Beatrice told a similar story about her youngest daughter, who learned to read before age 5. "She learned to read from her desire to express herself through the written word. Starting from the time she could hold a pencil, be it writing a poem, a song, designing an ad, she needed me to tell her the spelling: ‘How do you spell beaver, how do you spell suggest?'"

Nearly all of the stories from home unschoolers include examples of shared participation in reading. One of my favorites is that presented by Diane, who noted that her daughter, who learned to read at age 5, became interested in reading because of the family's regular Bible reading time. Before she could read she insisted on having her turn at Bible reading, "and she would just make up words as her turn!"

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.

A language is made up mostly of common words. These are words like and, as, at, the, etc. The 100 most common words appear in English literature (like books, newspapers, blogs, etc) more than 50% of the time. This means that, if your child can read these 100 words, then they are able to read half of everything that is written in English; and it doesn’t matter if it is a beginner children’s book, the Bible or a medical textbook.


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.
Many of the teaching techniques and games include variations for making the lesson more challenging for advanced students, easier for new or struggling students, and just different for a bit of variety. There are also plenty of opportunities, built into the lessons and games, to observe and assess the child’s retention of the sight words. We encourage you to use these opportunities to check up on the progress of your student and identify weaknesses before they become real problems.
You don't need to stick to the text (such as it is) when you're reading books with your baby (which is just as well or you'd both die of boredom). Feel free to go 'off piste' and warble on about the pictures you're looking at (“Look at that cat! Big, black cat! Just like Granny's cat. Big, furry, cuddly cat.”) At this stage, it's all about the sing-song sound of your voice and the connection between books and pictures and sounds and fun.
Why should it not be done? Unless it is stressing the child out or forcing him I do not see why it “SHOULDN’T” be done. That is a nice analogy but I don’t see how it is a valid one. Just because a child I advanced or allowed to be ahead of the game does not mean they are not being allowed to be a child. Maybe he is gifted maybe not perhaps he is interested in learning. Children love to learn so yes I agree Let him be a child.
Hi, my daughter is 3 years old (turning 4 in 2 months) she also knows the letter’s names and sounds, and some sight words, and she reads a lot of simple words, but with words that are not very familiar for her, she will only say the sounds of the letters of the word, but can’t actually say the word and sound all the letters together :-( like she would see the word “glass” and would say the sounds of each letter separately not being able to say the word.. Should I just tell her the words so she can try and remember for next time, or should I wait until she gets it by herself?
Once your child is about 2 or 3-years of age, begin asking questions before, during, and after reading the book. Show your child the cover of the book and ask him what he thinks the story is going to be about (predicting). While reading, ask him what he thinks is going to happen in the story or why he thinks a character made a particular choice (inferring). If a character is depicting a strong emotion, identify that emotion and ask your child if he has ever felt that way (connecting). At the end of the book, ask if his prediction(s) came true. Afterwards, ask him to tell you what he remembered happening in the book (summarizing).
Fast ForWord is a computer-based program that focuses on the link between spoken language and written words. The software aims to help kids master reading by improving things like memory, processing speed and attention. But the impact the program reports to have on these skills isn’t widely accepted. Nor is its impact on improving reading. Fast ForWord is used by clinicians and specialists.
I started this with both my sons in pre-k and quit each time because they were not ready. We finally made it through with my oldest who is now in 3rd grade and a great reader. My current Kindergartner and I have taken a break from it with plans to return. It is just moving too fast for him. He cannot make it through one lesson in the 20 minute time limit. We tried to break it into 2 20 minutes sessions, but he was still struggling. I do plan to return to it when I think he is ready. I think the book is a great start to phonics. The boys do love the pictures and funny stories.
This story is completely apocryphal as applied to learning to talk, which is why we understand it to be a joke. Children learn to talk whether or not they really have to talk in order to get their needs met; they are genetically programmed for it. But the story, somewhat modified, could apply quite reasonably to learning to read. Children seem to learn to read, on their own, when they see some good reason for it. Many of the stories sent to me illustrate this idea. Here are some examples:
Even if the child is learning to read on her own, you should continue to read to her. At this age, your child will benefit from books that display the rich diversity of the world. Books about children of other nationalities, colors, cultures, races, sizes, and families will expand his view of the world. At the same time, books that relate to places and objects from her everyday reality like dolls, beds, homes, cars, trucks, and fire engines are also enjoyed. Books that talk about people she knows such as a friend, a baby sister, or a grandmother will help her develop closeness, understanding, and empathy for others. Books that describe imaginary creatures and far-away places can also inspire her imagination.
"When I first began to teach kindergarten 26 years ago, we didn't even start the alphabet until Christmastime," says Carol Schrecengost, a teacher in Stow, OH. "But now I begin teaching letter sounds during the first month of school  -- in part because students are learning their letters earlier, but also because parents and administrators expect it."
Marie, an unschooling mom, wrote about her son, now age 7: "[He] found the incentive to become a better reader through acting at a local theater. He has always been passionate about putting together ‘shows,' but now he is old enough to have real acting experience. He sees that reading is an integral part of this activity that he loves and it has given him a strong reason to grow and develop as a reader. He recently had a part in A Midsummer Night's Dream and had to read and memorize Shakespeare. It took no instruction on the part of a ‘teacher' whatsoever."

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."
Why should it not be done? Unless it is stressing the child out or forcing him I do not see why it “SHOULDN’T” be done. That is a nice analogy but I don’t see how it is a valid one. Just because a child I advanced or allowed to be ahead of the game does not mean they are not being allowed to be a child. Maybe he is gifted maybe not perhaps he is interested in learning. Children love to learn so yes I agree Let him be a child.

Thanks for your post…can I ask you for some advice??? My 5 year old knows all the parts of reading, but isn’t reading on her own yet. What I mean is she knows all her letter names and sounds, knows how to sound out words, knows several dozen sight words, knows to read a book from front to back, top to bottom, left to right, etc. But something isn’t clicking. If I had to guess its like she thinks she should have every word memorized and she should just know all the words by sight, and if she doesn’t, then in her mind, she can’t read it. I’m at a loss to help her over this seemingly final hurdle. Sorry to bother you with my personal situation, but your post on reading caught me on a day that I’ve really been stressing over this. Any advice is much appreciated.


Education has always been extremely important to me. When I was a child I used to always say I wanted to be a teacher when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, when I finally "grew up" I changed my mind and decided on the computer field instead. Perhaps some day I'll be a college professor and finally have the opportunity to fulfill my dreams of teaching. For now, I'll settle as being my children's first teacher.
In a perfect world, parenting would come down to one sentence: Show only love, be only love. But in the world we all cope with, children grow up to face much non-loving behavior, primarily outside the home but sometimes within it as well. Rather than worry about whether you embody enough love to qualify as a spiritual teacher, look upon spirituality as a skill in living, since that is what it is. I believe in imparting these skills as early as possible by whatever means a child can understand.

Most children learn to read by 6 or 7 years of age. Some children learn at 4 or 5 years of age. Even if a child has a head start, she may not stay ahead once school starts. The other students most likely will catch up during the second or third grade. Pushing your child to read before she is ready can get in the way of your child's interest in learning. Children who really enjoy learning are more likely to do well in school. This love of learning cannot be forced.
In previous essays I have referred to the great Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, whose main idea was that children develop new skills first socially, through joint participation with more skilled others, and then later begin to use the new skills privately, for their own purposes. That general principle certainly seems to hold in the case of reading.
The general assumption in our culture is that children must be taught to read. Vast amounts of research go into trying to figure out the scientifically best way to do this. In the education stacks of any major university library you can find rows and rows of books and many journals devoted solely to the topic of how to teach reading. In education circles heated debates--dubbed "the reading wars"--have raged for decades between those who believe that most emphasis should be placed on teaching phonics and those who take what is called a "whole language" approach to reading instruction. Many controlled experiments have been conducted comparing one instruction method to another, with kindergartners and first graders as the guinea pigs. The phonics people say that their method has "won" in those experiments, and the whole language people say that the experiments were rigged.
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.
Talking to my daughter telling her what we were doing. "I'm putting your pink dress on you. Here it goes over your head. Now, let's put on your socks. Here's your left foot. On goes the white sock." You'd be surprised how much kids appreciate it when you talk to them about their daily activities. Now, my daughter will often ask me, "What are we doing today, mommy?" and I tell her our plans for the day.
Hi TripleAMom! I am a big advocate of preschool reading and I have looked at Starfall myself. However, personally I found that it didn’t work that well as most kids I deal with are visual learners. For this reason I developed my own system “Teach Your Child To Read & Reading with Phonics” and have had some incredible results, both with my own child and with many others. Many kids are visual learners, including children with disabilities such as dyslexia and autism, and phonics reading doesn’t work that well for them.
Another great free tool my mom used to teach me to write is by drawing shapes on the sidewalk with paint brushes soaked in water. My mom recently wrote a book explaining how she taught me to read at 3 and my sister at 2. Its really brilliant and the ebook is only $5. Its on amazon and called, A Thrifty Parents Guide To Teaching Your Child To Read Write And Count. In April I graduate with my doctorate and even in my doctoral program my friends commented on how quickly I read and assimilate information. I wish every child’s parent taught them with this method.

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.
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.

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!
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.
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.
Asking questions while reading to your child is not only great for encouraging your child to interact with the book, but it is also extremely effective in developing his ability to comprehend what he is reading. You see, if our main objective in “reading” is getting our child to “sound out” words, we have missed the boat entirely. Even children who can decode words and “read” with great fluency still might not be able to comprehend what they are reading. If a child can’t comprehend what he is reading, there really is no point to reading at all!
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