Yes, it certainly is a balance! No greater emphasis should be put on one area over the others (with the exception of reading comprehension). Sight words are typically extremely beneficial for early readers who get frustrated when words don’t follow the “rules”. This is the only area of reading where I feel like memorization is beneficial, in context with all the other reading strategies, of course.
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."
Let’s be real. There are countless other things kids are more interested in than learning to read. Shoot! Plenty of grown people would prefer to do countless other things rather than teach their children how to read. If you’re one of those parents, please believe I’m not judging you — remember, I’m the parent with the occasionally funky-breathed, sleepy child.

Wonderful article!! It's making the rounds on facebook. Lots of folks are supportive of the idea of kids learning to read on their own (though it's not really on their own, there's lots of support, resources and connection involved) when their kids are early readers, but begin to lose faith in the process when the kids are 8, 10, or 13. I've seen it again and again though in unschooling families: kids *will* learn to read when they're ready, whether that means ready at 3 or ready at 11.

ScottDavid mentioned reading in foreign languages and said it's easy part. I can't agree - when I was learning Arabic reading was a hell. Writing was way easier. It was the same with English (it's a foreign language for me). I could write and speak in moderate mode but reading was tricky. Now I observe the same thing as my daughter learn English and she can write anything you tell her but when asked to read the text, she's like muted. My son, who is 5 now, was not taught reading in pre-K, kids there were just playing with letters when they wanted. He had some issues with other boys so he was spending much of his time sitting on the floor and copying names from kids' chairs, book titles from the shelves, signs andfelt board titles. Once he even copied a company stamps from under the table. And one day we were getting home by car and he read aloud things written on other cars. I realized he can read realy well if he reads from a moving surfaces!
She can do a lot of word building BUT, i think she feels that because it seems difficult to her then she doesn’t particularly enjoy reading…I have to work really hard with her to get her to focus and to actually pick up a book, otherwise I don’t think she would bother..This worries me greatlybecause as we all know if reading is not something you enjoy then life will be more difficult for her than if she enjoyed it.

Marie wrote, of her son, now age 7: "He is an artist and spends hours drawing things, especially stories and inventions. So naturally he wished to make his pictures "talk" with captions, titles, instructions, and quotations. ... There was a lot of ‘MOM? How do you spell Superdog wants to go home?' I would spell out the sentence and five minutes later, ‘MOM? How do you spell Superdog sees his house?'" This boy learned to read, at least partly, by reading the sentences that he, himself, had written.
Jenny wrote that her daughter, who didn't begin to read books until age 11, was able to satisfy her love of stories by being read to, watching movies, and checking out CDs and books on tape, from the library. She finally began reading because there was no other way for her to satisfy her interest in video games, such as ToonTown, and manga books, which require reading that nobody would do for her.
As the parent (or instructor), please take time to truly read the introductory pages. They go over why this method works and how long it took them to achieve success with all the children they tested this book's method on. It took years of revisions of the method until they reached the one used in this book. It gives very specific instructions on how to teach, the tone to use, how to correct mistakes, pronunciation, etc. Success hinges on the parent's ability to teach correctly. If we don't put in the effort, it will fail. PERIOD.
Nearly all of the stories from home unschoolers include examples of shared participation in reading. One of my favorites is that presented by Diane, who noted that her daughter, who learned to read at age 5, became interested in reading because of the family's regular Bible reading time. Before she could read she insisted on having her turn at Bible reading, "and she would just make up words as her turn!"

Phonics is knowing that sounds and letters have a relationship — it's that simple, and that complex. It is the link between what we say and what we can read and write. Phonics offers your beginning reader the strategies she needs to sound out words. For example, she learns that the letter D has the sound of "d" as in "doll." Then she learns how to blend letter sounds together to make words like dog.


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.
Predictable books can be bought through the internet and cost a dollar each.  Understand that predictable books have levels.  If your child is just starting out, start with beginning level books.  As kids get better at reading move to more complex books.  Look through the titles with you child and choose themes that appeal to them.  Put the books in a basket with your child's name on it, so that your child can read their book when they want.
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.
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.
Try the Bob books starting with the blue box 1. it will get her reading. my boys taught themselves to read with the bob books. They learned the letters from leap frog and sight words from learn the sight words DVDs then they just taught themselves to read using bob books. After the blue box we went to the sight words purple box. Then level 2 yellow box then level 3 red box. They cost about $10.00 each. Now they read level 1 books from the library and other series books. They get 1 piece of candy for each book they read so they come to me to read a book. Sometimes they will read 3 or 5 books in a day so they can have a piece of small candy for each.
Reading Mastery is very systematic. It starts by teaching word sounds and what the corresponding letters and words look like. Next, kids learn to read passages. Then they build vocabulary while increasing their understanding of what they read. Students are grouped by reading level. Reading Mastery is often used by general and special education teachers as a complement to other programs. It may also be used on its own. Teachers tend to use one of two versions. Reading Mastery Classic is for grades K–3 and Reading Mastery Plus is taught in grades K–6.

I have found a need to always test each child for a true readiness to learn reading. If they are not ready after a few lessons of testing, we come back and start again at a later date. No matter what, I have found the initial excitement wears off after several lessons and it is work to press through until they regain the excitement of really reading which does not take long when you consider it is only 100 lessons.
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.

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.
I used this with all three of my children. It lays a very good foundation for sounding out words and getting children, even from different learning styles, to a second grade reading level in a few months. After this, you need to teach children the rules of spelling, but the reading part will come easily. With my global learning daughter, I needed to offer more support in the process by sounding words out and having her repeat what I did. You may need to adapt it for your child, but the beauty is that adapting is not difficult. Just make sure your child is ready to learn to read, and don’t jump the gun because some children were able to do this process at age three. My children were 5 (girls) or 6 (son) before I used this.
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.
Many teachers do a little talk (or write a letter) to explain to parents the method(s) they're using to teach children to read. (If your child's teacher doesn't do this, ask them for some pointers.) The favoured method du jour is (some form of) Phonics – decoding words by sounding out all the different letter sounds they contain. Try to bear this in mind when listening to your child read at home: if they get stuck on the word “dog”, for example, it's probably more helpful to say, “Let's sound it out: d-o-g” than “It begins with d and sounds like frog”.
Finally, I can't resist ending with a little story about my son's learning to read. He was a very early reader, and one of the first indications of his reading ability occurred when he was about three and a half and we were looking at a Civil War monument in a town square somewhere in New England. He looked at the words, and then he said to me, "Why would men fight and die to save an onion?"
Three-year-olds can be chatty, and by age 4, it can be hard to get a word in edgewise. Take advantage of your child’s interest in talking by writing a book together. Start out with something simple, like describing a fun day at a park or visiting friends. Staple a few pieces of paper together, and write out one or two of your child’s sentences on each page. Then, read the story to her and let her illustrate it.

This story is completely apocryphal as applied to learning to talk, which is why we understand it to be a joke. Children learn to talk whether or not they really have to talk in order to get their needs met; they are genetically programmed for it. But the story, somewhat modified, could apply quite reasonably to learning to read. Children seem to learn to read, on their own, when they see some good reason for it. Many of the stories sent to me illustrate this idea. Here are some examples:

Build up an archive of sight words. Certain words in the English vocabulary are spoken often, but don’t follow the typical phonics rules. These words are easier to memorize by shape association than by sound, and are therefore known as ‘sight words.’ Some sight words include ‘they,’ ‘she’, ‘an,’ ‘said,’ and ‘the.’ The complete list of sight words, called the Dolch list, can be found online and broken down into sections to work through.


If you’re nervous about teaching your child to read and the task is daunting, then 100 Lessons is an excellent resource. The book is scripted, which takes away the stress of wondering if you’re doing it right. And, although it can get boring for the kids as there is no color or flashy pages, I actually found this to work in our favor as my daughter got used to simple formats and responds well to my own homemade worksheets. It was also good for her to see that sometimes we have to work hard and press through to gain the benefits. There was great satisfaction from both of us when she finished the book and was reading far better than other kids her age and older.
There are a number of excellent books to guide you through the process such as Sidney Ledson's Teach Your Child to Read in Just Ten Minutes a Day or Siegfried Engleman's Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons . There are also full instructional kits such as Hooked on Phonics, which provide parents with a step-by-step approach to teaching reading.

Another thing I think is important to remember is to not get frustrated. When it comes to reading, things that seem “obvious” to you aren’t obvious at all to someone who’s learning to read, but when you forget that it can be easy to get frustrated because your child isn’t understanding that seems so obvious to you. Go into it knowing that you’re going to need to be patient! It will definitely give you a new level of appreciation for people who teach children as their profession.
Asking questions while reading to your child is not only great for encouraging your child to interact with the book, but it is also extremely effective in developing his ability to comprehend what he is reading. You see, if our main objective in “reading” is getting our child to “sound out” words, we have missed the boat entirely. Even children who can decode words and “read” with great fluency still might not be able to comprehend what they are reading. If a child can’t comprehend what he is reading, there really is no point to reading at all!
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