, the less time we spend doing it!!

In fact, one of the reasons I chose the picture I used above is that it is from a book that contains very few words my son did not know as an early reader and one that sparked his interest in chapter books! The book is called Scribbles and Ink: Out of the Box, and it is written by Ethan Long.


Because the reading level it is not too difficult, it contains only a few words per page, and it is highly entertaining, the book gave my son the confidence and excitement he needed to get into chapter books. I remember struggling to come up with chapter books for him to read in the beginning and not having much luck. This one was perfect!

It is actually part of a series called, “Jump into Chapters Books” by Blue Apple Books. Here is a link to a few more of them if you are interested!

I don’t know about you, but the transition from daycare, where you spoke to the teacher and got ideas about how your kid was doing and how you could help at home on a daily basis, to elementary school was rough for me. Don’t get me wrong! I LOVE public school (I teach in one for goodness’ sake). I LOVE my son’s school. And I have LOVED both of the teachers he has had so far! It is just different. And while I know they are doing a wonderful job and are teaching him a TON, I am constantly trying to decide the best way to help at home. If you are too, I hope these tips help!

As always, thanks for reading! I would love to hear from you. Find my social media accounts in the links to the right and let me know if you have any questions or would like any other early reading book recommendations!

15 thoughts on “Early Independent Reading with Scribbles and Ink

    1. This one really is a GREAT longer book to start with. As soon as you think he is ready for an early chapter book, this is the one I would recommend :).

  1. I love your posts. This is so informative! My oldest is a good reader although he struggles with reading comprehension. He can read and spell, but has a hard time remembering parts of a story/passage or explaining how/why something happened in a story. We’ve found some books that have really held his attention, though, and I bet this one would as well.

    1. Thank you for your kind words :). I think this one will! I was amazed how much confidence it gave my oldest son when it came to thinking he had the ability to read longer books. Stay tuned for my next post, it is about asking questions about the lesson of the books you read.

  2. I’m all about books and reading. Especially when it comes to children. I’ve never heard of these books. Thank you so much for sharing them!

  3. This looks like a great book for kiddos learning to read! I’ll keep it in my back pocket for my soon to be readers!

  4. As an educational consultant I have seen all of the various reading pedagogoies put to use. I believe a balanced approach is best but then everyone has a different definition when it comes to balanced literacy. I have always been a strong phonics person after seeing what a positive effect an explicit, systematic phonics program had on the emerging readers in my classroom. I applaud you for teaching your son multiple tools to figuring out an unknown word. He will have the tools he needs to be successful! Now that he is encountering more multi syllabic words knowledge of open and closed syllables would be of value.

  5. Thanks for this useful blog post. I agree that reading instruction should utilize both phonics and whole word instruction. I like the idea of encouraging kids to pick out the words that they do know, e.g. ‘live’ in ‘delivery’. Seems like a helpful strategy.

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