Make it warm and cozy. Many parents fall into the trap of reading to their children at bedtime when they're exhausted from a long day. This often makes for an unsatisfying experience for both parent and child. It's far better for parents to choose a time when they're feeling fresh, energized, and involved in the process. Most importantly, they should make reading a warm and cozy experience: sitting under the shade of a tree, sipping hot cocoa by a warm fire, or cuddling together in bed on a lazy Sunday morning.

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.
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Students think of something that has happened to them personally, sketch a picture, and then write about it. They may start by just labeling the picture, or they may be writing several sentences. I sometimes draw lines for each of the words they tell me, so they can see where they should be writing (for example, if they say, “I went to the park.” I would draw __ _______ ____ _____ ________).



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.
Take any alphabet toy, blocks, magnets, or whatever you have and make up silly words. Once they know most of the phonic sounds, it’s super easy and silly to make up your own words practicing the sound each letter makes. I’m sure you’re wondering about vowels and rules… we just don’t go there at this point. For now, all the vowels make one sound A – Ah , E – Eh, that kind of thing.

We start off each lesson with a picture book (child's choice) then a chapter from a chapter book (my choice). Then we read the lesson. Sometimes we stop in the middle of the lesson (depending on attention span and how well the lesson is going, etc.) We always peek ahead to see if there is a "new sound" coming up. (A very exciting development, if you can imagine.) After the ...more

For children in standard schools, it is very important to learn to read on schedule, by the timetable dictated by the school. If you fall behind you will be unable to keep up with the rest of the curriculum and may be labeled as a "failure," or as someone who should repeat a grade, or as a person with some sort of mental handicap. In standard schools learning to read is the key to all of the rest of learning. First you "learn to read" and then you "read to learn." Without knowing how to read you can't learn much of the rest of the curriculum, because so much of it is presented through the written word. There is even evidence that failure to learn to read on schedule predicts subsequent naughtiness in standard schools. One longitudinal study, conducted in Finland, found that poor reading in preschool and kindergarten predicted poor reading later on in elementary school and also predicted subsequent "externalizing problem behavior," which basically means acting out.[3]

Develop phonemic awareness. One of the most important steps in teaching reading is associating a spoken sound with a letter or letter-pair. This process is known as phonemic awareness. There are 44 speech sounds created by the 26 letters in our alphabet, and each sound must be taught paired with its letter(s) counterpart. This includes the long and short sound produced by each individual letter, as well as the specialized sounds some combined letters make (like ‘ch’ and ‘sh’).
Look for books with bright, funny illustrations and clear, uncomplicated text. Stories with strong rhymes are especially good: they help your child absorb the rhythm and structure of sentences and sharpen up the listening skills she'll soon need to pick up on different initial letter sounds. Rhymes also encourage anticipation, a key pre-reading skill; try stopping before you finish the rhyme to see if they can fill it in for you (“Rain, rain, go away. Come again another…?”).
Diane wrote, "My first daughter could not read when she turned 5 in March but by the end of that year she could read fluently, out loud, without pause or hesitation." And Kate wrote that her son, at age 9, "taught himself to read" in a period of just one month. In that time span he deliberately worked at reading, on his own, and progressed from being a hesitant, poor reader to highly fluent reading, well beyond what a standard school would have regarded as his "grade level."

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.

Learning to read is a long process, but it doesn't have to be a difficult process. Broken down into intuitive and logical steps, a child as young as two years old can learn to read, and older children can accomplish even more. Click here to for a simple, step-by-step program that can help your child learn to read, and watch a video of a 2 year old child reading.


Thank you for your response and suggestions. There are times that we both feel frustrated and lost. I’m glad that kinder teacher isn’t at his school any longer else whole class will have the same issues. I failed to mention that there are 4 other children in his class that can’t read either and they had the same kinder teacher. I will read your book and being to implement the suggestions from your book and email. Thanks again.
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:

ABC Reading Eggs incorporates all five components of reading in its online lessons. Children are introduced to a range of interactive activities that reinforce letter sounds and symbols, building phonemic awareness and phonics skills, as well as vocabulary and comprehension. The e‑book at the end of each lesson allows children to apply the skills they have learned. Free trial.
ScottDavid mentioned reading in foreign languages and said it's easy part. I can't agree - when I was learning Arabic reading was a hell. Writing was way easier. It was the same with English (it's a foreign language for me). I could write and speak in moderate mode but reading was tricky. Now I observe the same thing as my daughter learn English and she can write anything you tell her but when asked to read the text, she's like muted. My son, who is 5 now, was not taught reading in pre-K, kids there were just playing with letters when they wanted. He had some issues with other boys so he was spending much of his time sitting on the floor and copying names from kids' chairs, book titles from the shelves, signs andfelt board titles. Once he even copied a company stamps from under the table. And one day we were getting home by car and he read aloud things written on other cars. I realized he can read realy well if he reads from a moving surfaces!
We start off each lesson with a picture book (child's choice) then a chapter from a chapter book (my choice). Then we read the lesson. Sometimes we stop in the middle of the lesson (depending on attention span and how well the lesson is going, etc.) We always peek ahead to see if there is a "new sound" coming up. (A very exciting development, if you can imagine.) After the ...more
Great list, and wonderful summary. I particularly love the emphasis on making it fun and creative and incorporated into different aspects of life. I used a very similar list when documenting my experiences teaching my kids to read at howitaughtmykidstoread.wordpress.com. I’ll definitely be using your post in a future post of my own, and hope you will take a look at my site and let me know what you think. Thanks!
But in many schools, in all kinds of neighborhoods, there is a shockingly large chunk of kids — about one in three — who don’t master the skills they need to learn to read in a sophisticated way. Their road is a difficult one: although many will try to use their intelligence to cover the holes in their skill set, as the work gets harder and the reading grows more complex, these children will find they are unable to keep up.
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.
Parents have 3 mantras to remember when teaching their children how to read: 1) Start with the heart. 2) When you're out and about, sound it out and 3) Comprehension is the key that turns sounding out into reading. By keeping these in mind, parents have what they need to turn children into proficient readers who love books and will turn to them for both pleasure and knowledge.
Hi, This really is very interesting and informative. I have an 11 year old and he still struggling with reading. Right now I am paying a private school for him, “They claim they can teach him” But I am very concerned, he is an amazing kid and he is so smart, but when it comes to reading, even if someone mentions it, he gets very frustrated, he loves books, he would love to read like all the kids his age, I have hundreds of books at home, and I read to all my kids, I always try to promote this skill, to encourage them (specially him) I just don’t know how to help him, I feel like I am not doing a good job as a mom, just because I can’t make him learn as fast as he want to.

Try to make this fun. In order to help them develop their love of reading it is helpful to avoid turning these learning sessions into drills. Invent games that you can play together to make the learning experience more meaningful. For example, don’t just ask the children to sit in front of you and go through a whole stack of flash cards. Instead, make the game fun. Hide cards printed with different words on them around the room. Pass out a corresponding picture to each child and have them find the matching card.
My son is 3 and has 2 full shelves of books. Every time we go to a store he always wants to get another one! He knows his alphabet and can recognize about 1/3 of the letters. I really have been wanting to teach him more but I don’t want to push him and have him lose interest. Anytime he sees words he will say look mom, ABCs! He doesn’t know what it says or what the letters are but he gets very excited to see them! Do you have any tips on how to get them to recognize the letters? We tell him what the letters are and what they say when he asks but is there a more structured approach that works better for a 3 year old? I can tell he really wants to learn, I’m just not sure how to teach him! lol
Robyn – At four, I would say that the important thing is not to specifically get her to colour or write, but to have general fine motor skills. Do open-ended crafty and arty things which are about having fun and experimenting, not producing a specific outcome like a coloured-in drawing or something that looks like a word. Look at pictures of different styles of art and talk about them with her, encouraging her to observe the detail, and have feelings and impressions about what she likes and doesn’t like. Encourage any fine motor activities that she likes, and don’t stress if writing or colouring is occasional. Writing probably feels very laborious to her if her other language skills are so good. Have you tried offering to help her write a story and just get her to help you with the occasional letter or word, so she feels like she is getting a story out that has the complexity she’s interested in without getting stuck on the work of manually getting down the first few words? I’d perhaps look at incorporating little moments of writing or drawing into daily life, rather than being a task in and of itself. So perhaps you could make labels for things together, or you could play a game of snakes and ladders but introduce a new rule that if she lands on a snake she can go down the snake or draw a snake or write an s (the choice is hers – I’d avoid making it something she has to do as well as going down the snake cause then it will seem like a punishment rather than an opportunity to escape a punishment). Look at ways to make games of it that make it a bit more exciting: eg. (“Let’s see how small we can write your name? Can we get it smaller?” Then take chalk or water and a paintbrush out to the footpath and say, “Now let’s see how BIG we can write your name?”) Decorate soaps, glasses, and t-shirts. Write in the sand at the beach or playground.
Amanda is an artist turned homeschool mom and thinks that science and art are essential for learning and strives to create a space where her children are free to explore the arts and science. She is passionate about supporting parents who might not have an art background by helping them find easy ways to incorporate the arts. And because she has a real passion to help she has created some amazing courses. She also is the co-host of a homeschool podcast; Homeschooling in the Northwoods
Decoding is often referred to as “sounding it out.”  This is an important element in teaching your child to read, but it certainly isn’t the most important.  Once your child knows the sounds each letter makes (which is taught in real, meaningful situations), she is ready to begin putting words together.  When looking at a short word, encourage her to say each individual sound /b/, /a/, /t/,  and then put them together “bat”.

I checked through his school books again and found yet again that the school had not progressed his reading book in the 3 months prior (they hadn't changed it at all or made any comments on the messages I had left in the book), so I double checked what age he actually was in reading ability. The school still had him on Year 1 books which he couldn't read. So I stopped trying to 'teach' him to read. 9 months later he read out a leaflet that had been put on the windscreen of the car, with no coaxing from me at all.
Reading Recovery is a short-term tutoring program for struggling first graders. It aims to develop reading and writing by tailoring lessons to each student. Tutors are trained in the program. They teach students in daily pullout sessions over 12–20 weeks. Reading Recovery is designed for short-term use. It’s an add-on to whatever program is being used in the general classroom. Kids with dyslexia are often included in the program at first. But research has questioned how effective it is for these students.
Amanda is an artist turned homeschool mom and thinks that science and art are essential for learning and strives to create a space where her children are free to explore the arts and science. She is passionate about supporting parents who might not have an art background by helping them find easy ways to incorporate the arts. And because she has a real passion to help she has created some amazing courses. She also is the co-host of a homeschool podcast; Homeschooling in the Northwoods

Parents, it turns out, are pretty crummy reading instructors, especially when they break out the flash cards, handwriting worksheets, rewards charts and other traditional tools we all know and hate. “You don’t know what you’re doing,” Willingham says of parents in general. “If your child encounters real difficulty, there’s a good chance the child will go to school and think, ‘Reading? Oh, that’s that thing Mom and Dad bug me about, and it’s hard for me to figure out, and I don’t like it much.’ Then the teacher has to try and overcome that first negative experience your child has had.”
This program might not work for everyone but it was perfect for our last child. When he was ready (and I tried it when he was 5 and no go) we whipped through the lessons. LOVED the scripted format with him sitting on the couch beside me. It really does teach them to read and in the beginning you don’t see how it will work, even for the reluctant learner. But it DID.
“Grandma Sherbert” this is what I do too! I keep sidewalk chalk in full supply. They can trace, and trace over your letters. They can play ABC hopscotch, while we sing the alphabet. I have 2 kids, one is 4 and the other 5 (and tend to be close in learning capabiliites i.e. learning toghether, helping each other). The outside elements can be used as learning support. Start taking it one step further, and find the ta-ta-tree that starts with T and ta-ta-teeth starts with t too, well so does the number two! Why push them, as a PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR, the only issues pushing a child will create, (such as the 4 year old reading at 4th grade level shame-shame-mommy) the child will develop anxiety issues, confidence issues, relational issues, and the harder the pusher the more you will see Obsessive compulsive disorder, and did I say multiple anxiety realted issues, perfectionist issues, acute shyness can occur as well. All things, that later on, your child-teen-or-adult will be sitting in my office over. CONFUSION over what is normal, what normal even is, and why no matter what you try you cannot acheive that feeling of just being plain ole’ normal, due to the over-expectations your mother had. You then have them for yourself, and suffer miserably!
Others wrote about shared family games involving words, or about shared television viewing in which the onscreen guide and captions would be read for the benefit of nonreaders. Over time, the nonreaders needed ever less help; they began recognizing and reading more and more words themselves. The most often mentioned examples of shared participation are those of parents, or sometimes siblings, reading stories to nonreaders, often as part of the bedtime ritual. Nonreaders look on, at the words as well as the pictures, and sometimes read some of the words; or they memorize books that have been read to them repeatedly, and then later they pretend to read the books while actually attending to some of the words. Pretend reading gradually becomes real reading.
I am very grateful to the people who took time to write their stories so thoughtfully and send them to me. I hope that many of you who have just read this essay will add to these stories with stories of your own, in the comments section below. It's high time that we created a real account of the many ways that unschooled children learn to read, an account to contrast with all those rows of books on teaching reading that exist in the education section of every university library.
To put it simply, word families are words that rhyme.  Teaching children word families is a phonemic awareness activity that helps children see patterns in reading.  This is an important skill because it allows children to begin “reading” by grouping sets of letters within a word.  The first part of a word is called the onset and the last part of the word is conveniently called the rime.  Word families share a similar “rime” as the onset changes.
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