In other words, reading Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat is an incredibly complex task that requires significant understanding beyond just being able to sound out words. It's based as much on a knowledge of how the world works as it is on how language works. So even though a toddler or a preschooler may not be ready to translate letters into phonemes into words, she is able to start gaining the contextual grounding that will allow her to give those words meaning. "From birth forward, children are becoming readers and writers," says Cox. "Their listening, drawing, early wordplay, pretend reading, storytelling, and scribbling all set the stage for reading excellence and a love of books and writing later on."

When I was teaching my kids to read, I tried to find books with only short words, thinking that they would make it easier to learn reading. But I couldn’t find any such books. Could I write one? What about using words only 3-letters long? Yes. Then what about 2-letter words? That would be a challenge, but I listed the 2-letter words and made a story. I published it as a free ebook so that anyone may access it. I hope this book, along with material on this websites and from other sources, may help your child or student learn to read. Here it is: http://www.wegotobo.com


Idzie, a 19-year-old unschooled but beautifully educated blogger, sent me a link to an essay, on her blog, about her own memories of learning to read. She wrote, in part: "When I was something like age 8 or 9, my mother was reading the first Harry Potter book aloud to my sister and me. But, well, she had things to do other than read, and if she read too long, her voice would get hoarse. So, being quite frustrated at how slow a process this was, and really wanting to know what happened next, I picked it up and began to read."

Project Read is used in a classroom or group. The program emphasizes instruction by the teacher. Lessons move from letter-sounds to words, sentences and stories. Project Read has three strands: listening, understanding and writing. All three strands are taught at all grade levels, though the emphasis differs by grade. The program is sometimes used in general education classrooms where many students are struggling. In schools where most kids are on track, the program is often used by special education teachers or reading specialists to give extra support.

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.
Vincent Lopez, a staff member at the Diablo Valley School, a Sudbury model school, sent me this sweet example of age-mixed learning: "In the art room they are making signs to imitate a TV show that had just started. It is in my opinion, a dumb, low-ethics, media-driven, free for all dating show; I've let this be known before. In their own way they are processing the future to come. ... but I digress. The jewel of this snippet is that the 5-year-old is attempting to read the sign with the help of his multi-aged peers. ...Students learn because they want to get the jokes, be more advanced like the peers around them."
Are you concerned that your child might have a learning disability? As with almost any disability, early intervention can prevent problems in the future. In the preschool years, speech delays are much more noticeable than the learning disabilities that may affect a child’s efforts to read. Ask your pediatrician for advice if you are concerned that your child is speech delayed.
Vincent Lopez, a staff member at the Diablo Valley School, a Sudbury model school, sent me this sweet example of age-mixed learning: "In the art room they are making signs to imitate a TV show that had just started. It is in my opinion, a dumb, low-ethics, media-driven, free for all dating show; I've let this be known before. In their own way they are processing the future to come. ... but I digress. The jewel of this snippet is that the 5-year-old is attempting to read the sign with the help of his multi-aged peers. ...Students learn because they want to get the jokes, be more advanced like the peers around them."
Every child learns at his or her own pace, so always remember the single most important thing you can do is to make it enjoyable. By reading regularly, mixing things up with the activities you choose, and letting your child pick out their own books occasionally, you'll instil an early love of reading and give them the best chance at reading success in no time.
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.
On one point I disagree with you, and that is your implication that once a child can read on hir own, then henceforth it is clear sailing on the sea of learning all that the public and school libraries hold in their collections. Actually, learning how to read in the beginner sense is just a step on the way to learning how to read in the scholar sense. One guide for that is HOW TO READ A BOOK by Mortimer Adler. Doubtless you can find it at your public library, and Google finds free pdf copies online as well as bound copies for sale in both the original and revised editions and articles about the book, plus an online video of a TV series Adler did on the book long ago.

You don’t need a Ph.D. to raise a happy, healthy, smart child. Parents have been doing it for thousands of years. Mothers and fathers successfully teach their kids to eat with a spoon, use a potty, keep their fingers out of their noses, and say “please.” These things can be taught pleasantly, or they can be made into a painful chore. Being unpleasant (e.g. yelling, punishing, pressuring) doesn’t work, and it can be frustrating for everyone. This notion applies to teaching literacy, too. If you show your 18-month-old a book and she shows no interest, then put it away and come back to it later. If your child tries to write her name and ends up with a backwards “D,” no problem. No pressure. No hassle. You should enjoy the journey, and so should your child.

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.

My little girl and her brother are now just turned 8 and 6.5. Both are avid readers, reading well above grade level. The 6.5 year-old began reading when he was 5, by sitting down and reading me all of Green Eggs and Ham (not memorized), and is starting to delve into chapter books. My 8 year-old is in the midst of Anne of Green Gables, and my 3.5 year-old is asking me to spell random words at random moments.
I have 6 children. The first one learned to read at age 9; within 3 months, he was reading Harry Potter. I had tried to "teach" him a year earlier; but he just wasn't ready and was becoming frustrated. When I saw him at age 9 sitting with a book and straining to figure it out himself, I knew he was ready and tutored him in basic phonics for a few weeks, 15 minutes a day. That's all it took, because he was ready.

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.
It seems gimmicky, but I highly recommend this book! I have two very good readers after having worked through this book. This was recommended to me by several homeschooling moms that I know, all of which have good readers. It must be understood, though, that this is not a grammar book. This is simply teaching a child to read the words in front of him. It uses mainly phonics, but also incorporates memorization of “funny words”.
She can do a lot of word building BUT, i think she feels that because it seems difficult to her then she doesn’t particularly enjoy reading…I have to work really hard with her to get her to focus and to actually pick up a book, otherwise I don’t think she would bother..This worries me greatlybecause as we all know if reading is not something you enjoy then life will be more difficult for her than if she enjoyed it.
Kid's can learn of the above mentioned strategies simultaneously. When we teach kids to recognize words by their shape, we teach them site words. Some whole words are considered "sight words"--words that you don't usually use letter sounds to figure out. The word 'the' is a great example of a site word. The word 'the' starts with the /th/ sound. Beginning readers usually don't have any understanding of how the 'th' spelling makes a sound like /th/. As it turns out, kids can recognize the word 'the' even if they don't have a grasp of the letter sound in it.
Incorporate writing in with the reading. Reading is a necessary precursor to writing, but as your child develops reading skills have them practice their writing in conjunction. Children learn to read faster and easier if they learn to write at the same time. The motor memory of the letters, listening to their sounds and seeing them in writing will reinforce new learning. So, teach your child to write letters and words.
Hi! My son is 17 years old and he does not enjoy reading at all. I have realised that he can read but cannot comprehend to what he is reading and so is bored . Please help or give me some suggestions which will help me to motivate him to read and comprehend what he is reading. I know i have missed those formative years of his childhood. But i believe nothing is impossible.
I love this post! As a former first grade teacher, I am thrilled to see that the information you shared comes from experience. ;o) I feel exactly the same way you do on all points. One thing I realized when teaching my first graders is that parents would often push their children to read more challenging books, but never allowed for their child’s comprehension to grow with their reading skills. I also think that a huge developmental challenge for these little guys is confidence. My little 6 year olds struggled with confidence and so it was always hard to explain to the parents that they might be reading what seems to be “easy” books, but they can’t grow as a reader until they have the confidence to take chances and move forward. Great post! Thanks for sharing ;o) Consider it Pinned ;o) lol
Once your child starts school, they will be taught not only the basic letter sounds (each one usually with its own rather snigger-worthy accompanying action) but also the more complicated ones, such as “sh” and “ch” and “ai” and “oi”. They'll bring (sometimes crashingly boring) reading books home, along with, at some point, a set of “key words” to learn by heart.
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.
As children decode words with more frequency, they will become more proficient at automatically identifying that word.  Sometimes this task is tedious, though, so it’s important to find creative ways to make it fun.  When I taught first grade, I used to buy little finger puppets that my students could use to point to the letters as they were decoding.  This was a huge hit and made this process so much fun!

Predictable books can be bought through the internet and cost a dollar each.  Understand that predictable books have levels.  If your child is just starting out, start with beginning level books.  As kids get better at reading move to more complex books.  Look through the titles with you child and choose themes that appeal to them.  Put the books in a basket with your child's name on it, so that your child can read their book when they want.


Such step-like progressions in overt reading ability may occur at least partly because earlier, more covert stages of learning are not noticed by observers and may not even be noticed by the learners. Karen attributes the rapid onset of reading that she observed in her son to a sudden gain in confidence. She wrote: "Over this past summer, son A [now age 7] went from hiding his ability [to read at all] to reading chapter books. In a summer! Now, six months later, he feels confident enough in his reading ability that I regularly get up in the morning to find him reading aloud to his sister. He even offers to read to his father and me. This was unheard of a year ago when he hid his ability level from us in his embarrassment and lack of confidence. I'm so glad we didn't push him!"
Sight words, also known as high-frequency words, are the most common words in our written language are are often difficult to decode phonetically because they don’t follow the rules of phonics.  Because of this, they must be memorized.  As I’ve shared with you before, I am not an advocate of rote memorization for optimal learning because I feel it only utilizes the lowest level of cognitive processes.  However, sight words must be memorized in order for your child to become a fluent reader.  There are a few popular lists of sight words that individual researchers have found beneficial, including the Dolche List and the Fry List.  Don’t get overwhelmed when looking at this list…just start working on a few sight words at a time when you feel your child is ready.
“Phonemes” are the smallest sounds in the English language (go here for a complete list of phonemes).  These sounds are made up of consonants, short vowels, long vowels, and digraphs.  “Phonemic Awareness” consists of learning those sounds and how to manipulate them within a word.  Digraphs are unique sounds comprised of individual letters like /th/, /sh/, /ch/, etc.
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.
What a great post! May I ask for some advice? I am homeschooling my 7 year old daughter. Our curriculum has her learning about 15-20 new vocabulary words a day. She has a bit if trouble. She can read a sepecific word, and then have to read it in a sentence on the next page and completely blanks. What do I do? How do I handle this? She also tends to see a letter and assume what word it is (ex. Haul- she read as “hug”). How do I help her get through this? I have not been able to find any resources on reading for a 1st grader. Also what level she should be at, if that even matters right now. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
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