Tales of Reading

Forever and a day ago a fellow blogger posted a question about teaching your children to read. It was my full intent to answer that question as reading is so dear to me and it has been one of the highlights of being a Mama to read with my children and equip them with the tools for reading independently. So this post is to answer her question, but also to have a spot on my blog to share how I have gone about this process.

I have two children, my daughter is seven and my son is five. My daughter reads independently, but my son does not. My method of teaching reading applies to what I have done with my daughter since she is my independent reader. My children learn differently, so my son's journey has varied from what is listed below, although it is similar. I seem to learn again and again every day that my children (all people) are very different in their personalities, temperaments, learning styles and that patience and understanding go a long way in assisting them to learn the basics without stripping away the love of learning (which you want a child or any person to have for a lifetime).

I did not set out to teach my daughter to read. I thought it happened by accident, until a friend asked me how I taught her to read and once I sat down and wrote out techniques and resources I realized it wasn't unintentional. 

Newborn-Age Two
First, I love to read. My daughter was the most laid back of babies and when she was under one year of age I would sit with her and read, read, read. She would sit for long periods of time for this entertainment and became so used to this type of play that I'd find her on her own in her room (after age one) sitting and looking at books quite content. Honestly, I just kept at it. I read to her every day. I always had books around, and wasn't concerned if a page was torn or even something worse. I just felt it was more important for her to be surrounded by books instead of stressing over a tear here and there (although I did train her how to care for her books). 

Age Three
By age three I could tell my daughter might be ready to learn the sounds of the alphabet, so I asked a friend to borrow her phonics kit. Can I say, overwhelming?! All I used from the kit was the video that sounded out the letters and the flashcards with letters. We worked on the flashcards until she had mastered the sounds, and then I tried a workbook with her to work on additional blending sounds. She totally rejected this next step, so I stopped with the phonics kit. No doubt the kit was overwhelming because those resources are mostly for a child who is able to write as well. The kit was helpful, but it is always good to know when to stop using something! 

Since my daughter now knew the sounds of the letters I would gradually sound out words when we were reading (d-o-g, c-a-t, etc.), have her practice writing her letters on the chalkboard in her room and sound out words, and of course keep a stack of books handy for down time and shared reading. At age three I do remember beginning to read to her C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I think I simply wanted to see if she would sit and listen - and she did (!) for periods of time.

Ages Four - Five
The winter my daughter turned four she was given a LeapPad. This was an invaluable tool for her as the child is able to independently use a pen to touch the words in a book and the computer reads the word and will also sound out the letters of the word. My daughter loved this tool, and I have no doubt assisted her in learning to read. 

Also that winter we were quite cooped up as my daughter was four, son age one, of course the sun set early and I recall we just gathered in the living room after dinner and read until bedtime. I continued to read The Chronicles of Narnia to her as well as some of Jim Kjelgaard's books. What I began noticing is that my daughter wanted to know where I was in my reading. She was listening to me read and watching the words that I read. I didn't tell her to do this, she just enjoyed doing it. It was as if she was quietly putting the puzzle pieces together herself.

We continued to read consistently together, I provided plenty of independent reading time and a few months before age five my daughter was reading independently.When Kindergarten began we I reviewed the Noah Webster Reading Handbook together.

What I have described is what worked with my daughter. I do not think my daughter is an isolated case in her interest in books, however, I did realize early on that she had a specific interest, and I do believe it is one of the blessings of being a Mama to encourage a child's interest which might just be a gift that the Creator has given the child.

It has been the sweetest gift to hear my daughter read to her brother and to sound out words for him. It has been just as sweet to see my son gifted in ways my daughter is not and to be an encourager and teacher to her in those ways (yes, even though he is younger).
My son learns differently from my daughter and is not an independent reader yet. His reading interest is different from his sister's interest. For example, he had absolutely no interest in learning the sounds of the letters at age three, but I knew it was something to stretch him to do at age four and he did. He isn't a sitter, but a doer, so although it is important for him to learn to sit, it is just as important for me to provide him books that are exciting and active and fun.

I've told my husband more than once that the "joke" of parenting is that really it's the parents who are learning even more than the children they are teaching! One aspect of my learning is that teaching takes time. Time is sometimes difficult to give children because there are so many other tasks to complete, sometimes for the child's own benefit! One thing I began understanding with my newborn daughter is that although she, of course, needed so much from me for her survival, I too was being nurtured by setting aside those other tasks, concentrating on her. Giving to her was giving to me.

As long as I grow in my understanding of my children - temperaments, interests, personalities, strengths, weaknesses - I trust I'll be able to provide them the tools and time to grow in their own love of learning and abilities to learn.

To summarize our reading journey I'd say we are a literary friendly home! We read alone. We read together. We have books in almost every room of the home. We go to the library. We give books as gifts. We provide additional reading resources as needed.

So, whatever your reading journey and literary interest - happy reading to you!



Julie Gates said…
Very helpful post. William is learning his ABC's right now or is at least repeating th song. I heard great things about leap frog...might have to put that on my wish/christmas list for him
Rachel said…
Those days of singing the ABC's are priceless - enjoy it! The Leap Pad worked well for Ella - that was almost 4 years ago so I think it is a new style of pad now. I'm not even familiar with all the other numerous Leap Frog products. :)