Once your child is around 5 and can recognize the difference between real and make-believe, I would suggest starting to help your child understand various genres of books during your reading time together.  This might seem complicated, but it’s really not.  There are around 5 different genres of children’s books that I would encourage you to point out to your little one.  Of course you can use the term “type” rather than “genre” if that is easier to remember.
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."
My little girl will be 4 in May. She figured reading out, generally on her own, within a week of her 3rd birthday. (We do read to our kids, and she had LeapFrog phonics videos that she loves, and magnetic letters on the fridge, but we didn't do any teaching, as such). I would say she currently reads at about a 2nd grade level (can easily handle any picture book, but is a little daunted by chapter books yet). My husband taught her how to count to 100 on a long car ride just before Christmas, and she has been practicing that, and asking her way through addition and subtraction--but we still haven't done any "teaching", aside from what is done on the fly, as the subject comes up. This morning, she wanted to know 5+2. We were in the kitchen, and I was chopping things for the crockpot for supper, so I told her to group 5 magnet letters on the fridge, and then add 2 to that group. "5+2 is 7, Mommy!" Her 2 year-old brother knows all his letters and all their sounds and can count to 20, again without any instruction as such. We were originally planning to homeschool, and probably unschool, anyway, so it's been kind of cool to see it working well before our kids are "school-age".
I love most of what you have advised. However, PLEASE rethink your comments on “sight words.” Memorized words have to go to the right side of the brain which has little language. Sight reading is the main cause of dyslexia. Training a “right brained” child to send words to the right brain (that child’s normal default) is a recipe for dyslexia. There is really no need to memorize any words by sight. Take a look at those in the bingo game pictured. ALL of them can be easily sounded out. If you teach your child all 70 English phonograms (Spaulding’s “Writing Road to Reading,” Sanseri’s “Spell to Write and Read” and many others), there will be very few words that can’t be easily sounded out once you understand how “said” is the past tense of “say” and the y is changed to I before adding the d.
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.
Say you're reading the word "cat" (as you've done just now): Your eyes perceive the cluster of squiggly lines, and send the image to the area of your brain that attaches meaning to things you see. This information is then shuttled over to the brain's auditory area, so it can be translated into phonemes  -- the K sound, the A sound, and the T sound. A third part of the brain, called the angular gyrus, then synthesizes the individual phonemes and their meaning as a group: the word "cat."

Learning to read comes easily to some children and not to others. There is no apparent link between IQ and ability to read though. Many researchers believe that some children are simply less phonemically aware than others, which can make the early stages of learning to read more difficult. This means it is more difficult for them to hear the differences between sounds.[17] Thus, you should not assume a child who is struggling is not intelligent.
Cut out simple cards and write a word containing three sounds on each one (e.g. ram, sat, pig, top, sun, pot, fin). Invite your child to choose a card, then read the word together and hold up three fingers. Ask them to say the first sound they hear in the word, then the second, and then the third. This simple activity requires little prep‑time and builds essential phonics and decoding skills (helping them learn how to sound out words). If your child is just starting out with learning the letters of the alphabet, focus on the sound each letter makes, more so than letter names.

But the story is entirely different for unschooled children. They may learn to read at any time, with no apparent negative consequences. The stories sent to me by readers of this blog include 21 separate cases of children learning to read in which the age of first real reading (reading and understanding of novel passages of text) was mentioned. Of these, two learned at age 4, seven learned at age 5 or 6, six learned at age 7 or 8, five learned at age 9 or 10, and one learned at age 11.


This is one of the great tragedies of the American school system. It is even more heartbreaking when you talk to scientists about how the human brain reads. Researchers estimate that somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of children, most of whom have developmental disorders or profound neurological problems, will never learn to read. The rest? If they are given what experts say is the right kind of instruction, they will learn to read, and most of them will be able to read well.

Read Naturally aims to improve reading fluency and understanding in kids and adults. It uses texts, audio CDs and computer software. Usually students listen to a story and then read the same text aloud. The program tracks progress carefully. Students work at their own level and move through the program at their own rate. Usually they work independently. Read Naturally is most often used as an add-on to the main program being used in the general education classroom.


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.

Sightwords.com is a comprehensive sequence of teaching activities, techniques, and materials for one of the building blocks of early child literacy. This collection of resources is designed to help teachers, parents, and caregivers teach a child how to read. We combine the latest literacy research with decades of teaching experience to bring you the best methods of instruction to make teaching easier, more effective, and more fun.


I have been using this book with my 5 year old twin girls, and have such mixed feelings about it. We are half way through. Some things I love are the structure, it is scripted and somewhat rigid. That means less work for me in terms of figuring out what to cover. I love how it teaches phonics, which is incredibly lacking in the school system near us. I also like the whole brain approach the book takes. As a neuropsychologist, it's nice to see the integration of writing, sounding out, comprehensi ...more

To make meaningful connections with the printed word, children need rich and varied life experiences. A kid who has never strayed from the inner-city will not get much from a story about farm life. A kid who has never visited an aquarium will not have the background needed to comprehend a text on marine life. Moms and dads can boost comprehension by remembering the mantra: Comprehension is the key that turns sounding out into reading. They can engage in the following activities.


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.
By now, they should have 'got' that books have a front and a back, and that a book progresses page by page. Next on the agenda is understanding that words on the page are read from left to right, and that the different shapes of the letters inside these words are what helps you figure out what to say as you read the book aloud to them. Of course, you don't actually need to teach them this; they'll just absorb it if you keep sharing books with them. Point to the words as you read them, moving your finger along the line. Look at the pictures and try to work out what the story may be about.
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Sometimes, parents are told early teaching is harmful, but it isn’t true. You simply can’t introduce literacy too early. I started reading to my own children on the days they were each born! The “dangers of early teaching” has been a topic of study for more than 100 years, and no one has ever found any convincing evidence of harm. Moreover, there are hundreds of studies showing the benefits of reading to your children when they are young.
Tap into prior knowledge. Before reading, parents should tap into their children's prior knowledge—priming the pump for deeper learning. For example, when reading Make Way for Ducklings, a mother might recall the day she and her daughter went to the park to feed the ducks and ask: “What do you remember about those ducks?” Before reading Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, a dad might reminisce about the time he and his son watched the heavy equipment at the construction site near their house, asking: “What vehicles do you remember seeing and what were they doing?”
To make meaningful connections with the printed word, children need rich and varied life experiences. A kid who has never strayed from the inner-city will not get much from a story about farm life. A kid who has never visited an aquarium will not have the background needed to comprehend a text on marine life. Moms and dads can boost comprehension by remembering the mantra: Comprehension is the key that turns sounding out into reading. They can engage in the following activities.
This is an amazing hub! I have a son whose just about to turn 3 and he's known all his letters since before he was 2 and he now knows all the sounds as well. I have been thinking it was time to try to teach him to read, but I wasn't sure how to get him to sound out words. With your approach he doesn't have to. Now I'll be making flash cards of those 100 words! He already reads books... but I'm almost positive its from memory not from recognizing the words.
Have your child describe the story to you. After every reading session, have your child describe what the story was about to you. Try to get them to be detailed, but don’t expect an elaborate response. An easy and fun way to help encourage this is to use puppets who represent characters in the story, so your child can describe it to you through them.
Thank you for the information and to everyone else with their questions/replies. I am a single parent who has just recently started reading heavily with my 5 year old. He is aware of the sounds and has a few of the basic words down, but struggles with reading. This really makes me frustrated, but after reading this post/comments I am glad to know that what I am forcing him to do is way ahead of his time. Pushing him to read every night and being angry when he doesn’t remember might hinder him from future learning and I definitely do not want to do that. He truly enjoys the last part of the night where we open the books together and I want that feeling to last forever. I greatly appreciate the advice and will completely back off of my son as he still has time to grow into reading whole stories. Due to a late birthday he is currently in Pre-K so I think the pressure of wanting him to do well in school, being a single parent, and my own childhood misfortunes are having a negative impact on me. I plan to regroup for tomorrow nights reading and take things a lot slower with him and make sure that he knows that he is doing a great job. Thank you so much for you have saved me from me in a way.
Be consistent. This is pretty self-explanatory. And I know I told you how important it is to be consistent in my post about helping your kids in school… but, don’t use this as an excuse to stop doing it simply because you are struggling with being consistent about it. Every little bit helps! If you can’t be consistent on a daily basis, do what you can when you can and forgive yourself for the rest. This is also not a pass to excuse yourself from making time for these kinds of things. You get the point!
I absolutely love this book- it's very easy to present and I was amazed how fast my boys (4, 5) were learning to read. However, as others have noted, it can be boring. To me, this is actually a bonus because I want my boys to learn that boring isn't bad and that sitting still is a skill just as much as reading. That being said, I try not to torture them since God created boys to romp around and physical activity makes information stick. We introduced the "hot lava" game for the individual word reading. The ground was hot lava and each sound was written on a safe "rock" (a piece of paper). They walked from rock to rock sounding out the word. When reading the slow way, they step from one sound to the next, if they're not sounding it out, they can't move- that helped with pausing. In the "fast way" they had to put their finger over their mouths while walking or jump from the beginning to the end. They started looking forward to it and after getting some more wiggles out, they were able to sit down to read the story.
At first, I thought she was just reciting the books we owned from memory because she knew them so well. However, I realized that wasn't the case when I started giving her easy reader books to read that she'd never seen before. That's when I realized...my baby can read! She can actually read! And I'm not talking just those beginner reading books that contain sentences like, "Pat sat on her mat" and "See the fox run."I guess all my hard work is paying off. I am raising readers! Of course, she's still very much in the beginning stages of reading, but she's off to a great start!
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.

Teach your child the alphabet. When your child has developed word awareness, begin breaking down words into individual letters. Although the alphabet song is the most classic means of teaching the alphabet, try getting creative. Explain each of the letters with their name, but don’t worry about trying to incorporate the sounds the letters make yet.
Learning to read can be a long process, so it is never too early to prepare a child. While learning to read is a big milestone, it is important that the learning process be fun and engaging for the child. Reading should be something that the child comes to enjoy and can use to gain even more knowledge through books. If you remain patient and make the learning process a fun way to spend time together, it will give the child the best chance to successfully learn to read and love books.
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…

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!


There's an education adage that goes, 'What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh what we make them learn.' The fact is that some children learn to read sooner than others, while some learn better than others. There is a difference. For the parent who thinks that sooner is better, who has an 18-month-old child barking at flash cards, my response is: sooner is not better. Are the dinner guests who arrive an hour early better guests than those who arrive on time? Of course not.
Be sure to keep an eye on the progress of each child. As soon as you notice one of the children is struggling, try to find some extra time to spend with that child. Talk to the child’s parents, and explain exactly what the child is struggling with. For example, if the child is having a hard time differentiating between a “d” sound and a “t” sound, spend some extra time practicing different words that make these sounds. Ask the parents if they can get involved and practice with the child as well.
The strategy for learning sight words is, "See the word, say the word". Learning to identify and read sight words is essential for young children to become fluent readers. Most children will be able to learn a few sight words at the age of four (e.g. is, it, my, me, no, see, and we) and around 20 sight words by the end of their first year of school. You can teach sight words by playing with flashcards and using reading programs like ABC Reading Eggs.
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.
Lest you leave this essay with the belief that I and the people who have contributed these stories have taught you something useful about how to "teach" or "help" your child to read, I assure you we have not. Every child is unique. Your child must tell you how you can help, or not help. I have no idea about that, nor does any so-called reading expert. My only advice is, don't push it; listen to your child; respond appropriately to your child's questions, but don't go overboard by telling your child more than he or she wants to know. If you do go overboard, your child will learn to stop asking you questions.
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.
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.
If your child substitutes one word for another while reading, see if it makes sense. If your child uses the word "dog" instead of "pup," for example, the meaning is the same. Do not stop the reading to correct him. If your child uses a word that makes no sense (such as "road" for "read"), ask him to read the sentence again because you are not sure you understand what has just been read. Recognize your child's energy limits. Stop each session at or before the earliest signs of fatigue or frustration.
Strengthen your child's comprehension skills by asking questions while reading. For younger children, encourage them to engage with the pictures (e.g. “Do you see the boat? What colour is the cat?”). For older children, ask questions about what you've just read, like “Why do you think the little bird was afraid?” “When did Sophie realise she had special powers?”

My daughter is three and a half. I have decided to home school her, because that’s what i think is best for her, and because she is already interested in learning. She picked up the alphabet almost instantly,(Alphabet song, if I remember right.) and she has already learned the sounds of every letter. (Except q and x, she knows what they are just has trouble pronouncing them.) She is improving significantly since I started (three days ago)) on sounding out 3-4 letter words. My question would have to be, where do I guide her next? I don’t want to skip something to fast and her not completely master it, or go over something so repeatedly she gets tired of it. Like you said, learning should be made fun whenever possible, which is the approach I try to use. What is your opinion?
It doesn’t have to be this way. No area of education has been as thoroughly studied, dissected, and discussed as the best way to teach students to read. Seminal research and longitudinal studies from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, combined with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and computerized brain modeling from the nation’s top academic labs, provide a clear prescription for effective reading instruction. And yet that information is virtually unknown among teachers, parents, and those who serve on school boards.

Three-year-olds can be chatty, and by age 4, it can be hard to get a word in edgewise. Take advantage of your child’s interest in talking by writing a book together. Start out with something simple, like describing a fun day at a park or visiting friends. Staple a few pieces of paper together, and write out one or two of your child’s sentences on each page. Then, read the story to her and let her illustrate it.
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
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]
I don’t agree with this 100%. There are a lot of great helpful tips and ideas listed here but my son learned how to spell AND write his name when he was 1.5, by age 2 he knew the whole alphabet by sight and sound, he’s almost 3 now and he has been taking an interest in reading. He asks his father and I (his mother), “What’s that say?” as he points to a word and after we tell him the word or even sometimes a sentence he’ll start spelling it out. This summer I am going to get serious about teaching him how to read and I do believe it is possible. Do I think he’ll be reading perfectly at a 1st grade level? Definitely not but even if he learns how to spell 5-10 words then he’s still learning how to read (he already knows how to spell 3 words) so technically my 2 year old is already starting to read.
LANGUAGE! is for struggling learners in grades 3–12 who score below the 40th percentile on standardized tests. It is most often used by special education teachers. The curriculum uses a six-step format for each lesson. The first step is word-sound awareness. The second step is word recognition and spelling. Then comes vocabulary and then grammar. Listening and reading comprehension come next. Writing is the last step. There is also a version of this program that is specifically designed for English language learners.
Set a positive example by reading books. If a child notices that you are enjoying a book, he will be more likely to develop an interest in reading as well. Try to read around them for about 20 minutes each day. If the child gets curious about what you're doing you can tell him about the book you are reading, or take the opportunity to ask if the child would like to find a book to read.
Other activities that support the child's growing intelligence and curiosity are activities designed to apply previously learned knowledge. So if the child learned shapes before, now he can match and group objects of the same shape. If she learned colors, she should be able to do the same. Puzzles are another useful toy at this age, as they improve hand-eye coordination as well as develop problem-solving skills.
Thank you for the information and to everyone else with their questions/replies. I am a single parent who has just recently started reading heavily with my 5 year old. He is aware of the sounds and has a few of the basic words down, but struggles with reading. This really makes me frustrated, but after reading this post/comments I am glad to know that what I am forcing him to do is way ahead of his time. Pushing him to read every night and being angry when he doesn’t remember might hinder him from future learning and I definitely do not want to do that. He truly enjoys the last part of the night where we open the books together and I want that feeling to last forever. I greatly appreciate the advice and will completely back off of my son as he still has time to grow into reading whole stories. Due to a late birthday he is currently in Pre-K so I think the pressure of wanting him to do well in school, being a single parent, and my own childhood misfortunes are having a negative impact on me. I plan to regroup for tomorrow nights reading and take things a lot slower with him and make sure that he knows that he is doing a great job. Thank you so much for you have saved me from me in a way.
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.
Great news Mama Kim! You just have to be patient, it will not happen overnight but it will happen sooner than you think. It takes consistent effort over time. Children are remarkable and learn without you even knowing they are doing it. Just keep at it on a daily basis but always avoid overloading him. Also don’t worry too much about testing what he knows, just keep showing him the words and move on. By 30 days he will be showing you his great reading skills!
Thank you for the information and to everyone else with their questions/replies. I am a single parent who has just recently started reading heavily with my 5 year old. He is aware of the sounds and has a few of the basic words down, but struggles with reading. This really makes me frustrated, but after reading this post/comments I am glad to know that what I am forcing him to do is way ahead of his time. Pushing him to read every night and being angry when he doesn’t remember might hinder him from future learning and I definitely do not want to do that. He truly enjoys the last part of the night where we open the books together and I want that feeling to last forever. I greatly appreciate the advice and will completely back off of my son as he still has time to grow into reading whole stories. Due to a late birthday he is currently in Pre-K so I think the pressure of wanting him to do well in school, being a single parent, and my own childhood misfortunes are having a negative impact on me. I plan to regroup for tomorrow nights reading and take things a lot slower with him and make sure that he knows that he is doing a great job. Thank you so much for you have saved me from me in a way.
Young children don’t hear the sounds within words. Thus, they hear “dog,” but not the “duh”-“aw”- “guh.” To become readers, they have to learn to hear these sounds (or phonemes). Play language games with your child. For instance, say a word, perhaps her name, and then change it by one phoneme: Jen-Pen, Jen-Hen, Jen-Men. Or, just break a word apart: chair… ch-ch-ch-air. Follow this link to learn more about language development milestones in children.

In practical terms it works like this: a child destined to become a poor reader and a child destined to become a good reader can both understand the word “bag,” but the poor reader may not be able to clap for each of the three sounds in the word or to know that the last sound is what distinguishes “bag” from “bad.” If a child struggles to hear individual sounds that make up words, that child is likely to stumble when you try to teach her, for example, that the letter t makes the “tuh” sound. This becomes a real problem when we ask those kids to execute the neurological triple backflip known as reading.
Other activities that support the child's growing intelligence and curiosity are activities designed to apply previously learned knowledge. So if the child learned shapes before, now he can match and group objects of the same shape. If she learned colors, she should be able to do the same. Puzzles are another useful toy at this age, as they improve hand-eye coordination as well as develop problem-solving skills.

She was really into dinosaurs at the time, and could sound out their names, based on a variety of videos and books we watched. I didn't think too much of the fact that she knew all these dino names, since she was imitating what she saw and heard on videos. All of her dinosaur toys were named after the type of dino they were. This information, as any parent of a budding paleontologist will tell you, is often imprinted on the belly of the animal.
I am a public school teacher and I'll be honest when I say I don't read to my son often enough, maybe once a week. However, I keep all my books in his room in the changing table and in the closet. Since we removed the crib side at around 2 years old and he had access to the closet, he's slept with books every night. When I get him in the morning, if he's already awake, he's reading. He's almost 5 1/2 now and he surprises me a lot when he's reading. A few weeks ago he found, "Happy Birthday Bad Kitty" in the closet, which is a comic book/chapter book. He told me the whole story and why the kitty was bad. I know he's mostly reading the pictures, but he's making connections, which will lead to word reading. He reads everything and anything he can get his hot little hands on which includes the travel brochures and maps from Burger King on the highway. We do a lot of board games and puzzles for math. There's no such thing as a quick game of LIFE when he's the banker.
Avoid using flashcards. Some companies have advertised specialized flashcards to help babies, toddlers, and preschool age children to read. In general, flashcards are not the most useful or effective technique for teaching reading skills. Time spent reading stories with your child will be much more beneficial than flashcards. “Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes emergent literacy and language development and supports the relationship between child and parent. In addition it can promote a love for reading which is even more important than improving specific literacy skills.”[3]
Parents of infants and toddlers lay the foundation for reading success long before there's a need for systematic instruction. While some gung-ho moms and dads get seduced by products that claim to promote early reading, they should resist the temptation to buy them. Introducing formal instruction too early may actually backfire—making youngsters see reading as a task that wins parental favor, not as a pleasurable activity unto itself. Studies show that youngsters who receive early instruction are less likely to read for enjoyment when they get older.
My own children also learned to read by osmosis. When you are surrounded by books and parents who always have a book open, I think it is hard NOT to learn to read. By 4yrs, my eldest was reading the New York Times. He started as a toddler, looking for the "Hess" gas signs on the highway. #2 was a bit older, around 7 yrs old, when she decided to learn, but the most interesting was my youngest, who refused to pick up a story book at all and only wanted to do math problems. At 4 yrs of age she was very shy and clingy, so came with me when I taught at religious school. My teenaged students wanted to know why I "made" her sit and do math, and found it hard to believe that she actually LOVED it. I think it was the math book that taught her to read - she had to learn in order to do the "word problems."
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.)
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.
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