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.
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."

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.
I’ve read to her since she was a newborn and she loves books. She likes me to read the same books to her over and over. I ask her questions about the story, she looks at the pictures and, without my provocation, she loves to study the pictures and talk at length about the story. I realize now, thanks to your suggestions, that while she is not sounding out and decoding, she is comprehending the actual story, which is more meaningful and productive.
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! :)
We live in New Zealand & have 5 children, all home schooled right from the start. The oldest, our daughter, is now 14, & none of us can remember exactly when she went from 'learning to read' to reading. I do know that she used to make us laugh as she recognised all the big signs around the city: McDonalds, BP Petrol, etc when she was very little. Our next child, Mr 11, had dyspraxia when he was little, & has gone in the last 18 months from struggling patiently, to reading independently - because he wanted to. The other 3 are at the early stages & all are learning to read differently. Mr 9 used to just memorize, but now reads 'Green Eggs & Ham' to his 5 yo sister for fun. Mr 7 couldn't care less: he does only what he really wants to do. I'm happy that he likes to choose his own library books & have us read to him.

I really take a huge advantage of it, while I can. thanks guys, I really love to teach, well I’m not a former at all, but in my native language (Spanish) I do it. I encourage my little child to learn things about life, she is 2 years old, and she knows almost how to speak Spanish very well, I play the piano for her, I read books about kids stuff to her, and so she will become a lover of knowledge just as her father does.
Teach your child to read using explicit phonics. Traditionally, children are taught to recognize a word based on its size, the first and last letters, and the general sound. This method of teaching is known as implicit phonics - working from the largest piece down. However, studies have shown that readable vocabulary dramatically increases (from 900 words to 30,000 words by the third grade) when taught in the opposite fashion: breaking each word into the smallest parts, and building them up into a full word - explicit phonics. Help your child to begin reading by having them sound-out each individual letter without looking at the overall word first.
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.

If you, for example, showed your child 100 objects, 10 at a time (like a duster, a cup, a pencil, a shoe, etc) and asked them to memorise these items, you can easily get them to recall and identify all 100 of these items in a few weeks. This is the exact process that you will use to teach your child the 100 most common words giving them access to half of everything written.
One great way to introduce kids to literacy is to take their dictation. Have them recount an experience or make up a story. We’re not talking “Moby Dick” here. A typical first story may be something like, “I like fish. I like my sister. I like grandpa.” Write it as it is being told, and then read it aloud. Point at the words when you read them, or point at them when your child is trying to read the story. Over time, with lots of rereading, don’t be surprised if your child starts to recognize words such as “I” or “like.” (As children learn some of the words, you can write them on cards and keep them in a “word bank” for your child, using them to review later.)
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.
At this age, your child may change roles from being the listener to being the speaker. Now it is your turn to listen attentively as the child tells a story, asks questions, describes a problem, expresses an emotion or requests something. The child may turn the tables and tell you the story from a favourite book, or play the part of one of the characters in the book. This game heightens the child's sense of enjoyment while reading and should be encouraged.
Have your child describe the story to you. After every reading session, have your child describe what the story was about to you. Try to get them to be detailed, but don’t expect an elaborate response. An easy and fun way to help encourage this is to use puppets who represent characters in the story, so your child can describe it to you through them.
I am a public school teacher and I'll be honest when I say I don't read to my son often enough, maybe once a week. However, I keep all my books in his room in the changing table and in the closet. Since we removed the crib side at around 2 years old and he had access to the closet, he's slept with books every night. When I get him in the morning, if he's already awake, he's reading. He's almost 5 1/2 now and he surprises me a lot when he's reading. A few weeks ago he found, "Happy Birthday Bad Kitty" in the closet, which is a comic book/chapter book. He told me the whole story and why the kitty was bad. I know he's mostly reading the pictures, but he's making connections, which will lead to word reading. He reads everything and anything he can get his hot little hands on which includes the travel brochures and maps from Burger King on the highway. We do a lot of board games and puzzles for math. There's no such thing as a quick game of LIFE when he's the banker.
Learning to read can be a long process, so it is never too early to prepare a child. While learning to read is a big milestone, it is important that the learning process be fun and engaging for the child. Reading should be something that the child comes to enjoy and can use to gain even more knowledge through books. If you remain patient and make the learning process a fun way to spend time together, it will give the child the best chance to successfully learn to read and love books.
I took my son out of school aged 10 and a half because of extreme bullying and Special needs that were not being met. I tried to 'teach' him from then on, but when you are trying to 'teach' a child to read who cries and thumps his own head in frustration because he 'can't' read and believes that he is stupid (even to sayoing out loud 'I can't do this Mum, I'm too thick') you have to realise when enough is enough.
Instead, we should think about our children as whole readers from the beginning. In his NYT piece, Willingham writes that “comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge.” He suggests that parents should leave the teaching up to teachers, and simply read with kids. Read often. Read everywhere. Read for fun. Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Explore different topics. Traditionally, the texts in early elementary grades “have been light in content,” Willingham writes. (“Mac sat on a mat,”etc.) Kids can soak in more complicated information and plots when you read to them than when they read texts themselves, so it’s important to keep at it, following their natural curiosity.

“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.

Avoid using flashcards. Some companies have advertised specialized flashcards to help babies, toddlers, and preschool age children to read. In general, flashcards are not the most useful or effective technique for teaching reading skills. Time spent reading stories with your child will be much more beneficial than flashcards. “Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes emergent literacy and language development and supports the relationship between child and parent. In addition it can promote a love for reading which is even more important than improving specific literacy skills.”[3]


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.

Hi, thank you very much! Reading your posts really enlightened me. You have advises that change my view on how to teach my son. Most of the times spent teaching my son reading made me impatient, my son saw me very frustrated which I felt he became frustrated as well. And I felt so sorry every after sessions we had. I was the one so pressured. Thank you for these words “concentrate on making reading fun and enjoyable for both of you” It really tells me that I am the one who lost strategies. Please pray for me as well… Thank you.
Try to make this fun. In order to help them develop their love of reading it is helpful to avoid turning these learning sessions into drills. Invent games that you can play together to make the learning experience more meaningful. For example, don’t just ask the children to sit in front of you and go through a whole stack of flash cards. Instead, make the game fun. Hide cards printed with different words on them around the room. Pass out a corresponding picture to each child and have them find the matching card.
As your child gets older and her understanding grows, you can move on to slightly more complicated picture books , with a tad more text to read (hurrah!) and even the outline of a little story. Look for simple, colourful illustrations and toddler-friendly subjects: mainly animals, vehicles, animals doing toddler-type stuff, vehicles doing toddler-type stuff and, of course, toddlers doing toddler-type stuff!
Set a good example. Show your child that reading is interesting and worthwhile by reading for yourself. Spend a minimum of ten minutes a day reading when your child is around, so that they see you enjoying the activity on your own. Even if you’re not an avid reader, find something to read - a magazine, the newspaper, or a cookbook all count. Soon they’ll become interested in reading on their own, simply as a result of seeing you doing it too.

The Voyager programs are most often used by reading specialists in addition to the general education reading program. Voyager Passport is a small-group program for grades K–5. It includes letter-sound understanding, sight words and vocabulary. Voyager Passport Reading Journeys is for teens who struggle with reading. The program is taught in a group using science and social studies topics. There is also a Voyager Universal Literacy System. This is a K–3 curriculum that includes a program for struggling readers.


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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