None of these children has difficulty reading today. Beatrice reports that the daughter who didn't read until age 8 is now 14 years old and "reads hundreds of books a year," "has written a novel," and "has won numerous poetry awards." Apparently, late reading is not inconsistent with subsequent extraordinary literary ability! This daughter did, however, show other signs of literary precocity well before she learned to read. According to Beatrice, she could recite from memory all of the poems in the Complete Mother Goose book by the time she was 15 months old. [Note: See Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko's excellent blog at http://radiofreeschool.blogspot.com/.]
And here’s a critical fact you need to know: scientists have shown again and again that the brain’s ability to trigger the symphony of sound from text is not dependent on IQ or parental income. Some children learn that b makes the buh sound and that there are three sounds in bag so early and so effortlessly that by the time they enter school (and sometimes even preschool), learning to read is about as challenging as sneezing. When the feeling seizes them, they just have to do it. Other perfectly intelligent kids have a hard time locating the difference between bag and bad or a million other subtleties in language.
Set small goals. This is the one time you shouldn’t focus so much on the bigger picture. It can be daunting and discouraging. It also might encourage you to breeze past foundational principles and push them past reasonable expectations. So, forget the “bigger picture” and focus on small victories instead. Remember we should be more concerned with improvement than achievement.
It is good to teach your child the letters of the alphabet and their sounds. Once you have this concretized you can move on to simple word families such as ‘at’ and ‘an’. You can do games such as having your child try to add different letters before the word family to form different words such as cat, mat, sat etc. Also have your child match pictures to words. You can also use http://www.starfall.com when doing this activity as there is stories which follow after your child has learnt the words. It is also good to teach your child high frequency words. Model reading and also read with your child.
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’).
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 am homeschooling my children, although the oldes is 4. My son began interested in writing very early. He was able to hold a pencil with the tripod pencil grasp early, too. He was able to write his name, independently, by the age of three. Since then he has been asking me to help him spell words. I've gone over different phonic sounds with him while driving in the car. We'll play rhyming games, too. We've never used a curriculum. He has always been surrounded by books. We read several times a day. We have a dry erase board and a chalkboard-painted wall where he can practice his letters and words, or drawings. Yesterday while looking at a book in the car he said, "Mom, P-O-O-H spells Pooh!" That was the first time he's read a word that wasn't MOM, DAD or his own name. It was pretty amazing.


The key thing to holding your nerve here (and therefore helping your child hold theirs, too) is remembering that no two children learn to read at the same speed and pace. Some zoom off from (literally) the word go and then slow down; some plod along gradually; some stutter at first and then speed up – with all sorts of variations in between. And, whatever Smug Mum of Speedy-From-The-Off Reader may imply, there's no great connection between speed of learning to read and speed of brain cells in general.

This book was just what my son needed to start reading. I was nervous that he was starting first grade unable to read, but this program helped him move along really fast. He was soo ready, while other phonics programs were going too slow for him and he just wanted to read! There was some slight confusion with some long vowels being introduced early when a supplemental program I was using only used short vowels, but he seemed to work it out pretty quickly.
He says that parents can help kids read by taking advantage of situations where reading has some utility. “In our house, for a brief period of time, my youngest just thought it was hilarious fun when we’d ask her to clean her room but would do so by writing down on a slip of paper each task. ‘Put away all your toys.’ She would read the slip of paper, then go off and do it, and then come back for another slip of paper.” (UM, brilliant.)
Thank you, sep332. The quotes in your post were exactly the ones where my jaw dropped. A child's learning style doesn't change by how he's feeling each day. He may never be a good auditory learner, for example. And a child learning to read "when they're ready" at age 14? How is this not considered negligence? You don't get those critical periods of development back to "when they're ready for it." Read the thousands and thousands of other sound research studies compared to this one guy. Of course all the comments on here are extremely positive, because they're from unschoolers or lax homeschoolers whose "teaching" methods have just been validated. Utter nonsense.
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’).
Hi, I have a friend who lets her 6-month old son watch “baby can read” videos every day. She did the same with her older child, who, at 1 year old, is able to “read” words. Her daughter can decode common words such as house, but when the letters are jumbled so as to form another word, she couldn’t read it any more. I now have a one year old daughter. She’s recommending that I expose my baby to it too. What is your opinion on this? on the exposure of children to screen media?
Sue, thanks for your comment. I'd like to do a post soon on children's teaching math to themselves, but so far I don't have a lot of material on it. Several readers have sent stories with some relevance to that topic, but I'd like to get more. -- One of the most common questions I get about Sudbury Valley is, "Why would anyone learn math if they don't have to?" -- That says something about the attitude toward math that our school system instills.
If you feel your child is ready, you could also start talking to them about the letter sounds – building on what they've probably already starting to learn at preschool. Find a nice ABC book and look at some of the letters together. Start with the letter her name begins with, and take it from there – let your child dictate the pace you go at (or not!). And pronounce them phonetically: “a” rather than “ay” and “buh” rather than “bee”, as this is the way they will learn them at preschool and school. If you're not sure how to pronounce them, download the Phonics tool from BBC skillswise to hear the sounds.
Parents and teachers are often overly impressed with children who have decoding skills, incorrectly labeling them as “readers.” But, of course, reading involves much more than merely sounding out words on a page; it also includes comprehension, which is more complex and harder to teach. To comprehend successfully, children must not only have solid decoding skills, they must read fluently and find meaning in the printed text. Once again, when it comes to teaching comprehension, parents are best suited to the task.
I have a 6 year old son who had some pretty significant delays due to liver disease. I never thought he would take off reading the way he has! He's doing so well with your program he will not have to repeat kindergarten. We are so pleased with your reading program! And super excited our son gets to go into first grade all because his reading skills are so good! He's a better reader than most of his friends his age who have never had delays or medical issues.

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

Lessons 1-20: Let me start by being perfectly honest with you. The first 5 lessons were tortuous for both me and my 5 year old son. He does not like to sit still, he does not like to repeat things over and over again, and it was extremely confusing for both him and myself as we began this book. I was still getting used to the teaching aspect, and he was getting used to the sitting still and repeating sounds over and over and over again. I nearly gave up after the first 5 days. You may want to as well. PERSEVERE!

@B. Leekley, thank you for your very insightful comment. I must say that did not intend to imply that once a child knows how to read there will be no more work to be done, what I simply meant in my article is that once a child knows HOW to read then he or she will have the most basic tool for learning. Thank you for your recommendation as well, I downloaded a pdf copy this weekend and am looking forward to reading it and implementing it into my son’s schooling. I really enjoyed your comments and am very grateful for your support.


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.”
Ask questions about the stories. Similar to when you were reading stories to your child, every time your child reads ask them questions about what they’ve just read. At first it will be difficult for them to think critically about meanings of words and the buildup of character development and plot (or the semblance of those things in the most basic of stories), but over time they will develop the necessary skills to answer questions.
Children's songs and nursery rhymes aren't just a lot of fun—the rhyme and rhythm help kids to hear the sounds and syllables in words, which helps them learn to read. A good way to build phonemic awareness (one of the most important skills in learning to read) is to clap rhythmically together and recite songs in unison. This playful and bonding activity is a fantastic way for kids to implicitly develop the literacy skills that will set them up for reading success.
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