Friday, July 26, 2013

Learning to Read

Teaching my girls to read is a highlight of our homeschooling years. I didn't officially know what I was doing, but I figured it couldn't be that hard. Long before thousands of curricula were written, people learned how to read. I assumed we could handle the process without the experts and, happily, I was right. (Of course, I know that children, for various reasons, need intervention and curricula. I don't mean to heap any condemnation on anyone but rather share what worked for us, in case it will work for you, too.)

My strategies were simple.

  • I made our home a literate environment, with books and print in nearly every room of the house. We spent hours reading together.
  • I made sure they interacted with the alphabet often, with puzzles, magnetic letters, pictures, books, etc.
  • As soon as they could hold a pencil, they began writing. When they needed to know how to spell a word, I sometimes dictated the letters, sometimes told them the letters' sounds. I taught them suffixes: for instance, I'd say "ing," and they would know what letters to write.
  • I wrote words on index cards and posted them on the objects they represented.
  • I helped them see patterns in words, again with index cards.  I wrote on a 4 x 6 card.  I cut the rest of the cards in half. On one, I wrote a , on another an , on another an , etc., stacking them into a book held together with two brads. They flipped the pages as they read each word.
  • I wrote sight words, one per index card. I lined them up one after another on the carpet to make a sentence for them to read aloud. Often I made them goofy. Of course, it was then their turn to put the cards into a sentence for me to read and, of course, their sentence was goofier than mine.
  • The MagnaDoodle was our best tool. I would write a simple note to them with words they could easily read.  They would erase my note, writing a response with words they knew. After erasing their message, I would respond with a simple message, adding in a new word that would push them to use phonics.
  •  When I read aloud, I would periodically stop and point to a word I knew they knew. They would read it, and I would continue.
  •  Super Easy Readers (Bob books) and easy readers (Green Eggs and Ham) as well as sites, such as, gave them more tastes of success and practice.
  • Reading for a beginner is exhausting. I propped my little readers with support, sharing the reading load with them.

Most of these strategies focus on decoding rather than comprehension. I found that, because we read (and reread...and reread), enjoyed, and talked about so many books together, comprehension was absorbed rather than taught.

That's what I can recall after more than ten years.  As you can see, I did nothing magical or profound. But the results were both. Reading gave them the key that has unlocked an endless world of learning.  Teaching it to them is one of the best gifts I could give them.

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  1. I love this! I am THIS close to calling the charter to pull Maya out and teach her at home. I have always wanted to be the one that teaches her to read and am very jealous about others getting that privilege!!! What a great gift to give a child. Thanks for posting this. :)

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Andrea. There's nothing quite like unlocking the mystery of words with kids!


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