Solutions To Reading Problems #5 Using the Root Word Finder by Peeling Onions

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

Do you remember in high school when you were handed your textbooks for the upcoming semester or year?

Those books felt really heavy, right?

It wasn’t just the actual weight of the book, but the amount of content you were expected to consume for that class in the next 4-8 months.

You fan through the pages of each book. It seemed so daunting.

All. Those. Pages.

But the worst part was...all those long, unfamiliar words ON those pages.

You may have thought to yourself, “How in the world am I to read and comprehend what I read if I don’t know how to pronounce nor know the meanings of all these long words.”

In this blog, I’m going to show you a trick that you may already know, or may have forgotten, that you can show your kids how to navigate through long, unfamiliar words.

I’ll also show you how an onion can help you understand this process.

Hello. I’m Jean Harville, founder of Private Reading Tutoring.

The ultimate tool we need to unlock long, unfamiliar words is the Root Word Finder.

The Root Word Finder is the best way to decode new words.

The first step in using The Root Word Finder is to peel away prefixes and suffixes.


Before we continue, let me define prefixes and suffixes.

These are beginning and ending syllables that our English language loves to tack on to root words to change the meaning of the word’s meaning.

The word prefix is made up of the root “fix” (meaning attach) and the prefix “pre” (meaning before).

So a prefix is a syllable or a group of syllables added to the beginning of a word to alter its meaning.

Prefixes add complexity to the English language and make it possible to create new words that are easily understood by speakers everywhere.

Here’s a quick example: the word “sense” means a perceived understanding.

When the prefix “non” (meaning without) is added to “sense” we form the word nonsense which means not having meaning.

Here are 10 examples of the more common prefixes: de-, dis-, ex-, im-, in-, mis-, non-, pre-, re-, un-.

A suffix is a letter or group of letters added to the end of a root word to change the word meaning.

A suffix can change the part of speech, as in this example: the word “exist” is a verb.

When adding the suffix “tence” to “exist” we have now created a noun. Existence.

Here are 10 examples of the more common suffixes: -er, -s, -‘s, -ed, -en, -ing, -est, -ism, -ment, -able.

There are many many more prefixes and suffixes that I won’t go into in this blog.


It’s time to apply the Root Word Finder tool now that we have defined prefixes and suffixes.

By recognizing these affixes we can peel them away from the root word, like peeling an onion.

When we find the root word we can apply the Syllable Divider Rules we talked about in the last blog, Know Your Syllable Divider.

Once we have determined the meaning of the root word we can add on the affixes and adjust the meaning of the overall word.

Let’s have a little fun forming new words by using prefixes and suffixes.

Our root word is “proper” meaning correct or right. Let’s add the prefix “im” to form “improper”. Our word now means not correct or not right. By adding the suffix “ly” the new word is improperly meaning the state of not being correct or right.

Let’s make up our own word. Our root word is “par” meaning the number of strokes required for a particular hole when playing golf. Let’s add the prefix “non” meaning not. So our new word “nonpar” could mean not getting the number of strokes required for a particular hole in golf. Now let’s add the suffix -“ment” which means a resulting state.

So our new word nonparment could mean the state of not receiving a par score for a particular hole in golf.

Playing around with nonsense words while using correct meanings for the word parts can be a learning lesson as well as fun.

If you received value from this blog on the root word finder and manipulating prefixes and suffixes, please Like and Share it.

Comment below a new word you have created by adding prefixes and/or suffixes. I’m interested in reading what you have created. Have Fun!

I’m Jean Harville, the founder of Private Reading Tutoring. Bringing you tips and techniques so you know how to help a child struggling with reading at home.

Come join us on my Facebook Page @ Private Reading Tutoring.

My website is

Be sure to look for my next article on How to Teach Sight Words to Struggling Readers And Holding Them In Memory.

Oh, if you would like to register your child for a Free Reading Assessment,

CLICK HERE. You will be directed to the Registration page of my website.

I look forward to meeting you and your amazing kid.

Blessings to you.


19 views0 comments