I'm thrilled to find your blog Peter. I wish I'd found it before submitting the manuscript for my recent book, Free Range Learning. Your articles would have made my research much easier! As I read back through some of your recent posts I see we're on the same page regarding natural, interest-led learning and paying attention to what has benefited humankind over the long run.
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Start to make word-sound associations. Before you even start getting into the alphabet and sound specifics, help your child recognize that the lines on the page are directly correlated to the words you are speaking. As you read aloud to them, point to each word on the page at the same time you say it. This will help your child grasp the pattern of words/lines on the page relating to the words you speak in terms of length and sound.
my 3 1/2 year old hyper active daughter knows her alphabet and I am trying to teach her to real the two letter words “in, if, is, it , of , on “. However she does not seem to be able to differentiate between “if” and “it” or “of”. however I am not sure if she can’t differentiate or she is not interested. How to teach a child who CANNOT sit quietly.

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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.
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.
If you have been raising your child in a literate environment and fostering a love of reading from an early age, by the age of three, you could start teaching your three-year-old preschooler to read. What's more, your child will be able to do so successfully. If you are teaching your child to read through a method based on phonics, she should be able to learn to spell and write at the same time. This is often a highly rewarding period for parents.
Holli wrote that when her son was "about 3 1/2" she began trying to teach him reading. "I think the Bob books are stupidly repetitive and inane, but I found ones that were at least moderately engaging and had him start practicing them. ... He really was not ready yet, I think, for actual reading, and whether he was or not, he resented being made to do something that wasn't his idea, so he resisted. ... Pretty quickly I realized that in spite of the progress he was making in reading skill, I was doing more harm than good to my son, because I was making him hate reading. I immediately ceased formal instruction in reading, and just went back to reading to him whenever he wanted me to." Holli went on to note that, roughly two years later, her son "entirely surreptitiously" began to look at books on his own and eventually to read, apparently hiding his interest and practice so as not to feel pressured.
“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.
"There was also a time when, as an infant, I knew no Latin; but this I acquired without any fear or tormenting, but merely by being alert to the blandishments of my nurses, the jests of those who smiled on me, and the sportiveness of those who toyed with me. I learned all this, indeed, without being urged by any pressure of punishment, for my own heart urged me to bring forth its own fashioning, which I could not do except by learning words: not from those who taught me but those who talked to me, into whose ears I could pour forth whatever I could fashion. From this it is sufficiently clear that a free curiosity is more effective in learning than a discipline based on fear."
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.
Thanks so much for posting this! Our son just turned 2 and LOVES reading books. He would have us read to him for hours…in fact when his grandma comes over I think she really does read to him for multiple hours through the day. We read board books about trucks and tractors and animals and also read a lot of Dr. Seuss and Bible stories and Curious George. For many months now I have set aside time for him to color with crayons and I would write down the alphabet or short words and go over the letters. We sing the ABC’s a lot and have worked on his saying vowels. He began to recognize the letter “A” in many places at the beginning of the year. Last week we were at the doctors office and there was an alphabet rug and he began naming them through “F”. And he just got an etch a sketch for his birthday, so as I wrote down the first few letters of the alphabet or wrote down his name he began naming them! I was amazed! Not that he does it perfectly but I really didn’t know the capabilities of a 2 year old. I’m really wanting to find more fun ways to encourage him but not push him too hard in it. I look forward to putting your suggestions into practice as he continues to learn!
On your mark. Get set. Do not go! This is not a race. Calm down. Take off your running shoes. One of our main goals should be to develop a solid and strong foundation. Like all things built to last, learning to read is going to take some time. Even if you think your child may actually be behind, they will never catch up without a solid foundation. We need to be more concerned with improvement than achievement.

Terrific post! My 4 year old is starting to ask me what random words start with and I have known for a while it was time to move forward with “reading” but didn’t have a clue how to proceed. Alphabet games and crafts will be great to continue learning letter sounds. Also, thank you for using wonderful pics of completely normal home crafts (“S” and the bingo game), and not dolled up pinterest ones. It feels accessible to everyone.

By the time your child is four, she will have an extensive vocabulary and be able to speak in sentences of about 5 – 8 words. She will have become a communicative being! If you have begun teaching her to read, she will be able to read independently from simple phonetic readers. She will be accustomed to visiting the library and know where the children's section is located. She may have a small collection of her own favourite books at home. By the time your child joins junior or senior kindergarten, she may have read over a hundred small books. She may also have written, illustrated, and decorated her own little books.
The playing field between early readers and other children usually evens out by the second or the third grade. That doesn't mean that reading shouldn't be taught with some rigor in the first grade. But drilling 3- and 4-year-olds on phonics and expecting 5-year-olds to be fully literate isn't the best approach. "It may squelch their natural enthusiasm for books," says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University, in California. "When kids are young, it's more important that they imagine themselves as the pirates, runaways, and explorers in stories than they read every word. You want them to develop a love for reading before they try to master the mechanics."
By listing and organizing the main points made by each story, I did, however, extract what seem to me to be seven principles that may cast some general understanding on the process of learning to read without schooling. I have chosen to organize the remainder of this essay around these principles and to exemplify each with quotations from stories that were sent to me. Some of the people who sent stories asked that I use only their first names and not their children's names, so I will use that convention throughout.
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.

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.
Hi Mama Kim. I’m sorry to hear that things are not going so well. Firstly let me assure you that he is NOT too young to learn to read; as a matter of fact he is the perfect age for you to start. Secondly, the flash cards really do work; they only get boring if you are trying to “hammer” the words into your sons head. No child has that much concentration that’s why lessons are really, really short (I’m talking 5 seconds at a time here!). If you do only 5 words at a time several times a day you should find that he is progressing without it getting boring for him or for you. If you want more details on how to do this you will find everything you need in the “Teach Your Child To Read & Reading with Phonics” reading method. I hope this helps and I'm sure your son will be reading in no time at all! :)
She might be too young to understand what's being read to her, but she makes profound connections that will last a lifetime: reading is love, reading is security, and reading feels good. To teach a child how to read, parents should remember these 3 simple mantras: 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.
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 recently read an article by two cognitive scientists claiming that the next development in reading instruction is going to be individualized instruction.[1] According to the authors, modern brain imaging methods will be used to figure out the unique learning style of each child, and digital text-delivery programs will be used to teach reading to each child according to his or her unique needs and way of learning. The authors and their colleagues are, indeed, working on developing such systems. To me, this seems silly. The unique needs of each child, as they affect learning to read, are not just functions of differences in brain hardware, but vary from day to day and moment to moment based on the child's specific experiences, wishes, and whims, which the child himself or herself controls. I'll begin to believe these researchers' claims when I see evidence that brain imaging can be used to predict, in advance, the contents of daydreams.
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.
While it's best (and easiest) to encourage a love of books in children when they're little, it's never too late, and it's always worth the effort. Of course, you'll need to use different strategies, but the goal is the same: to build a connection between feelings of well-being, security, and happiness and reading. Unfortunately, as kids get older, they start to associate reading with negative things (studying for a test, doing homework) and negative feelings (anxiety, stress). What you want to do is turn that around, so reading is seen as something relaxing and pleasurable.
@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.
Before our boys were born, we painted and hung large wooden letters spelling their name above the cribs as a decorative accent in their rooms.  I would have never guessed that those wooden letters would have such a learning incentive for Big Brother!  Around age 2.5, he began asking what letters were above his name.  That’s honestly how he learned to spell his name…and he can spell his brother’s name too because he has taken an interest in his letters as well.  In technical terms, this is called “environmental print” and includes all of the print we are surrounded by–fast food signs, labels, traffic signs, clothing, magazines, etc.
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