Create daily opportunities to build your child's reading skills by creating a print‑rich environment at home. Seeing printed words (on posters, charts, books, labels etc.) enables children to see and apply connections between sounds and letter symbols. When you're out and about, point out letters on posters, billboards and signs. In time you can model sounding out the letters to make words. Focus on the first letter in words. Ask your child “What sound is that letter?” “What other word starts with that sound?” “What word rhymes with that word?”

Upon getting it in the mail, I read the introduction. It picks a few sounds to teach and has kids reading very basic words with the high frequency sounds, adding sounds and words to the mix as it goes along. Brilliant! How I never thought of this on my own is beyond me. On top of that, it's scripted, which makes it so easy. It instructs you exactly what you should do if your kiddo makes a mistake, and how to praise when they get it right.
But even as our expectations continue to increase, the latest brain-development research shows that, on average, kids are simply not ready to start learning until around age 5. And those who do start sounding out words at younger ages aren't necessarily brighter, says Beverly Cox, an associate professor of literacy and language at Purdue University: "An early walker isn't destined to be a great athlete, and an early reader isn't destined to be more intelligent."
It’s been almost a month and my 5 year old can read a decent amount of words. It is honestly a struggle though. She has a serious case of ants in the pants, so it’s extremely hard for her to pay attention. She seems to respond better if I write out the lesson in colorful markers or sometimes I write it out on the driveway in colorful chalk. Then it’s just a matter of getting her to take a few seconds here and there to look and sound out words. We are usually done within 10 min- if I can get her undivided attention. With patience, we will get through it and she will do well. Be prepared to spice it up a bit for your own though.
Point to the place in your mouth/throat where you are naming that sound, and have them imitate it. You can also make up a motion for each letter sound and remind them which ones are in a designated word. Looking up rhymes online to remember these may help. It may also help to write the words out and point to each letter as you make the sound for visual learners. Remember to be a good example and always speak clearly. If you are talking to your child and they say something incorrectly, just clearly repeat that word in your response, without embarrassing your child. If your child is still having trouble, have him tested for a speech disorder.

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?'"


This is a wonderful column, and all very true. My own four (unschooled) kids learned to read at ages ranging between 3 and 8 years, and each learned in his or her own way. I'm now watching my unschooled grandchildren following the same path - the 8 year old has just taught himself to read, and I can see his 5 year old sister is close behind. I often tell other parents with kids in school about my experiences because they worry so much if their kids aren't reading by age 6.
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.

I think the key here is that children's brains develop at different ages and stages so, I believe that developmental readiness is when a child will learn any subject. I've unschooled my son, he started to read at around age 6, then didn't have much interest and didn't really take off in reading until age 8. But parents of public schooled kids, or kids that were being taught to read at home at an early age, were impressed that our son would just take a book off the shelf and start reading whenever he felt the urge to read, or look at picture books. We never pushed it, I did read to him quite a bit and modeled reading every day. He started by asking me to let him read the words he knew, then having me read a chapter, then him a chapter. We had quite a lot of fun reading books together through his younger years.

We're homeschoolers who do not unschool, but I waited until my son asked to learn to read before sitting down with him and introducing phonics (he was 5 1/2). He learned very quickly and progressed easily with the easy readers, but then an interesting thing happened- he no longer wanted to read to me. He complained about having to it and I noticed he wasn't trying to sound out words he saw on signs or menus for fun anymore.

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.
Others wrote about shared family games involving words, or about shared television viewing in which the onscreen guide and captions would be read for the benefit of nonreaders. Over time, the nonreaders needed ever less help; they began recognizing and reading more and more words themselves. The most often mentioned examples of shared participation are those of parents, or sometimes siblings, reading stories to nonreaders, often as part of the bedtime ritual. Nonreaders look on, at the words as well as the pictures, and sometimes read some of the words; or they memorize books that have been read to them repeatedly, and then later they pretend to read the books while actually attending to some of the words. Pretend reading gradually becomes real reading.
Last year, I spent lots of time with our brand new granddaughter, Emily. I drowned her in language. Although “just a baby,” I talked — and sang — to her about everything. I talked about her eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and fingers. I told her all about her family — her mom, dad, and older brother. I talked to her about whatever she did (yawning, sleeping, eating, burping). I talked to her so much that her parents thought I was nuts; she couldn’t possibly understand me yet. But reading is a language activity, and if you want to learn language, you’d better hear it, and eventually, speak it. Too many moms and dads feel a bit dopey talking to a baby or young child, but studies have shown that exposing your child to a variety of words helps in her development of literacy skills.
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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