My oldest son taught himself to read as well. He was just shy of three and a half when he started reading traffic signs to me. I got him some of the Bob books, which he looked through and became bored with quickly. I was always trying to sneak in a test or two as well, asking him to read out loud to me. When he was almost four I was having some anxiety that maybe he wasn't getting a thorough enough grounding in phonics and whatever. Serendipitously, a friend of ours gave us the "Hooked on Phonics" set and I thought that I would use it. Because I didn't know how well he could read, I wasn't sure where to start. We sat down with the books, and he began reading them to me. Within two hours, he'd read every book in the box set, levels 1 through 5. I decided that I would leave well enough alone, and I put away the cards, cds, boxes, etc. and just put the books on his bookshelf. Since that day I've backed off completely and left him alone. His baby brother is two, and I'll often find them curled up together reading to each other. The oldest will read a story out loud, and the youngest will make up a story by pointing to pictures in another book and telling his brother what he things is happening. We're having good luck with basic math skills just by using Legos and Hot Wheels cars. Sneaky Mommy will send the oldest in to get "Two cars for everybody". When he comes back, I'll ask how many he brought. With the youngest, I'll ask him to go get a set number of cars. It's effortless and they seem to be having fun.


I'm thrilled to see an article about this in a mainstream source. My sons learned to read "late", at ages 9 and 10, and were largely self-taught. We chose to allow their learning to read to be entirely self-directed because instruction via phonics when my first son was six years old was so disastrous -- he was angry, frustrated, and resistant. I shudder to think what would have happened if we'd continued to push him before he was ready. I've written quite a bit more about our experience here on my blog: http://fourlittlebirds.blogspot.com/search/label/reading
Learning to read should be an enjoyable process in order to keep kids motivated to improve. Sometimes a child might be full of excitement and eagerness to learn at the beginning, but once they hit a wall can feel overwhelmed and give up easily. As a parent, it can feel impossible to pick up again and know where to fill in any gaps that may be causing frustration.
Building on from the previous step, introduce simple word games on a regular basis. Focus on playing games that encourage your child to listen, identify and manipulate the sounds in words. For example, start by asking questions like “What sound does the word                      start with?” “What sound does the word                      end with?” “What words start with the sound                     ?” and “What word rhymes with                     ?”.
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.
I’m an educational psychologist that specializes in helping kids learn the sight words through pictures, movement, and creativity. I love the ideas in this post and was tempted to add more about teaching difficult sight words, but I got worried that I would sound like I was ‘pitching’ to your readers. So, I decided to just send you a message. Love your blogs.
Teaching your child to read requires consistent effort. It has to be done every day (be it for only a few minutes) but the secret lies in doing it consistently. It therefore requires your (the adult’s) full commitment and you will have to be disciplined and consistent in your efforts. It’s okay if you miss the odd day, but you should endeavour to do a lesson at least 5 days per week.

I totally agree that reading to your baby is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your child. However, I do think that it is an amazing blessing if your child can read before the standard age of 6. If they know how to read, they can get lost in the magical pages of books – developing a love for reading very early on. Did you ever use any DVDs with young children to help them learn to read? I have used several programs with my children – although my favorite is MonkiSee – and have gleaned many wonderful results. Do you support educational DVDs for teaching babies to read? Have you ever used any?

Children learn best when multiple senses or areas of development are included.  That’s why hands-on learning produces longer retention and more meaningful application.  Once your child has shown an interest in letters and you have already begun to utilize natural settings for identifying those letters, begin implementing activities that incorporate as many senses as possible.  Keep in mind that learning letter names isn’t nearly as important as learning their sounds!
In some schools, balanced literacy means that preK teachers work on letters and letter sounds. Kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers deliver an orderly progression of explicit phonics lessons and, as the children become competent and confident readers, push them to discover the best that literature and nonfiction have to offer while doggedly building up their comprehension through weekly word study, spelling tests, and story analysis.

This website includes a detailed curriculum outline to give you an overview of how the individual lessons fit together. It provides detailed instructions and techniques to show you how to teach the material and how to help a child overcome common roadblocks. It also includes free teaching aids, games, and other materials that you can download and use with your lessons.
I forgot to say that we also play a lot of word games. My husband or I will start coming up with words that rhyme, or words that all start with the same letter and we'll just go back and forth until we can't think of any new words. We've been doing that since before we had kids, and so they've both just grown up with that being a game our family plays. The oldest is starting to be good at it, and the youngest one doesn't get any rules yet, but will shout out random words when we start playing. This isn't the kind of thing that we'll all sit down and say "Okay, let's play rhyming" or anything structured. It just so happens that every so often when one of us says something, the other will find it interesting, and we'll start the game. Oh, and another thing the oldest will help me with is cooking. If he wants me to make brownies or cookies, I'll say, sure, but I'm going to need your help. I'll look up a recipe on the computer and I'll go to the kitchen to start cooking. His job is to read the ingredients to me.
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.
As the parent (or instructor), please take time to truly read the introductory pages. They go over why this method works and how long it took them to achieve success with all the children they tested this book's method on. It took years of revisions of the method until they reached the one used in this book. It gives very specific instructions on how to teach, the tone to use, how to correct mistakes, pronunciation, etc. Success hinges on the parent's ability to teach correctly. If we don't put in the effort, it will fail. PERIOD.
Quite a few of the people who wrote to me expressed surprise at the sequence that their child went through in learning to read. Some learned to read quite exotic words, which never appear in the primers, well before they learned simpler words. Some, as I said, learned to write before they could read. Some seemed to be learning at a rapid rate and then they just stopped for a couple of years before progressing further. We adults can enjoy watching all of this as long as we remember that it isn't our responsibility to change it. We're just observers and sometimes tools that our children use for their own chosen ends.
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.

Thank you so much for your article. I was one of those parents who wanted their child to be reading by age 2 and other unrealistic expectations like that. I bought certain programs promising my baby would be able to read, and she didn’t! I do not push her anymore and just spend a lot of time reading with her. Thank you for your article and I will definitely use some of your suggestions just to keep up with her love of reading.
I’m a K teacher and it seems that you are more interested in blaming his former teacher for where he is in his development more than anything else. Since this is a whole year later….I’m sure that he has picked up reading. However, I just want to say as an educator of 15 years who has a reading specialist endorsement, that reading is developmental—and each child is in a different part of that developmental process. As a parent, you are truly your child’s first teacher. Please revaluate pointing the finger at the teacher–as I’m sure that there was learning taking place in his classroom after all!
Although I don't consider myself to be strictly in the unschooling camp (my children have assigned pages in math and grammar workbooks and some assigned reading), I am a fierce advocate of waiting until a child is developmentally ready for whatever learning experience I have planned. You are not only beating a dead horse teaching an unready child to "blend" sounds or do long division; you are, as one person in your study pointed out, taking his pride in learning away from him. He never gets to own the experience.
Hi, My 8yo daughter went to kinder. in public school almost the whole school year, then we pulled her out because of this, she was struggling, still isn't reading, but she will, but the summer after that she finished teaching herself math, has done worksheets on her own at night in her free tiome, well whenever we are awake is our free time, over the years she has taught herself to add double digits in her head while making her own math worksheets. Unfortunately, my family only notices she isn't reading yet. I know she will when she is ready. Thanks for the essay, it was great.
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.
Yet, if reading comes easily to them, they will become readers; and this is the primary idea behind teaching your child to read a book in 30 days. It is important to build your child’s confidence and you do this by getting them to read a book (and doing it quickly). Once your child has managed to read one book, not only will their reading ability go through the roof, but soon they will have confidence in their reading and will want to read more and more.
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