Category: TIPS™

How to Avoid COVID Learning Loss?


Every year, “the big summer slide” holds back the educational progress of millions of American kids.But this year, if we don’t act to avoid a massive COVID Learning Loss, the education gap between high and low-income kids will widen to historic levels. This year, Covid Learning Loss is a real thing, and it’s huge.

Studies show that TWO-THIRDS of the reading level gap in 9th graders can be attributed to the fact that many of them read way less over the summer, and lose proficiency. But it is not just 9th graders. Because kids who aren’t reading at or above grade level by 4th grade rarely catch up. And here we are in May, already starting the slide. No end in sight.

With most schools unlikely to reopen until fall, kids will have lost a lot, even the ones lucky enough to still be going to school via video conferencing. Kids from lower-income families generally fall even further behind. So the “Summer Slide” has come early for millions of American kids this year, and no, that doesn’t mean the slide at the playground or the slip n’ slide in the backyard. It means sliding back from the progress achieved during the school year, and nowhere does this have a more pronounced effect than in reading. And this year, the effect will be felt like never before.

So what can you do, as a parent? How can you avoid COVID Learning Loss?


Rule #1: Read. Read, read, read with your kids. They watch what you do, they want to imitate. You read, they will read. We are all bored, and looking for things to occupy our Stay Safe-Stay Home time. Most parents are trying to structure time during the day for their kids to maintain their own sanity, so make sure that part of that day has at least two 20 minute sessions devoted to reading, longer if possible. And let them stay up ½ hour later … in their bed … but only if they read. Even kids who can’t read will look at picture books, or their favorite books, and pretend to read.

Rule #2: Read. Read, read, read with your kids. Repeat Rule #1!

But even with all of this reading, the reality for most kids now is that the day is less structured and includes less educational content than it did before. That means, we need to find a way to teach our kids that is actually easier. Easier for parents to deliver, but also easier for kids to learn.


To avoid COVID Learning Loss, put your kids in the driver seat (of reading). I had one 5 year old who loved to read chapter books. I had another 5 year old who early on didn’t like reading books at all. But he loved reading encyclopedias about animals, or space, or sports… anything that was only a few sentences long. Both were, and still are, voracious readers, of anything they can get their hands on. So let your kids choose what they read because they are more likely to read what they are interested in. It’s about language early on, not literature. They are discovering how a writer can manipulate words to create feelings, portray mental images, and tell a tale as well as learn stuff.

If your children are too young to read on their own or are just learning to read, the key is to read to them. Let them pick the book, and don’t be surprised if they pick the same books over and over. They love the sounds the words make (don’t you love Pout Pout Fish?) or they go wild over the pictures (anything by Maurice Sendak). They have a fine time with rhyme … you can never go wrong with Dr. Seuss! Point to the words, so they get the idea that a group of letters blends together to make a sound called a word. Soon they will start to recognize those words, especially the fun ones like BAM! and WHOOSH! and GLUG! and THWACK!


Here’s a hard fact. Households without books produce the majority of the kids who cannot read at or above grade level. But books cost money and are a luxury item to many people. Libraries are helpful to bridge the gap, but right now the libraries are closed, and there is even less money to spend on “luxuries”.

But you have a smartphone. We often hand our kids the phone to keep them occupied at some point, to keep them entertained (and perhaps quiet during an important conference call). How can we make the best possible use of that technology? How can we turn that moment into a mechanism that delivers something that will help them succeed in life? ReadingWorld (available here in beta) is a fun activity to do with your children. And it’s something they can absolutely do on their own (after a few plays). Full of games, and revolutionary way to teach phonemic awareness and reading, ReadingWorld will help them learn to read super fast, and put them on the path to success. There are a lot of other programs to download also, on a wide variety of subjects. Take advantage of them.


Parenting at any time is tough. Right now it is extraordinarily difficult. As caregivers to our children, we have an even greater obligation to see that not only do we keep them safe by keeping them healthy, but that we keep them safe from falling behind in their reading ability. This is the single most important factor in a child’s success … the ability to read above grade level proficiency. It’s ok to use your phone to help you get through this. And by the way, there are lots of free books for you to read too!

So let’s stop the Covid Learning Slide, and every Summer Slide from here on forward! READ, READ, READ. About happy things. Fun things. Interesting things. Any things. And while you are reading with your kids, don’t forget to snuggle.

Stay Safe. Stay Home.

How to Teach a Toddler to Read

Teach Your Toddler to Read

It is absolutely possible to teach your toddler to read. First, you are going to need a heaping helping of three obvious ingredients:

  • Patience: It’s going to take some time.
  • Discipline: You need to be consistent.
  • Love: There are a lot of hugs in learning to read.

But on to the nuts and bolts! In this article, we explain how it is possible to teach a child to read by the age of 3. We know, it’s hard to find the time to have a cup of coffee. That’s why we are creating ReadingWorld, which will walk your child through the progression outlined below. That said, we wanted to explain our amazing system so that you, as a parent, can make an informed decision about how best to teach your toddler to read. We assume that if you are here, you have a child between 2 and 5, and would like to give them every opportunity to develop into the best little human they can be. A lot of what works at this age works at every age, so don’t worry about where your child is starting from, you can start here.

Teaching The Basics: Level 1

The very first letters used to teach your child to read follow a simple pneumonic device: IMPACT. Each letter is pronounced in IMPACT using the basic pronunciations. Which gives us enough content to build essential pre-reading knowledge: 1) letters have shapes and make sounds and 2) letters can be put together to make words. At this point, we already have a handful of nice words to play with: PAT, PIT, CAT, MAP, MAT, TIM, IT, CAP, and TAP, among others. Just remember that a Building Block is both the letter and how it is pronounced, so be careful to always use the letters in words where the pronunciation of each letter is exactly as it was taught.

Once the child is identifying IMPACT blocks correctly at a rate of 90% or more, and successfully sounding out Level 1 words, congratulations! Together you’ve made it to Level 2! Note if you start a child very young (say 1 or 2), Level 1 could take a long time! That’s ok!

Reading Hard Vowels: Level 2

Once your child is 90% proficient at Level 1, we then introduce Level 2 Building Blocks: Ā, Ē, Ō, Ī, O, B, R, L, N, and S. In this set, we have included Reading Tips (marks on the basic letter) for the Ā, Ē, Ō, and Ī which all are pronounced like their letter names, the “hard” sound of “A” like APE, the “E” like NEED, the “I” sound in TIME and the “O” like OPEN. It is important here to teach the child that the same letters can make different sounds, but when you see a Reading Tip, you know exactly what to say. With these Level 2 additions of letter pronunciations we now have a working vocabulary for your child that includes over 1000 words. To graduate from Level 2, all Building Blocks must be identified correctly 90% of the time. This means distinguishing between the Ā and the A, which may take a little practice.

Teaching Real Words: Level 3

At Level 3, we introduce another 10 Building Blocks: SH, Ś, E, Õ, À, D, Ÿ, TH, H, and F. Now we can really start to make some words! This Level gives us the blends for THIS and THAT, the Ś in HIŚ or IŚ, the Õ in TÕ, the Ÿ in MŸ. These are the Power Blocks, which are found rarely in the dictionary, but are essential to reading meaningful stories. They form the words which hold our language together. We also use Level 3 to introduce the concept of Silent Blocks. A Silent Block is used when a letter doesn’t make a sound, like the “E” in TIME or the “A” in NEAR.

Like magic, after learning the 26 Building Blocks outlined above, and the Silent Block concept, your child can read over 15,000 words. By themselves. Without error. Every word they see in our System reinforces earlier learning. After mastering Level 3 content, children can read meaningful books, with real plots, characters, and messages.

Learning to Read: Level 4 through 10

As the child continues to progress through the system, additional Blocks are added at each level. In Level 4-6 we prioritize the Blocks needed to cover the remaining core vocabulary of early language texts. By Level 7, important but rare exceptions are being introduced, along with the vocabulary that uses these exceptions.

At level 10, after learning just 90 Blocks, the child can now read 125,000 words, including virtually all words printed in children’s literature.

The End Goal

Reading is a lifelong pursuit. Our goal is to make it easier, in fact, so easy a child can do it. TIPS™, our TinyIvy Phonics System, removes the barriers to sounding out words that exist in normal English, but that is only the first step. Eventually this needs to translate to “real” reading, using the “real” alphabet, with no Reading Tips. This process is very natural. A “sight picture” of the word is developed after it is read, which ultimately is drawn on during the reading process. As this happens, sounding out a word is no longer needed, and we graduate. Because the Reading Tips are small, the “sight picture” of the word remains largely the same, and so children transition easily to reading without tips and live happily ever after.

The End.

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