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.
Once you’ve seen science-based reading instruction delivered well, you’ll want it for your kids. For six years, Kristina Matuskiewicz, a kindergarten teacher at Edna C. Stevens Elementary School in Cromwell, CT, believed that, like all the teachers at her tidy suburban school, she was helping to make good readers. She read them stories, she identified words and described their meaning, she offered them a variety of good books and worked to shift them to independent reading. “Each teacher had their own approach to teaching reading,” says Matuskiewicz.
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.
Have your child practice decoding. Classically known as ‘sounding out’ words, decoding is when a child reads a word by making the sounds of each individual letter, rather than trying to read the whole word at once. Reading is broken up into two primary parts: decoding/reading a word, and comprehending its meaning. Don’t expect your child to recognize and comprehend words just yet; have them focus on decoding and sounding out word parts..
Have your child read aloud to you. You’ll be given a better idea of your child’s reading ability when they read out loud, and they’ll be forced to slow down their reading to correctly sound out words. Avoid stopping your child to correct them while reading though, as doing so can interrupt their train of thought and make comprehending what they’re reading more difficult.

My son's boys both learned to read by themselves between their third and fourth birthdays. Within a few months they were reading fluently. My five year old granddaughter will come up to her mother to announce she can spell a certain word, then spell it. Her three year old brother and their almost three year old cousin can identify upper and lower case letters and count objects up to twenty, which, I guess makes them "ready" for kindergarten. There is no pressure to learn to read, just the expectation that it will happen when the child is ready.
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.
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.

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.

North persevered. These days, kindergartners in Matuskiewicz’s class get a different kind of instruction than their older brothers and sisters did. During the first week of kindergarten, Matuskiewicz sits with each child and determines if he or she knows the letters and their corresponding letter sounds. The skill levels of the children are variable. So, class work in the autumn has to do with “sorting” — identifying letters and connecting them to sounds.

Many teachers do a little talk (or write a letter) to explain to parents the method(s) they're using to teach children to read. (If your child's teacher doesn't do this, ask them for some pointers.) The favoured method du jour is (some form of) Phonics – decoding words by sounding out all the different letter sounds they contain. Try to bear this in mind when listening to your child read at home: if they get stuck on the word “dog”, for example, it's probably more helpful to say, “Let's sound it out: d-o-g” than “It begins with d and sounds like frog”.
Marie wrote, of her son, now age 7: "He is an artist and spends hours drawing things, especially stories and inventions. So naturally he wished to make his pictures "talk" with captions, titles, instructions, and quotations. ... There was a lot of ‘MOM? How do you spell Superdog wants to go home?' I would spell out the sentence and five minutes later, ‘MOM? How do you spell Superdog sees his house?'" This boy learned to read, at least partly, by reading the sentences that he, himself, had written.
A child who's really reading does more than just sound out a word like "cat." He must also be able to know whether a "cat" is a person, place, or thing; to comprehend the grammar in each sentence (Does the cat wear the hat or does the hat wear the cat?); to dramatize and contextualize the story in his head (cats don't normally talk and wear hats, do they?); and to empathize with the story's characters and understand the ramifications of their actions (that mom is sure going to be mad when she finds the mess made by that silly cat).
I suggest you set aside an hour each night after dinner for reading. The TV is off as well as cell phones and computers. Your family gathers in a cozy room, and everybody reads something of their choice (a novel, magazines, comic books, non-fiction), but nothing work or school related. To make it more enjoyable, serve hot cocoa, popcorn, and dessert from time to time. During the last 10 minutes, have everyone share something about what they read. If this sounds impossible to do because your family is too busy on weekdays, do it just one night a week—perhaps, Friday or Saturday--when everyone isn't so frantic with after school activities and homework.

As you’ve probably noticed, there is no “magic formula” to teach your child how to read.  The points we’ve discussed in previous posts have highlighted simple, effective strategies that are easy to modify for your child.  After all, every child learns differently!  This series is not to be used as a “checklist” and think that once you’ve covered all the strategies your child will be proficiently reading.  Rather, this series provides valuable information to you so that you can guide your child while creating a print-rich, learning environment to foster his/her growth as a reader.  Don’t rush and don’t stress!  While it’s important to take advantage of the prime-learning time, it’s even more important to let your kid be a kid!

Ask questions about the stories. Similar to when you were reading stories to your child, every time your child reads ask them questions about what they’ve just read. At first it will be difficult for them to think critically about meanings of words and the buildup of character development and plot (or the semblance of those things in the most basic of stories), but over time they will develop the necessary skills to answer questions.


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.

This article is phenomenal!!!! Thank you for emphasizing the importance for creating a love for reading and not a ‘system’ for learning to read. I’m a 1st grade teacher and mother of 2 preschoolers. Even with all my background knowledge on teaching children to be successful readers, I still find myself stressing out when it comes to my own children by comparing them to others (mainly family members around the same age). I’ve always said there’s so much more to reading than just sounds/words on a page. I look forward to reading more on your blog.
Literacy expert Timothy Shanahan shares best practices for teaching reading and writing. Dr. Shanahan is an internationally recognized professor of urban education and reading researcher who has extensive experience with children in inner-city schools and children with special needs. All posts are reprinted with permission from Shanahan on Literacy.

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.


I know I am responding to an older post; however, I will go ahead since it may benefit someone else. Since it is now spring, take your little ones outside and practice colors, shapes, numbers, letters, writing, etc. using sidewalk chalk. It never fails to entertain and teach at the same time. Sounds like you’re doing a great job with your (now) 5 year old, just don’t be sucked in to pressuring her to handle more than she is ready to handle.
My daughter got her first book from the hospital at birth ;). I love that hospitals are even promoting reading at birth. Can I just say I hate hate hate sight words. My middle daughter is 9 and sight words were the death of her. Now that she is being taught all of the rules and exceptions through the Wilson program she is doing much better. I get that most kids learn to memorize sight words, but not all of them do. And I truly wish so much stock wasn’t put on memorization in reading. Especially since the amount of sight words or high frequency words they expect children to memorize seems like an awful lot of words that don’t follow the general rules of reading. They can be taught to break down every word. My oldest did fine with sight words though so I know my middle daughter is probably the minority here. However, I have also noticed that my oldest doesn’t have the skills to break down a word she doesn’t know the same way my middle daughter can.
You, their parent, know what your child’s interests are and if you include these words into their lesson, you will soon have an enthusiastic child who will not only look forward to their reading lesson, but soon they will give you words that they want to learn to read, for example my son was crazy about dinosaurs, Winnie the Pooh and aliens. The best fun we had was making sentences using these words, one of his favourites was, “My daddy is a green dinosaur.”
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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