To make meaningful connections with the printed word, children need rich and varied life experiences. A kid who has never strayed from the inner-city will not get much from a story about farm life. A kid who has never visited an aquarium will not have the background needed to comprehend a text on marine life. Moms and dads can boost comprehension by remembering the mantra: Comprehension is the key that turns sounding out into reading. They can engage in the following activities.


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.
Scaffolding. When reading to young children, parents should keep in mind the image of a scaffold—one piece placed on top of another to make something bigger and stronger. If the bottom of the scaffold is weak and wobbly, the entire thing will collapse. Little children have limited experiences so parents should build upon what they already know. Reading a book about butterflies to a child who has never seen a butterfly is largely meaningless. However, reading a book about butterflies to a youngster who spent the afternoon watching them fluttering around her garden is immensely powerful.
My daughter is also the same. I have been having anxiety for my child not being able to catch on. My daughter turned 6 in December. She can only recognize a few letters in her name. My oldest daughter, who is 8, is a great reader, and my youngest daughter, 3 1/2, can also recognize most of the alphabet and is starting to sound out small words. We read to them every day. I also feel desperate to help my child as I do not know how I can help her. I have been giving her alphabet worksheets and doing the best I can at home.
My kids go to public school for elementary where the other students learn to read horribly boring text by sight words. “Teach Your Child to Read…” is so much less boring than the drivel the school sends for homework in K and 1st grades. My kids are good readers and we skip the homework. I think my kids would hate reading if I let them learn using our schools method and texts.
You seem very passionate about reading and I think that’s great. However, you seem very defensive about the method. Quite frankly my only goal is to help children learn to read and I have found that starting with sight reading is the easiest and best method. You, of course are entitled to your opinion as is Mrs Freeman. My son is now turning 10 and he is reading and memorizing Shakespeare (having learned to read from – YES – “call words”!). You are welcome to go to my website and see him doing it if you doubt it. And BTW, my son is 100% homeschooled and he too remains above grade level.
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.
My oldest son taught himself to read as well. He was just shy of three and a half when he started reading traffic signs to me. I got him some of the Bob books, which he looked through and became bored with quickly. I was always trying to sneak in a test or two as well, asking him to read out loud to me. When he was almost four I was having some anxiety that maybe he wasn't getting a thorough enough grounding in phonics and whatever. Serendipitously, a friend of ours gave us the "Hooked on Phonics" set and I thought that I would use it. Because I didn't know how well he could read, I wasn't sure where to start. We sat down with the books, and he began reading them to me. Within two hours, he'd read every book in the box set, levels 1 through 5. I decided that I would leave well enough alone, and I put away the cards, cds, boxes, etc. and just put the books on his bookshelf. Since that day I've backed off completely and left him alone. His baby brother is two, and I'll often find them curled up together reading to each other. The oldest will read a story out loud, and the youngest will make up a story by pointing to pictures in another book and telling his brother what he things is happening. We're having good luck with basic math skills just by using Legos and Hot Wheels cars. Sneaky Mommy will send the oldest in to get "Two cars for everybody". When he comes back, I'll ask how many he brought. With the youngest, I'll ask him to go get a set number of cars. It's effortless and they seem to be having fun.
Thanks for your post…can I ask you for some advice??? My 5 year old knows all the parts of reading, but isn’t reading on her own yet. What I mean is she knows all her letter names and sounds, knows how to sound out words, knows several dozen sight words, knows to read a book from front to back, top to bottom, left to right, etc. But something isn’t clicking. If I had to guess its like she thinks she should have every word memorized and she should just know all the words by sight, and if she doesn’t, then in her mind, she can’t read it. I’m at a loss to help her over this seemingly final hurdle. Sorry to bother you with my personal situation, but your post on reading caught me on a day that I’ve really been stressing over this. Any advice is much appreciated.
I'm thrilled to see an article about this in a mainstream source. My sons learned to read "late", at ages 9 and 10, and were largely self-taught. We chose to allow their learning to read to be entirely self-directed because instruction via phonics when my first son was six years old was so disastrous -- he was angry, frustrated, and resistant. I shudder to think what would have happened if we'd continued to push him before he was ready. I've written quite a bit more about our experience here on my blog: http://fourlittlebirds.blogspot.com/search/label/reading
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.
Basically, we are just repetitive and always say the letter sound with the letter. Please note I firmly believe that every child is different and NEVER push your kiddo into something they aren’t ready for. My younger son, who’s 2, is still working on his letters while big brother was reading at this age. I’d hate for anyone to read this and think that their child is behind. There is no such thing!
You could also try putting magnetic letters on the fridge door or buying foam letters to float about in the bath. Once they know some letter sounds well, you can 'spot' the letters when you see them on street signs and food labels, as well as in books (“Look, yuh for yoghurt.”) You could also think up some other letter-sound games to play together, from good old I Spy to more modern, splashy 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.
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.
First grade teacher Angela DiStefano, a 12-year teaching veteran, says the Literacy How approach to reading has changed her professional life forever. “Before that, I thought it was my job to teach kids to share my enthusiasm for reading.” Now, she teaches them to read with explicit instruction on how to sound out words. Not long ago, she gave a seminar for first grade parents to teach them some rules about vowels (for example: vowels make their short sound in closed pattern words like tap and the long sound in open pattern words like hi, so, and my) so parents could reinforce the lessons at home.
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). 	
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