Marie, an unschooling mom, wrote about her son, now age 7: "[He] found the incentive to become a better reader through acting at a local theater. He has always been passionate about putting together ‘shows,' but now he is old enough to have real acting experience. He sees that reading is an integral part of this activity that he loves and it has given him a strong reason to grow and develop as a reader. He recently had a part in A Midsummer Night's Dream and had to read and memorize Shakespeare. It took no instruction on the part of a ‘teacher' whatsoever."
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.
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).

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."
I have read to my daughter since she was about 2 months old. We have made reading a habit most nights and sometimes dad even joins us. However, she hasn’t seemed to pick up on any words so far. She is being taught to read in school, but I am worried that she isn’t learning as fast as she should. I feel like I’m doing something wrong. Is there a way I can help her?
Cut out simple cards and write a word containing three sounds on each one (e.g. ram, sat, pig, top, sun, pot, fin). Invite your child to choose a card, then read the word together and hold up three fingers. Ask them to say the first sound they hear in the word, then the second, and then the third. This simple activity requires little prep‑time and builds essential phonics and decoding skills (helping them learn how to sound out words). If your child is just starting out with learning the letters of the alphabet, focus on the sound each letter makes, more so than letter names.
Children usually learn to read beginning around the ages of 5 or 6. In the United States, this will typically be around first grade.[1] Though there are many methods for teaching reading to children, research suggests that teaching phonics is one of the best ways to ensure that you can help all of the children in your classroom learn to read well.[2] Take steps to teach children how to pronounce each letter before moving on to short words and word families. Encourage families to get involved in their child’s learning, and make learning fun for the children.

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.

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.
It is two years later. Oral family reading time is integral to our day and the Harry Potter series is our most recent read. A younger friend visiting had not read the Harry Potter books so he asked my daughter to read to him. I wondered how she would handle the request and then she started "reading" to them. The younger childeren were captivated for over an hour listening to the story as she went through it chapter by chapter. I thought she was reading it because of the vividness and vocabulary use in her telling, but I had never heard her read so well. As she continued the story it became apparent that it was all from memory. Obviously she is developing fabulous comprehension skills!

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.
Studies show that children with weak phonological awareness become weak readers. Parents can almost guarantee their youngsters will become proficient readers by starting early with phonological awareness. They should forget flashcards, workbooks, and pricey kits such as “Hooked on Phonics” and just keep it fun, light, and simple. Phonological awareness is about being silly with words, making it a game, and celebrating the magic of language. There's no need for parents to sit their children down and give formal lessons. Instead, parents should teach it throughout the day in a fun and organic way by remembering the mantra: When you're out and about, sound it out:
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.
The lessons are all basically the same, but as the child progresses, they start to teach newer techniques such as "READING THE FAST WAY". Admittedly, we stumbled at first. It's a tricky thing to teach a young child to sound it out IN THEIR HEADS, and when the know the word, just say it fast. It took one or two days of frustration before he caught on....and now it's no problem! If you think about it, that's reading. We say the words in our head. This book just adds the step of having them say it out loud, too!
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.

In some cases unschooled children progress from non-reading to reading in what seems to observers to be a flash. For example, Lisa W. wrote: "Our second child, who is a visual thinker, didn't learn to read until he was 7. For years, he could either figure out what he needed to know from pictorial cues, or if stuck, would get his older brother to read to him. I remember the day he started reading. He had asked his older brother to read something to him on the computer and his brother replied, "I have better things to do than to read to you all day", and walked away. Within days [my Italics] he was reading quite well."
Parents of infants and toddlers lay the foundation for reading success long before there's a need for systematic instruction. While some gung-ho moms and dads get seduced by products that claim to promote early reading, they should resist the temptation to buy them. Introducing formal instruction too early may actually backfire—making youngsters see reading as a task that wins parental favor, not as a pleasurable activity unto itself. Studies show that youngsters who receive early instruction are less likely to read for enjoyment when they get older.
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.
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Take any alphabet toy, blocks, magnets, or whatever you have and make up silly words. Once they know most of the phonic sounds, it’s super easy and silly to make up your own words practicing the sound each letter makes. I’m sure you’re wondering about vowels and rules… we just don’t go there at this point. For now, all the vowels make one sound A – Ah , E – Eh, that kind of thing.

My little girl will be 4 in May. She figured reading out, generally on her own, within a week of her 3rd birthday. (We do read to our kids, and she had LeapFrog phonics videos that she loves, and magnetic letters on the fridge, but we didn't do any teaching, as such). I would say she currently reads at about a 2nd grade level (can easily handle any picture book, but is a little daunted by chapter books yet). My husband taught her how to count to 100 on a long car ride just before Christmas, and she has been practicing that, and asking her way through addition and subtraction--but we still haven't done any "teaching", aside from what is done on the fly, as the subject comes up. This morning, she wanted to know 5+2. We were in the kitchen, and I was chopping things for the crockpot for supper, so I told her to group 5 magnet letters on the fridge, and then add 2 to that group. "5+2 is 7, Mommy!" Her 2 year-old brother knows all his letters and all their sounds and can count to 20, again without any instruction as such. We were originally planning to homeschool, and probably unschool, anyway, so it's been kind of cool to see it working well before our kids are "school-age".
I love this! I am a preschool teacher who has been stressing a little! My 4.5 year old son has been challenging me… he is clearly showing signs that he is ready to read and I have no idea where to start! You have no idea how happy I am to have come across your blog about reading… the fact that its not memorize ABC’s, memorize sounds, etc but rather comes from a more natural learning has made me so happy! I have come across so many teachers that are no longer worried about letting children learn through their interests and it has turned into a very formal rote learning which makes me cringe. So YAY!!! Thank you thank you thank you! Tomorrow my son and I have a game planned where he is going to think of a word, which we will sound and and decide what letters are in it… and I will write out words that he will try and sound out to read! We are both very excited!
The playing field between early readers and other children usually evens out by the second or the third grade. That doesn't mean that reading shouldn't be taught with some rigor in the first grade. But drilling 3- and 4-year-olds on phonics and expecting 5-year-olds to be fully literate isn't the best approach. "It may squelch their natural enthusiasm for books," says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University, in California. "When kids are young, it's more important that they imagine themselves as the pirates, runaways, and explorers in stories than they read every word. You want them to develop a love for reading before they try to master the mechanics."
I say my youngest "learned" to read at 9, but really, he was learning what he needed all along, internally, in bits and pieces here and there, until all the pieces came together for him and it made sense. When he was younger, he used to mix up letters when he talked. One memorable example was when he said "squidwishy" instead of "dishwasher". He'd make a slip like that, and wouldn't even notice it, he'd just go right along with whatever he was talking about. I intuitively knew that if he was pushed to read (and thank goodness I never wanted to do that - he has an unschooled older brother!), he would have developed dyslexia. I wonder how many "disorders" are caused by the unnatural ways of learning forced on kids in school? And I feel for those adults who believe they have a reading disorder, because of being forced to try to read too young.
I love this! I am a preschool teacher who has been stressing a little! My 4.5 year old son has been challenging me… he is clearly showing signs that he is ready to read and I have no idea where to start! You have no idea how happy I am to have come across your blog about reading… the fact that its not memorize ABC’s, memorize sounds, etc but rather comes from a more natural learning has made me so happy! I have come across so many teachers that are no longer worried about letting children learn through their interests and it has turned into a very formal rote learning which makes me cringe. So YAY!!! Thank you thank you thank you! Tomorrow my son and I have a game planned where he is going to think of a word, which we will sound and and decide what letters are in it… and I will write out words that he will try and sound out to read! We are both very excited!
Hi. As you will see once reading my post, I’m feeling awfully desperate & unable to sleep over issues my kindergartner is having in school. He’s an “older” kindergartner (6.5 y.o.). I have done all the things in your list. He loves me to read to him, and I do often up to an hour 1 day (books of HIS choice). Once he joined kindergarten, I started hearing that the work is too hard, that he hates reading, he can’t read, won’t be able to for a long time, he’s a terrible reader, etc. Early on…probably 3 weeks into the year, they had a 20 sight words screening/test & then placed all the students in reading groups. He seemed upset by the requirements. We were told for homework, to have him scan his finger across the sentences of these black & white scholastic books…example, “I like pizza, I like corn, I like apples, What do you like?” He would get so upset and clearly extremely frustrated by being asked to do this process. The teacher was willing to remove him from the reading groups which seemed to reduce his anxiety some. The class, together, recites out loud the 20+/month sight words they are expected to learn via smartboard. He knows none of them. From my vantage point, this seems to be difficult for him. The teacher says he’s doing “great”. He still occasionally says negative things about his reading ability / confidence. This concerns me greatly & shared this w/ teacher. When the other kids rotate b/w free play time & their reading groups, he’s allowed to do free play but he spends alot of that time @ the computer car games (school considers apart of the free play curriculum). It’s now January & now they will begin journal writing & small sentence writing. I’m certain this will be something he finds frustrating. On one hand, I’m trying to determine whether it’s healthy for him to continue being in this environment or not. Have you ever seen kids move from 1 environment to another mid-year & do well? I’m considering just pulling him out to homeschool w/ more tactile, multisensory methods of learning for the remainder of the year but just not sure what is best. There is more pencil/paper/worksheets as compared tactile, multi-sensory methods of instruction and that is not how he learns best. He often says the paperwork is “too hard”. Last week he said he was scared to go bc of this. I’m very concerned about his confidence; wondering what the environmental impact is of him not being there is )ex:(a number of them are reading accelerated readers). The teacher feels he does not notice this but I don’t get this sense about how he sees himself. He’s very intuitive. I’m not sure what to do but just want to do what is best for my child. For many months now, since October, I have been observing other schools classrooms, visiting them. Most expect these kids to read by spring. And most seem to be. Mine does not though I have done all the things you have posted. Given all that I have said, do you have any recommendations? I believe in respecting where kids are developmentally & it seems to me he simply is not in a place to perform at this level though the teacher seems to think he is doing great.
When your child is able to read books, you can fine tune their reading more easily. You can also spend more time on the basics, ensuring that they read better than even children who are older than them. This will ensure that when they get to school (if you’re not home schooling), they will be fully prepared and can have more fun and be more relaxed in their classes; and when learning is fun it is more easily retained.
First of all, I would recommend concentrating on making reading fun and enjoyable for both of you. He has plenty of time to get the mechanics, but will be turned off to reading altogether if reading becomes something he is forced to do and doesn’t have any confidence. Spend more time reading with him than having him read to you…model proper inflection and fluency. Read engaging stories together. I would also start to work on sight words and word families. Don’t stress. He will get it! :)

I forgot to say that we also play a lot of word games. My husband or I will start coming up with words that rhyme, or words that all start with the same letter and we'll just go back and forth until we can't think of any new words. We've been doing that since before we had kids, and so they've both just grown up with that being a game our family plays. The oldest is starting to be good at it, and the youngest one doesn't get any rules yet, but will shout out random words when we start playing. This isn't the kind of thing that we'll all sit down and say "Okay, let's play rhyming" or anything structured. It just so happens that every so often when one of us says something, the other will find it interesting, and we'll start the game. Oh, and another thing the oldest will help me with is cooking. If he wants me to make brownies or cookies, I'll say, sure, but I'm going to need your help. I'll look up a recipe on the computer and I'll go to the kitchen to start cooking. His job is to read the ingredients to me.
Is your child halfway through first grade and still unable to read? Is your preschooler bored with coloring and ready for reading? Do you want to help your child read, but are afraid you'll do something wrong? RAs DISTARreg; is the most successful beginning reading program available to schools across the country. Research has proven that children taught by the DISTARreg; method outperform their peers who receive instruction from other programs. Now for the first time, this program has been adapted for parent and child to use at home. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is a complete, step-by-step program that shows parents simply and clearly how to teach their children to read. Twenty minutes a day is all you need, and within 100 teaching days your child will be reading on a solid second-grade reading level. It's a sensible, easy-to-follow, and enjoyable way to help your child gain the essential skills of reading. Everything you need is here -- no paste, no scissors, no flash cards, no complicated directions -- just you and your child learning together. One hundred lessons, fully illustrated and color-coded for clarity, give your child the basic and more advanced skills needed to become a good reader.Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons will bring you and your child closer together, while giving your child the reading skills needed now, for a better chance at tomorrow.
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.

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!
We are a homeschooling, mostly unschooling family. My children are 5 and 9. Reading is an extremely fun activity in our lives and the children have access to books, library trips, computer activities, and art projects that involve creative writing. My assumption was that they would learn to read early and through osmosis because reading is just what we do. But that didn't seem to happen. My 9 year old daughter began "reading" books at three by memorizing the story and then reading it back, she also wrote in pretend writing at that age. It seemed she was on her way. However, I had been a teacher in public school so when she was 6 I had this need to introduce "reading" because I felt self-progress had been slow. What a mistake! Within three weeks my daughter was totally off reading and I had unknowingly discouraging her honest attempts to learn in her beautiful self-directed manner. She a visual learner and extremely creative. We had encouraged cooking, music, dance and the visual arts as conduits for learning because she loved them so. Of course, I saw the error in the reading approach I had introduced and backed off. It took nearly a year for her to even approach reading on her own again.

For children in standard schools, it is very important to learn to read on schedule, by the timetable dictated by the school. If you fall behind you will be unable to keep up with the rest of the curriculum and may be labeled as a "failure," or as someone who should repeat a grade, or as a person with some sort of mental handicap. In standard schools learning to read is the key to all of the rest of learning. First you "learn to read" and then you "read to learn." Without knowing how to read you can't learn much of the rest of the curriculum, because so much of it is presented through the written word. There is even evidence that failure to learn to read on schedule predicts subsequent naughtiness in standard schools. One longitudinal study, conducted in Finland, found that poor reading in preschool and kindergarten predicted poor reading later on in elementary school and also predicted subsequent "externalizing problem behavior," which basically means acting out.[3]
Reading Rockets is a national multimedia project that offers a wealth of research-based reading strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn how to read and read better. Our reading resources assist parents, teachers, and other educators in helping struggling readers build fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.
Thank you so much for your article. I was one of those parents who wanted their child to be reading by age 2 and other unrealistic expectations like that. I bought certain programs promising my baby would be able to read, and she didn’t! I do not push her anymore and just spend a lot of time reading with her. Thank you for your article and I will definitely use some of your suggestions just to keep up with her love of reading.
READ 180 is for struggling readers in grades 3–12. It involves teacher instruction, working on a computer and reading alone. Kids also listen to someone read aloud and then read the same text. The program includes workbooks, books for reading alone, audiobooks and software that tracks student progress. It’s most often used by reading specialists to give extra support.
I found this system very, very useful right away, even after the first 3 lessons! She learns what sounds the letters make and make together after learning what each letter sounds like individually, this way she is learning to read the word through sounds instead of guessing (which she is slowly getting out of the habit of doing) what the word really is or associating it with a picture. It is the fundamentals of letter sounds that helps her to learn to read correctly so I’m hoping it continues to go well and I can get her out of that ‘guessing’ the word.
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.
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