Scripted lessons give consistent results. Children learn to hear and speak individual sounds of words which is actually vitally important to reading and spelling. They also learn to blend correctly and hear the sounds and then say them “fast” to pronounce the word sounded out right from the beginning. They learn to rhyme. I always play the sounding out “game” in the car while we are in the early part of the book. It really helps reinforce what they are learning and passes the time profitably.
Thank you, sep332. The quotes in your post were exactly the ones where my jaw dropped. A child's learning style doesn't change by how he's feeling each day. He may never be a good auditory learner, for example. And a child learning to read "when they're ready" at age 14? How is this not considered negligence? You don't get those critical periods of development back to "when they're ready for it." Read the thousands and thousands of other sound research studies compared to this one guy. Of course all the comments on here are extremely positive, because they're from unschoolers or lax homeschoolers whose "teaching" methods have just been validated. Utter nonsense.
Teach your child the alphabet. When your child has developed word awareness, begin breaking down words into individual letters. Although the alphabet song is the most classic means of teaching the alphabet, try getting creative. Explain each of the letters with their name, but don’t worry about trying to incorporate the sounds the letters make yet.

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."
My daughter is three and a half. I have decided to home school her, because that’s what i think is best for her, and because she is already interested in learning. She picked up the alphabet almost instantly,(Alphabet song, if I remember right.) and she has already learned the sounds of every letter. (Except q and x, she knows what they are just has trouble pronouncing them.) She is improving significantly since I started (three days ago)) on sounding out 3-4 letter words. My question would have to be, where do I guide her next? I don’t want to skip something to fast and her not completely master it, or go over something so repeatedly she gets tired of it. Like you said, learning should be made fun whenever possible, which is the approach I try to use. What is your opinion?
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!

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.
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!

Reading Recovery is a short-term tutoring program for struggling first graders. It aims to develop reading and writing by tailoring lessons to each student. Tutors are trained in the program. They teach students in daily pullout sessions over 12–20 weeks. Reading Recovery is designed for short-term use. It’s an add-on to whatever program is being used in the general classroom. Kids with dyslexia are often included in the program at first. But research has questioned how effective it is for these students.
Some of the kids with a keen sense of phonemic awareness are already moving on to what is called in teacher-speak “decodable text” — little books with single lines of text made up of words that can be sounded out with ease. After about thirty minutes, all the children stop their work and, using a broad hand motion for each sound, sing what is known as “the vowel song” with great gusto. When the chorus of cheerful voices begins to die away, North and Matuskiewicz look pleased. “The rap against phonics is that there is too much drilling,” says North. “But look at this classroom. No one is suffering here.”
I have used this for my three oldest kids. Each child is different. My oldest did great with it and was reading by lesson 50. We breezed through it. My 2nd we started it about three times and then I just gave up using it with her. I think it helped her a little bit get how to sound out words but she pretty much taught herself. My third, we are using it now. This is about the 3rd time we stated it but she loves it now. I stated when she was 4 like my other 2 but she got bored and didn’tlike it. now she is 5 and she loves doing it. She is very excited to be reading stories. Sometimes though if it gets long or if she is getting a little bored or has worked really hard we split the lesson in two and do the story reading the next day. That makes the lessons not too long. The directions say that it should only take 20 min but sometimes it takes uslonger so splitting it is good for us.
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).

Look for books with bright, funny illustrations and clear, uncomplicated text. Stories with strong rhymes are especially good: they help your child absorb the rhythm and structure of sentences and sharpen up the listening skills she'll soon need to pick up on different initial letter sounds. Rhymes also encourage anticipation, a key pre-reading skill; try stopping before you finish the rhyme to see if they can fill it in for you (“Rain, rain, go away. Come again another…?”).


Thank you for this informative and encouraging post. As my husband and I are both avid readers, we naturally did all of these steps with our oldest child and he learned to read before he was 4 years old. We didn’t do videos or flash cards, just a natural progression and I agree it is a wonderful approach. He just finished kindergarten and reads 4th grade level books with great comprehension. It is such a joy to see him love reading, but I have to keep reminding him to put his books down while walking in parking lots!!
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Sue, thanks for your comment. I'd like to do a post soon on children's teaching math to themselves, but so far I don't have a lot of material on it. Several readers have sent stories with some relevance to that topic, but I'd like to get more. -- One of the most common questions I get about Sudbury Valley is, "Why would anyone learn math if they don't have to?" -- That says something about the attitude toward math that our school system instills.
Once your child is around 5 and can recognize the difference between real and make-believe, I would suggest starting to help your child understand various genres of books during your reading time together.  This might seem complicated, but it’s really not.  There are around 5 different genres of children’s books that I would encourage you to point out to your little one.  Of course you can use the term “type” rather than “genre” if that is easier to remember.
There are a plethora of ways to incorporate multiple domains of development in regards to letter recognition and early-reading skills.  Alphabet crafts allow your child to learn the shape of a letter along with an association of the sound it makes all the while utilizing fine motor skills in the process of cutting, gluing, and creating!   Playing games that involve gross motor skills (like tossing beanbags on the appropriate letter) are also wonderful ways to include movement.  Of course, every child loves songs and rhymes!  Take an inventory of your child’s strengths and areas of interest and target activities to fit them!
Yes! Parents are such powerful teachers. They can teach things to their children so quickly working one-on-one. Classroom teachers have so many students with a wide-range of abilities and interests and so often must "dumb down" the curriculum to reach everyone. Parents can let their children soar -- choosing books that interest them and challenging them with both fiction and non-fiction. Voted up.
My other children have all learned between ages 5 and a 1/2 and 7. It's never been a painful process. When they get frustrated or tired, I back off. It's not my accomplishment, it's theirs. The emphasis the schools place on early reading can easily discourage kids who aren't ready. By the time they would have naturally picked up the skill, they already hate it. They've come to regard it as a slog and a bore and to regard themselves as stupid/slow. It's a shame we can't just let the kids be.
My daughter is three and a half. I have decided to home school her, because that’s what i think is best for her, and because she is already interested in learning. She picked up the alphabet almost instantly,(Alphabet song, if I remember right.) and she has already learned the sounds of every letter. (Except q and x, she knows what they are just has trouble pronouncing them.) She is improving significantly since I started (three days ago)) on sounding out 3-4 letter words. My question would have to be, where do I guide her next? I don’t want to skip something to fast and her not completely master it, or go over something so repeatedly she gets tired of it. Like you said, learning should be made fun whenever possible, which is the approach I try to use. What is your opinion?
Is it any surprise that people who have been told, in a million different ways by most adults that they interact with "oh, of course this is so terribly boring and awful that we will have to force you to do it, or you would never do it" actually come to believe those lies, and build up an active fear and resistance to what is in fact (in English) a *very* simple 26 letter code? There is no reason at all why reading should take more than a week, but somehow schools turn it into a terrible 7-12 year production.

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.
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.

Read, Write and Type! Learning System is a software program to teach beginning reading skills, emphasizing writing. The program was developed for 6- to 9-year-olds who are beginning to read, and for struggling students. The main goal is to help students become aware of the 40 English phonemes, or word sounds, and to associate each with a finger stroke on the keyboard. Read, Write and Type! is often used as a supplement to other reading programs.


Be sure to keep an eye on the progress of each child. As soon as you notice one of the children is struggling, try to find some extra time to spend with that child. Talk to the child’s parents, and explain exactly what the child is struggling with. For example, if the child is having a hard time differentiating between a “d” sound and a “t” sound, spend some extra time practicing different words that make these sounds. Ask the parents if they can get involved and practice with the child as well.
As your child begins elementary school, she will begin her formal reading education. There are many ways to teach children to read. One way emphasizes word recognition and teaches children to understand a whole word's meaning by how it is used. Learning which sounds the letters represent—phonics—is another way children learn to read. Phonics is used to help "decode" or sound out words. Focusing on the connections between the spoken and written word is another technique. Most teachers use a combination of methods to teach children how to read.
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.”

My son, who is a staff member at Sudbury Valley, tells me that that study is now out of date. His impression is that most Sudbury Valley students today are learning to read earlier, and with even less conscious effort than before, because they are immersed in a culture in which people are communicating regularly with the written word--in computer games, email, Facebook, cell-phone texting, and the like. The written word is not essentially different to them than the spoken word, so the biological machinery that all humans have for picking up spoken language is more or less automatically employed in their learning to read and write (or type). I'd love to study this in some way, but so far haven't figured out how to do it without being intrusive.
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.
Because your child will also receive one-on-one tutoring from you they will also learn better and faster. When a child learns to read in a school classroom, they will be sharing their reading teacher with about 20 other children. This means that in a 30-minute lesson, your child will be getting one-on-one attention from that teacher for about one minute. This is mainly why it takes so long for a child to learn to read in school.
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.
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You can’t sound out words or write them without knowing the letter sounds. Most kindergartens teach the letters, and parents can teach them, too. I just checked a toy store website and found 282 products based on letter names and another 88 on letter sounds, including ABC books, charts, cards, blocks, magnet letters, floor mats, puzzles, lampshades, bed sheets, and programs for tablets and computers. You don’t need all of that (a pencil and paper are sufficient), but there is lots of support out there for parents to help kids learn these skills. Keep the lessons brief and fun, no more than 5–10 minutes for young’uns. Understanding the different developmental stages of reading and writing skills will help to guide your lessons and expectations.
I know everyone says this, but it really is a good idea — at least with preschoolers. One of my colleagues refers to this advice as the “chicken soup” of reading education. We prescribe it for everything. (Does it help? It couldn’t hurt.) If a parent or caregiver can’t read or can’t read English, there are alternatives, such as using audiobooks; but for those who can, reading a book or story to a child is a great, easy way to advance literacy skills. Research shows benefits for kids as young as 9-months-old, and it could be effective even earlier than that. Reading to kids exposes them to richer vocabulary than they usually hear from the adults who speak to them, and can have positive impacts on their language, intelligence, and later literacy achievement. What should you read to them? There are so many wonderful children’s books. Visit your local library, and you can get an armful of adventure. You can find recommendations from kids at the Children’s Book Council website or at the International Literacy Association Children's Choices site, as well as free books online at other websites like Search Lit or Unite for Literacy.

Get access to a library. This can be done in two ways: create your own mini-library at home by collecting dozens of books in your child’s reading level, or make weekly trips to the local public library together to check out books. Having a variety of books on hand (especially with an older child) will add interest for reading, and help to incorporate more vocabulary into their knowledge base.
Hi! I have a 5 and 4 month old daughter who is really interested in learning to read. She won’t start kindergarten until the fall as we are in CA. I love these steps and they help A LOT. I’m wondering if anyone can chime in with how much to put into this now and over the summer before she starts kinder. She seems ready. Would I look into a program like Pathways to Reading? Or just keep it simple and focus on basics? What about ABC mouse? She knows all her letters and most of the sounds (though she sometimes forgets) and seems to enjoy sounding out words together, but maybe only 2 or 3 before she gets bored. I’m in no rush, but she seems ready.
You can offer them a prize for reading a chapter, read to them before bed until they want a taste of an independent read, and tell them how great reading is. If it's an age thing (ie. your child is eight months old and henceforth, can't even speak full sentences), give them time to adapt to it. Encourage it! Children find role models in parents, teachers, elders, and basically everyone. If you can't spark an interest, appoint someone else to encourage it.
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 can offer them a prize for reading a chapter, read to them before bed until they want a taste of an independent read, and tell them how great reading is. If it's an age thing (ie. your child is eight months old and henceforth, can't even speak full sentences), give them time to adapt to it. Encourage it! Children find role models in parents, teachers, elders, and basically everyone. If you can't spark an interest, appoint someone else to encourage it.
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.
Hi Mama Kim! You will be amazed at how wonderful and smart our children actually are. You think your son can read from memory but if you consider it, so do we. I bet if you showed him the words he already knows in a different book he would be able to read them and THAT is what reading is all about. I am delighted that my hub has been useful and I would love to hear how you progress with your son. If you need any more information I have some useful articles on my website: www.yourchildcanreadin30days.com. Thank you so much for stopping by, for your wonderful comment and for you support. I really appreciate it. :)
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.
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!
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