Psst…the two secrets to teaching your child how to read…

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Homeschooling, Kid Stuff | 0 comments

The number one educational concern that I keep hearing over and over from other moms of young kids is this, “How do I teach my child to read?” It seems like this hugely complex process that should take years of struggle. It’s not. Many kids learn really quickly. It might take years for some kids, but at least they can be enjoyable years.
It’s not about having a magical language arts program.
I taught two of my kids to read without using any curriculum at all, both at 4 years old (and my oldest didn’t talk until he was almost 3, so it’s not like he was precocious in the language area or anything). I have a ton of books in the house already because I used to teach elementary school. Yeah, I taught kids to read for a living and have an extra certification in teaching literacy….but for most kids, the below method works really well and is painless. My mom taught first grade in the city for 25+ years, and she taught her students the same way and was known as the teacher that parents always wanted to get. The key is that when a kid wants to read, they will put immense effort into it. When they think it’s boring, or pointless, you can work your tail off to make them read, but you’ll get pitiful results. 
So, focus on making them want to read, and on teaching them that they are able to learn how to read. Those are the two secret ingredients for teaching your child how to read. Doing these things take time each day, but it’s enjoyable as long as you decide to enjoy the process and forget about the progress. Let the child make the effort. You just make time to be enthusiastic about the time you spend reading together. 
Teach the letters and sounds that they make. You can do this any way you’d like. Sonlight would be fine (it’s for homeschoolers), but there are many curricula out there. My own kids watched the Preschool Prep DVD  “Meet the Letters” because they liked it, and that taught them all their letters in about a week. The Preschool Prep DVDs are gold. They enjoyed the LeapFrog DVDs, too, but honestly I’m not sure how much they really learned from them. Then we read their favorite books over and over and eventually they joined in. Then we just read whatever books they wanted to read, and I pointed out that the sounds of the letters blend together, and showed them how to practice blending.” I See Sam” books are free to print out on the internet and are good leveled, easy readers. 
Then, be sure kids are getting a good phonics base. Using stuff like Explode the Code, etc, is good. Pick a phonics program and stick with it, unless you hate it, in which case, switch and then stick with the new one. 
Early on, do not get frustrated about “progress” and “levels” because as long as you are reading daily, when their brain is mature enough, it will click. Just enjoy the books and laugh about them, cry about them, etc., whatever your child likes. If you make reading a chore, they will be turned off, and that’s the last thing you want. I never force it, I just say that I am enjoying this book, so let’s read it together.   Better to make a shelf of books that are “forbidden” during school time. They will go right for those books as soon as you are done with “school.” 
So, when should you worry about progress? Personally, I’d start to worry if one of my own kids turned 8 and still wasn’t able to read fairly fluently or at least making a lot of progress towards doing so. If your gut tells you something is wrong, then don’t ignore that feeling. If your child really does have special educational needs, you may need more. It’s ok to ask for help.
Things are different when you have your child in public school, because a child who is slower to mature is in danger of being labeled as “behind,” and that is a hard label to get away from. In that case, if you’re worried about your child competing with the other students in his grade from a young age, and you want or need to have your child remain in public school, then you’ll start worrying about progress a lot sooner. 


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