Beginning Homeschooling: 5 Things I Love for Teaching Reading
I’ve been doing consulting for a family that is just starting their homeschool journey this year. Now that I’ve been at this for the last seven years, I’ve forgotten about some of those concerns I had in the very beginning. Consulting with this family is bringing back memories of all those freak outs I had in the beginning. One of the biggest questions I had in the beginning, and one that this family is asking me, is one you’ve probably asked, too. “How will I teach my child to read?”
I’m happy to say that my kids managed to figure it out, despite the many ways I tried to ruin it for them. Learning to read is a lot like learning to ride a bicycle. I can explain how to ride a bike all day long, but until the kids had the desire to learn, until they had learned the different skills, and until they practiced enough that their skills clicked together, they couldn’t really ride. Learning to read consists of three big things: creating the desire, learning the skills, and practicing until it clicks.
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Creating the Desire
One of the most important books I ever read about teaching reading had nothing to do with phonics or sight words, and everything to do with developing an interest in the written word. The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is one of those books I will recommend over and over to new homeschooling parents. The premise is that a child raised in a reading home, where books are interesting and informative, will want to learn to read. They will learn much more quickly than if they were forced to sound out letters without understanding why reading might be a good skill to have. My kids are both avid readers now, at ages 9 and 11, but we still read aloud together as a family several nights a week. It’s a wonderful habit to create.
Learning the Skills
I went through a lot of different books and curriculum when my kids were small, trying to find the thing that fit just right for us. There are a lot of popular programs out there. Ultimately, there were a few that worked really well for our particular family.
Progressive Phonics turned out to be a family favorite. These ridiculously cute books are completely free, they’re very funny, and the methods actually work. Each book introduces one or two phonics rules, and highlights the words a child can read knowing those rules. Then the parent and child read the book together, taking turns reading the words.
By the time my kids had made it through a handful of the books, they would go back and read the earlier books all by themselves. They especially loved the silly riddles and tongue-twisters at the end of some books.
The Reading Lesson turned out to be the gentle approach my daughter needed. I like the structure of this one because it introduces one letter and sound at a time. Rather than needing to know the sounds of every letter in the alphabet, you learn them in order of use and frequency. My daughter enjoyed the cute drawings in this one, too.
My daughter is also very much a hands-on learner. What we didn’t know for a long time is that she had some slight vision problems that made close-up work difficult and tiring for her. We had a set of refrigerator magnet letters, and she adored these. She would spell out nonsense words, and we would sound them out for her. Over time and with practice, she would start using the letters to spell actual words. If you have a child who prefers to be moving, I’d recommend getting a set of these for a fridge or for a magnetic dry erase board. Make sure you get lowercase as well as uppercase letters, as almost all text a child will read will be lowercase.
Practicing Until It Clicks
Our absolute favorite practice readers were these hilarious Now I’m Reading books by Nora Gaydos. The cartoon illustrations are funny, the stories actually have a beginning, an exciting middle, and an end, and each set comes with a sheet of stickers so the kids can reward themselves for reading them. Honestly, no matter how many times these were read out loud to me, I never got tired of them.
Those are the top five things I used to help my children learn to read. The most important thing, in my opinion, was that we read out loud together, and we enjoyed a lot of different books, especially non-fiction on subjects the kids wanted to know about. We still visit the library once a week to check out new books, and we usually have a longer book we’re reading together as a family. (It’s Howl’s Moving Castle right now, in case you’re curious.)
If you’ve taught your kids to read, what were some of your favorite resources? Feel free to share in the comments!