“Phonics” includes learning how to spell those sounds and the various rules that the English language follows.  Phonics is an important components of reading/spelling, but it should never be the main focus.  Again, we are looking to balance our literacy “program” with reading comprehension as the end result.  Learning the rules of phonics is simply a tool that helps a child learn to decode and spell.  I used the Pathways To Reading program in the classroom as my phonemic awareness and phonics program and loved it!  It made learning all of the tricky spellings so much fun, but I wouldn’t recommend it until your child is in kindergarten or first grade.
It is very important that parents especially the mother has the initiative to be so attached with the needs of her kid. At an early age it is very important to enhance their mind to many possibilities. Reading them a book at an early age can help them analyze things, so even if they cannot still read when they reach the certain age where they should learn to read it is easy for them to get things clearly.
I have found a need to always test each child for a true readiness to learn reading. If they are not ready after a few lessons of testing, we come back and start again at a later date. No matter what, I have found the initial excitement wears off after several lessons and it is work to press through until they regain the excitement of really reading which does not take long when you consider it is only 100 lessons.
p.s. I hated to read when I was little (I really didn’t enjoy the public school reading curriculums) but now I love reading. My husband loves to read even more than I do and so do the men at our church, young and old. In fact, one of our friends grew up in a home where his father literally had thousands of history books and had read most of them. Now his son is also an avid reader.
Make reading a part of your daily life, and kids will learn to love it. When I was nine years old, my mom made me stay in for a half-hour after lunch to read. She took me to the library to get books to kick off this new part of my life. It made me a lifelong reader. Set aside some time when everyone turns off the TV and the web and does nothing but read. Make it fun, too. When my children finished reading a book that had been made into a film, we’d make popcorn and watch the movie together. The point is to make reading a regular enjoyable part of your family routine.
It can be hard for those who see their (often months older) classmates outstrip them fast – especially if there are a few who have come into school already able to read. “My son's a summer-born and was only just four when he started school. He was definitely slower than most of the others at 'getting' the whole idea of reading. I started to think he was destined to be bottom of the pile for ever. It was quite hard not to get a bit worried about it.” As a teacher, I can say neither early reading nor late reading has a bearing on the intelligence of a child.
Always follow up a story with a discussion or activity. Studies show that comprehension increases greatly when reading is followed up by discussing the book or doing an activity. Parents might ask: “What was your favorite part?” or “Who was your favorite character and why?” They might ask their child to draw a picture of an alternate ending or help them write a story with a similar plot or theme.
My son, who is 6, is definitely learning math just from life. He is constantly asking me what 7 plus 3 is, or more complicated stuff. Sometimes I can tell it's related to something he's doing, sometimes I have no idea what it's connected to. He gets annoyed sometimes if we try and "teach" him, like trying to get him to count it out on his fingers. He just wants the info. He often amazes me by figuring out math in his head. One thing I've noticed is when we're driving in the car he's always watching the counter on the CD player.

My son, who is a staff member at Sudbury Valley, tells me that that study is now out of date. His impression is that most Sudbury Valley students today are learning to read earlier, and with even less conscious effort than before, because they are immersed in a culture in which people are communicating regularly with the written word--in computer games, email, Facebook, cell-phone texting, and the like. The written word is not essentially different to them than the spoken word, so the biological machinery that all humans have for picking up spoken language is more or less automatically employed in their learning to read and write (or type). I'd love to study this in some way, but so far haven't figured out how to do it without being intrusive.
First of all, I would encourage you to find something that he ENJOYS reading. You might look up some lists online for books for teenage boys. Or perhaps find some books that have been made into movies and encourage him to read the book and then watch the movie. Then you can talk about the differences between the two (which is a good comprehension exercise). I would also encourage you to find some books on tape that he can listen to. My husband really enjoys these and it is easier for him to comprehend when listening rather than when reading. Hope that helps!
When your child is able to read books, you can fine tune their reading more easily. You can also spend more time on the basics, ensuring that they read better than even children who are older than them. This will ensure that when they get to school (if you’re not home schooling), they will be fully prepared and can have more fun and be more relaxed in their classes; and when learning is fun it is more easily retained.

Yes, it certainly is a balance! No greater emphasis should be put on one area over the others (with the exception of reading comprehension). Sight words are typically extremely beneficial for early readers who get frustrated when words don’t follow the “rules”. This is the only area of reading where I feel like memorization is beneficial, in context with all the other reading strategies, of course.


Say the sentence is “I have a flannel to wash my face”. And your child reads, “I have a flannel to clean my face”. That may be wrong but it's a good guess because your child is clearly thinking about the meaning of the sentence. (And you can just gently say, "Nearly. But does clean begin with 'w'?) A child who guesses “I have a flannel to watch my face” may have followed the letter-sound clues slightly better but are not thinking about the meaning at all.

Willingham recently wrote the New York Times op-ed “How to Get Your Mind to Read,” and it’s fascinating. In raising readers, it appears that we’re doing it wrong. Parents and teachers tend to think about the learning process in separate blocks. When kids are very young—around 4, 5 or 6—we teach them how to “decode” words. It isn’t until the fourth or fifth grade that we move onto comprehension. That’s too late, Willingham says. “Decoding and comprehension are not the same thing,” he tells me. “There are times when you can read content out loud but not understand what you’re reading.” In the later elementary school grades, as texts become much more complex, comprehension becomes much more difficult. And therefore, children struggle.
Studies show that children with weak phonological awareness become weak readers. Parents can almost guarantee their youngsters will become proficient readers by starting early with phonological awareness. They should forget flashcards, workbooks, and pricey kits such as “Hooked on Phonics” and just keep it fun, light, and simple. Phonological awareness is about being silly with words, making it a game, and celebrating the magic of language. There's no need for parents to sit their children down and give formal lessons. Instead, parents should teach it throughout the day in a fun and organic way by remembering the mantra: When you're out and about, sound it out:
Making reading fun and exciting is the best way for children to want to learn to read. They will want to work at it and consider it a fun activity. This will allow them to have a love for books and reading anyhting in general as they grow older making them more successful in school and then life. Click here for the best tips http://teachyourchildtoread.blogspot.com
She is a very headstrong little girl and i struggle to keep her to that level where she isn’t being pushed but she is still doing some reading so that she doesn’t slip back over the Summer holidays….Help anyone who can help me show her how enjoyable it can be, … we have been taking trips to the library, weplay Roadsign games when out driving, whenever we go anywhere I encourage her to try and work the words out…even if it be the Push and Pull signs on the doors…
You seem very passionate about reading and I think that’s great. However, you seem very defensive about the method. Quite frankly my only goal is to help children learn to read and I have found that starting with sight reading is the easiest and best method. You, of course are entitled to your opinion as is Mrs Freeman. My son is now turning 10 and he is reading and memorizing Shakespeare (having learned to read from – YES – “call words”!). You are welcome to go to my website and see him doing it if you doubt it. And BTW, my son is 100% homeschooled and he too remains above grade level.

I was trying to find an effective and easy way to make my child read at an early age, after a long time I found one of the best methods to make a 2yr old child read. U may also have a look at this – kidzlover.com/reading-tips (click link above) Learning to read is very different from learning to speak, and it does not happen all at once. There is a steady progression in the development of reading ability over time. The best time for children to start learning to read is at a very young age – even before they enter pre-school. Once a child is able to speak, they can begin developing basic reading skills. Very young children have a natural curiosity to learn about everything, and they are naturally intrigued by the printed texts they see, and are eager to learn about the sounds made by those letters. You will likely notice that your young child likes to look at books and thoroughly enjoys being read to. They will even pretend to behave like a reader by holding books and pretend to read them.

Build up an archive of sight words. Certain words in the English vocabulary are spoken often, but don’t follow the typical phonics rules. These words are easier to memorize by shape association than by sound, and are therefore known as ‘sight words.’ Some sight words include ‘they,’ ‘she’, ‘an,’ ‘said,’ and ‘the.’ The complete list of sight words, called the Dolch list, can be found online and broken down into sections to work through.

The Voyager programs are most often used by reading specialists in addition to the general education reading program. Voyager Passport is a small-group program for grades K–5. It includes letter-sound understanding, sight words and vocabulary. Voyager Passport Reading Journeys is for teens who struggle with reading. The program is taught in a group using science and social studies topics. There is also a Voyager Universal Literacy System. This is a K–3 curriculum that includes a program for struggling readers.
Twenty-one years ago two of my undergraduate students conducted a study of how students learn to read at the Sudbury Valley School, where students are free all day to do as they wish (look back at my essay on Sudbury Valley).[2] They identified sixteen students who had learned how to read since enrolling in the school and had received no systematic reading instruction, and they interviewed the students, their parents, and school staff to try to figure out when, why, and how each of them learned to read. What they found defied every attempt at generalization. Students began their first real reading at a remarkably wide range of ages--from as young as age 4 to as old as age 14. Some students learned very quickly, going from apparently complete non-reading to fluent reading in a matter of weeks; others learned much more slowly. A few learned in a conscious manner, systematically working on phonics and asking for help along the way. Others just "picked it up." They realized, one day, that they could read, but they had no idea how they had learned to do so. There was no systematic relationship between the age at which students had first learned to read and their involvement with reading at the time of the interview. Some of the most voracious readers had learned early and others had learned late.

What a great post! May I ask for some advice? I am homeschooling my 7 year old daughter. Our curriculum has her learning about 15-20 new vocabulary words a day. She has a bit if trouble. She can read a sepecific word, and then have to read it in a sentence on the next page and completely blanks. What do I do? How do I handle this? She also tends to see a letter and assume what word it is (ex. Haul- she read as “hug”). How do I help her get through this? I have not been able to find any resources on reading for a 1st grader. Also what level she should be at, if that even matters right now. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
My daughter got her first book from the hospital at birth ;). I love that hospitals are even promoting reading at birth. Can I just say I hate hate hate sight words. My middle daughter is 9 and sight words were the death of her. Now that she is being taught all of the rules and exceptions through the Wilson program she is doing much better. I get that most kids learn to memorize sight words, but not all of them do. And I truly wish so much stock wasn’t put on memorization in reading. Especially since the amount of sight words or high frequency words they expect children to memorize seems like an awful lot of words that don’t follow the general rules of reading. They can be taught to break down every word. My oldest did fine with sight words though so I know my middle daughter is probably the minority here. However, I have also noticed that my oldest doesn’t have the skills to break down a word she doesn’t know the same way my middle daughter can.
The distinction is between being able to read a book and being able to master a book. I regret that I came upon Adler's book years after I finished college and that its lessons on reading never got ingrained in me. As a result I fall short of my potential in my mastery of the books I read. When your child gets into high school, or maybe even sooner, consider introducing him to Adler's four levels of reading.

The evidence from the standard schools is that reading does not come easily to kids. Huge amounts of time and effort go into teaching reading, from preschool on through most of the elementary school years. In addition, educators encourage parents of young children to teach reading at home in order to prepare the children for reading instruction in school or to supplement that instruction. Large industries have developed around the creation and marketing of instructional materials for this purpose. There is no end to interactive computer programs, videos, and specially sequenced books designed--"scientifically," according to their proponents--to teach phonics and provide a growing base of sight words for beginning readers.
One great way to introduce kids to literacy is to take their dictation. Have them recount an experience or make up a story. We’re not talking “Moby Dick” here. A typical first story may be something like, “I like fish. I like my sister. I like grandpa.” Write it as it is being told, and then read it aloud. Point at the words when you read them, or point at them when your child is trying to read the story. Over time, with lots of rereading, don’t be surprised if your child starts to recognize words such as “I” or “like.” (As children learn some of the words, you can write them on cards and keep them in a “word bank” for your child, using them to review later.)

School reading books are usually a weird old mixture of really good, new, phonics-based texts and rather dire, old, death-by-repetition ones. If your child has the misfortune to keep bringing home books of the “The hat is red. The hat is green. The hat is yellow” variety, you may want to search out some more exciting books to keep at home. Choose books about things that'll really catch their interest or make them laugh. Get right away from those ploddy reading primers into riddles and rhymes, rude poems and silly plots.
Once you’ve seen science-based reading instruction delivered well, you’ll want it for your kids. For six years, Kristina Matuskiewicz, a kindergarten teacher at Edna C. Stevens Elementary School in Cromwell, CT, believed that, like all the teachers at her tidy suburban school, she was helping to make good readers. She read them stories, she identified words and described their meaning, she offered them a variety of good books and worked to shift them to independent reading. “Each teacher had their own approach to teaching reading,” says Matuskiewicz.
As children decode words with more frequency, they will become more proficient at automatically identifying that word.  Sometimes this task is tedious, though, so it’s important to find creative ways to make it fun.  When I taught first grade, I used to buy little finger puppets that my students could use to point to the letters as they were decoding.  This was a huge hit and made this process so much fun!
Fast ForWord is a computer-based program that focuses on the link between spoken language and written words. The software aims to help kids master reading by improving things like memory, processing speed and attention. But the impact the program reports to have on these skills isn’t widely accepted. Nor is its impact on improving reading. Fast ForWord is used by clinicians and specialists.
In terms of outcomes, longitudinal research, the kind that follows kids for decades, tells a sad story. If your child is experiencing reading failure, it is almost as if he has contracted a chronic and debilitating disease. Kids who are not reading at grade level in first grade almost invariably remain poor fourth grade readers. Seventy four percent of struggling third grade readers still struggle in ninth grade, which in turn makes it hard to graduate from high school. Those who do manage to press on — and who manage to graduate from high school — often find that their dreams of succeeding in higher education are frustratingly elusive. It won’t surprise you to know that kids who struggle in reading grow up to be adults who struggle to hold on to steady work; they are more likely to experience periods of prolonged unemployment, require welfare services, and are more likely to end up in jail.
Get a library card. Take the child on regular visits to your local library. Go to the children's section and let the child pick the book he wants to read. Once a week on a set date (Friday after school for example) is also a good way to get into a structured routine. It's alright if he is a bit too old for the book or has already read it. When he is a bit older, let him check out the book at the front desk, but always under your supervision.
You don’t need a Ph.D. to raise a happy, healthy, smart child. Parents have been doing it for thousands of years. Mothers and fathers successfully teach their kids to eat with a spoon, use a potty, keep their fingers out of their noses, and say “please.” These things can be taught pleasantly, or they can be made into a painful chore. Being unpleasant (e.g. yelling, punishing, pressuring) doesn’t work, and it can be frustrating for everyone. This notion applies to teaching literacy, too. If you show your 18-month-old a book and she shows no interest, then put it away and come back to it later. If your child tries to write her name and ends up with a backwards “D,” no problem. No pressure. No hassle. You should enjoy the journey, and so should your child.

Hi, I’m Spanish and I’m an English teacher in Spain. I’ve only spoken English to my son since he was 1 year old. He’s four now. I have a problem which I’ve realized is quite common. My wife doesn’t speak any English, so I speak Spanish with her, so Spanish is the language at home and in the street. What’s my problem? Before he started school last September he used to utter some sentences in English , but his use of English has been reduced since then. I googled my situation and other people’s children go through the same problem. Some suggested initiation to reading and that’s what I’m tring. Any other suggestions which may be useful. My kid is able to understand ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING I say and cartoons in English, but I would like him to speak it more often to me. Any suggestions are welcome. I have bought a game called Zingo to work on sight words.


Several weeks ago (see post of January 6, 2010), I invited readers of this blog who are involved in unschooling or Sudbury model schooling to write to me with stories about learning to read without formal instruction. Eighteen people--most of whom identified themselves as parents of unschoolers--kindly shared their stories with me. Each story is unique. Just as my students found in their study at Sudbury Valley, there seems to be no pattern to how unschooled children today are learning to read.
Even if the child is learning to read on her own, you should continue to read to her. At this age, your child will benefit from books that display the rich diversity of the world. Books about children of other nationalities, colors, cultures, races, sizes, and families will expand his view of the world. At the same time, books that relate to places and objects from her everyday reality like dolls, beds, homes, cars, trucks, and fire engines are also enjoyed. Books that talk about people she knows such as a friend, a baby sister, or a grandmother will help her develop closeness, understanding, and empathy for others. Books that describe imaginary creatures and far-away places can also inspire her imagination.
But at the same time, he was collecting baseball cards and was very interested in the statistics. Completely on his own, he learned how to use percentages, decimals, division, etc. to figure out averages in his head. In 4th grade we enrolled him in a hybrid-homeschool program, and he was very much ahead of his class in math. He's 11 now, still ahead of what he's "learning" in math, and wants to study statistics.
We are a homeschooling, mostly unschooling family. My children are 5 and 9. Reading is an extremely fun activity in our lives and the children have access to books, library trips, computer activities, and art projects that involve creative writing. My assumption was that they would learn to read early and through osmosis because reading is just what we do. But that didn't seem to happen. My 9 year old daughter began "reading" books at three by memorizing the story and then reading it back, she also wrote in pretend writing at that age. It seemed she was on her way. However, I had been a teacher in public school so when she was 6 I had this need to introduce "reading" because I felt self-progress had been slow. What a mistake! Within three weeks my daughter was totally off reading and I had unknowingly discouraging her honest attempts to learn in her beautiful self-directed manner. She a visual learner and extremely creative. We had encouraged cooking, music, dance and the visual arts as conduits for learning because she loved them so. Of course, I saw the error in the reading approach I had introduced and backed off. It took nearly a year for her to even approach reading on her own again.
Some of the kids with a keen sense of phonemic awareness are already moving on to what is called in teacher-speak “decodable text” — little books with single lines of text made up of words that can be sounded out with ease. After about thirty minutes, all the children stop their work and, using a broad hand motion for each sound, sing what is known as “the vowel song” with great gusto. When the chorus of cheerful voices begins to die away, North and Matuskiewicz look pleased. “The rap against phonics is that there is too much drilling,” says North. “But look at this classroom. No one is suffering here.”
Thanks for these ideas! I’ve got a (just turned) 2 year old, and he loves his letters. And he loves when I read to him. I feel like he might love learning basic words (which letters form the words he already likes to say), and then he would REALLY love reading. Most of these ideas are advanced for him, but I gives me some ideas for moving forward. Thanks!
Teach sight words. Sight words are any short, common words that a child will see often. Some examples of common sight words include plant, father, their and here. Many of these words are difficult to sound out. The best way for a child to learn these words is through repeatedly seeing the word in the context of a sentence and alongside the object it represents.[7]
This is a wonderful column, and all very true. My own four (unschooled) kids learned to read at ages ranging between 3 and 8 years, and each learned in his or her own way. I'm now watching my unschooled grandchildren following the same path - the 8 year old has just taught himself to read, and I can see his 5 year old sister is close behind. I often tell other parents with kids in school about my experiences because they worry so much if their kids aren't reading by age 6.
It is very important that parents especially the mother has the initiative to be so attached with the needs of her kid. At an early age it is very important to enhance their mind to many possibilities. Reading them a book at an early age can help them analyze things, so even if they cannot still read when they reach the certain age where they should learn to read it is easy for them to get things clearly.
There's an old joke, which I recall first hearing several decades ago, about a child who reached age 5 without ever speaking a word. Then one day, at lunch, he said, "This soup is cold." His mom, practically falling over, said, "My son, you can talk! Why haven't you ever said anything before?" "Well," said the boy, "up until now the soup has always been warm."
Nearly all of the stories from home unschoolers include examples of shared participation in reading. One of my favorites is that presented by Diane, who noted that her daughter, who learned to read at age 5, became interested in reading because of the family's regular Bible reading time. Before she could read she insisted on having her turn at Bible reading, "and she would just make up words as her turn!"

Last year, I spent lots of time with our brand new granddaughter, Emily. I drowned her in language. Although “just a baby,” I talked — and sang — to her about everything. I talked about her eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and fingers. I told her all about her family — her mom, dad, and older brother. I talked to her about whatever she did (yawning, sleeping, eating, burping). I talked to her so much that her parents thought I was nuts; she couldn’t possibly understand me yet. But reading is a language activity, and if you want to learn language, you’d better hear it, and eventually, speak it. Too many moms and dads feel a bit dopey talking to a baby or young child, but studies have shown that exposing your child to a variety of words helps in her development of literacy skills.


Middle vowel sounds can be tricky for some children, which is why this activity can be so helpful. Prepare letter magnets on the fridge and pull the vowels to one side (a, e, i, o, u). Say a CVC word (consonant-vowel-consonant), for example 'cat', and ask your child to spell it using the magnets. To help them, say each vowel sound aloud (/ayh/, /eh/, /ih/, /awe/, /uh/) while pointing at its letter, and ask your child which one makes a sound similar to the middle sound.
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