Teaching Reading

Edited to add:  Be sure to read the comments and leave one of your own.

We have generally taught our children to read early, beginning around age 3 or4 and having proficient readers by age 4 or 5.  Reading allows children to learn on their own and feeds that natural love of information that they have.  Teaching them to read early allows me to be more relaxed about beginning other subjects because they are already learning on their own.

You may wonder how early reading fits with the natural homeschooling that I mentioned in my last homeschooling post.   Our little ones are generally anxious to start “school” and love spending one on one time with mom or dad, so rather than teaching them traditional preschool information (colors, numbers,  shapes, cutting, gluing, etc.) which they will learn on their own with little or no effort on our part, we spend 15 minutes a day teaching reading.

Some children are not ready to learn to read early.  Don’t push it.  If they struggle back off and give them more time.  Remember children want to learn, but if they are not ready to learn to read you will just frustrate them.  Learning to read should be work, but should basically be fun and the child should make steady progress.

We have had two children who did not excel with early reading.  With one of our sons we did not even attempt to begin reading until much later.  He wasn’t ready and we knew it.  As a matter of fact, we have delayed much of his formal education.  One of our daughters had difficulty remembering her letter sounds, but she did not want to stop trying to learn to read and so we used more tactile and visual teaching styles.  If she had not been so motivated to learn, we would have encouraged her to just have more play time, but she wanted to learn to read and would cry if we suggested that she take a break, so we plowed on and by the time she was six, she was reading through the Little House series.

I’m telling you this, so that you will remember that your children are individuals.  You know what is best for them, don’t let others dictate what you should do.   God gave you, the parents, the responsibility to educate your children, He will give you the ability and the wisdom to accomplish what He requires of you!

Some things that we do before our children learn to read that I think may prepare them for success are:

  • We read to our little ones, a lot.
  • Our little ones sit through worship services and  family worship from the time that they are born.
  • Our little ones hear reading several hours each day during the bigger kids school.
  • Our little ones do not watch any TV, rarely watch DVD’s and do not spend time on the computer, playing games or otherwise.
  • Our little ones listen to a lot of audio books.
  • We have books available in every room of our home, occasionally even in the bathroom. 🙂
  • Books are a favorite plaything and we teach our children early on, how to look at books carefully, so books are never off limits to our babies.

We have successfully used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with our seven children who are old enough to read.  “100 Easy Lessons” is a very simple, inexpensive reading program that maps out exactly what you, as the teacher, should say and even tells you how to correct mistakes when they happen.  It is well suited to teaching reading early since it does not require the children to learn all the letter names and sounds before they begin to read.  It introduces a few sounds at a time and by the third or fourth lesson the child is reads a real word.  Since we teach reading early I skip the writing assignment at the end of each lesson.  Our little ones simply do not have the coordination to do that without frustration.

After our children get somewhere between Lessons 50 and 75, we switch them to the Sing, Spell, Read and Write readers.  (We have the readers that my mom used when she was homeschooling her kids.)  I like these particular readers because they have whole books dedicated to several common phonics rules (“quiet e”, “two vowels together”, etc) and 100 Easy Lessons tends to be a little light on phonics.  Another option to cover this step would be the Bob Books. (With our two strugglers we used a lot more beginning and easy readers.)  Then our children move to books like The Cat in the Hat, Mouse Tales, Owl at Home, The Frog and Toad, Little Bear and the Bible.

Edited to add: This past school year we found and implemented Rocket Phonics.  I still teach my children reading with 100 Easy Lessons, but rather than move from there to the readers, we move our children into Rocket Phonics.  (Link will take you to my full review of RP.)

We have them start reading the Bible to us as soon as they are making progress in the easy readers.  We start in Genesis or John (I don’t recommend beginning with Matthew’s genealogies). 🙂  It is a large jump in reading level for them and when they start they may make it through one verse or less a day. We just have them read the Bible for the last 5 minutes of their reading time.   We have told them from the beginning that the reason they are learning to read is so that they can read God’s Word on their own and they know that as soon as they can read the Bible, we will get them one of their very own.  This is a huge incentive in our home, the children talk about getting their own Bible before they even begin to learn to read.

As soon as they are capable we have them begin reading through the Bible each year with the other children.  They begin with reading just the New Testament assignments for each day until their speed improves and they can read the assigned passages in around  30-45 minutes.

We continue to have them read aloud as opportunities arise and talk with them about what they are reading to be certain that their comprehension is fine.  Each afternoon the children have an hour to read and they may generally pick whatever they like.

How do you teach your children to read?  What program do you use and what are your favorite easy readers?  I’m always looking for more fun readers for those little ones.

Read more posts about how we homeschool .   Raising Olives also has information on laundry management, teaching children to do chores, scheduling and saving money by doing it yourself.  We’re also pretty funny so check out Not Me Monday’s or Giggles from the Grove.

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24 Responses to Teaching Reading
  1. Kristin Mikarts
    July 14, 2009 | 8:17 am

    Thank you again for a great post! Do you think “Teach Your Children to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” would work for a child with a significant speech delay? He understands what we say, but struggles getting the words out – probably both an articulation and processing “funk”? I am looking for something to use with my son who also has cognitive delays and I figure if it is used with young children it would be at a low enough level for him. Any opinions?

    Thank you!!
    Kristin

    [Reply]

    Raising Olives Reply:

    Kristin,
    This is just my $.02. I don’t have any expertise. One of the things that helps me determine when to start reading instruction is how well our kiddos are speaking. So I’m not sure on that one. However, for you son with cognitive delays I would say that this may work with him. It is very, very progressive with small steps and no big leaps. For example, one of the first things you do with your children is help them to say words slowly and then say them fast, “AAAAAMMMMM”, “say it fast” “AM”. This way later when they are sounding out two letters A and M and say “AAAAAAMMMMMMM” they are familiar with this and know that the word is “AM”. I’m not sure that I explained that clearly, but for the $20 for the book it is not too expensive of a program to see if it would help him learn to read.

    Jamie,
    Thanks for weighing in. I know a few people who have not enjoyed “100 Easy Lessons” (two to be exact 🙂 ) and both of them ended up loving Phonics Pathways. I haven’t heard much about “Hooked on Phonics”, but finding something that your child loves is the best! Would you mind giving us your take on that program? Here or in the community discussion. I imagine others would be interested!

    Bekki,
    Would you mind giving us a synopsis of Horizons, here or in the community discussion?

    Here is another hint that I’ve learned with using “100 Easy Lessons”. When they get to the part where it teaches them to read it “the fast way”, I’ve found that to be unnecessary and sometimes frustrating for my little ones, so now we just skip it and they gain speed naturally as they go.

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  2. Roan
    July 14, 2009 | 8:25 am

    Hi Kimberly!
    I am so behind in reading blogs, and yours in one of my favorites to read! I just skimmed a little….I like the blue background on the link button better. I put the one with orange on my blog, but will change it to the the blue when I make the time! 🙂
    I am looking forward to reading in depth your recent posts. Your blog is a blessing to me!
    Have a great day!
    Joyfully,
    Roan
    p.s. I am working on our next year’s schedule. Overwhelmed to put it mildly!!!

    [Reply]

  3. Jamie
    July 14, 2009 | 9:34 am

    Hi!! First of all, I’m a new reader and have loved everything I’ve read so far!! I can assure you, you’re blog is a blessing to many!!

    Now for reading, I’m still sort of a newbie to homeschooling, we just finished our 2nd year. I have a 9 year old who unfortunately spent K and 1st in public school where he mainly learned to read there. I also have a 6 year old whom I have solely taught to read. We are also avid believers in reading aloud to the kids. We’ve done it all their lives. I read to them in the day, they read to each other and Daddy reads to us all at Dinner time (Bible) and bedtime (story). When my 6 year old had her first Birthday party, we bought her a beautiful bookcase and asked all of her party guests to bring books. Needless to say, we love books at our house and read a lot and I really do believe that makes a huge difference in instilling in the children a love for reading and a desire to learn to read themselves.

    We used the 100 easy lessons for my 6 year old, but she outright hated it. She would kick and scream when it was time for the lesson and with that being my 1st year homeschooling, I was clueless as to what to do. So I just stopped it and continued reading to her. A friend of mine found the box set of Hooked on Phonics for K and 1st grade clearanced for $20 and called me to see if I wanted it. What a blessing that was. She LOVED it!! She loved the stories, the characters, the lessons, the lady who talks on the CD, the praise chart, everything!! We did the K and 1st grade levels in one year, because she just breezed right through it. I am in absolute awe of how far we came with her. Now she’s a sponge, soaking up every book she can get her hands on!!

    I rarely hear about homeschoolers using Hooked on Phonics, but I would definitely recommend it. I believe you can even check it out of libraries for free!!

    Thanks again for the blog and blessings to you!

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  4. Jana
    July 14, 2009 | 10:39 am

    We use “100 Easy Lessons” also! We actually stopped around lesson 60 to start getting more readers from the library. I just checked out a few Level K or Level 1 readers each time we went. I liked how the “100 Easy Lesson” book gave us a starting point, but you’re right, it’s pretty light on phonics. I am going to use “The Phonics Road to Spelling and Writing” next year to help him learn his phonics better.
    I think my Mom used Sing, Spell, Read and Write when she homeschooled us! How neat that you still have the books!

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  5. Pam
    July 14, 2009 | 10:57 am

    I so relate to you. We use the same books to teach reading. We also do not participate in t.v watching, and do lots of re-aloud and audio books. We have 13 children, currently teaching 9 at home. Thanks for your page.

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  6. Bekki
    July 14, 2009 | 11:03 am

    Sounds a lot like our home. Mt children can’t wait to get their bible! We used Horizons Kindergarten program and it had been wonderful. None of my children have shown any intrest before age five so far so we just start “on track” with the school system. I would have loved to have taught them early but it would have been a terrible idea, this way they have picked it up quickly and with no problems.

    For Kristin Mikarts, if your son has an auditory processing disorder check out Diane Kraft(might be with a c) her whole program is geared twoards this delay and my friend who uses is can’t say enough good things about it. Her son can now remember his letters and sounds and is starting to read(he is turning 8).

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  7. JenT
    July 14, 2009 | 11:51 am

    I used Alpha-Phonics with my oldest. I started it with my next one and it just didn’t work at first. We switched to 100 Easy Lessons and I really didn’t like it. Plus, I had heard some oral reading of children who had learned with that and I didn’t want my children reading like that. It might not have been any connection at all, but at the time that’s what I thought. We switched back to Alpha-Phonics, but this time with my husband doing the teaching. For some reason she launched into reading with him. Now she is a total bookworm. 🙂 We went on to use Alpha-Phonics with our third and he learned quickly too. Now with the fourth and fifth we have a program that my brother-in-law used with his son. They seem to like it, it’s called Click ‘N’ Read. He bought the lifetime membership, then transferred it to us for free. We only had to pay 1/3 of the price to add on a second child. We’ll keep Alpha-Phonics in case we need it again. I recommend it to people who don’t have internet access. In fact the two are very similar in the way they start out. I’m not sure about easy readers. We use Christian Light Publications for curriculum and they have a few easy reader books through them. Mostly the readers in our family are reading so fast and advance so quickly that they move up to chapter books before we know it.

    [Reply]

  8. Hannah
    July 14, 2009 | 12:18 pm

    Thank you so much for your blog. 🙂 I am learning incredible things every day about what joy is possible with a family.

    My youngest is going into a mainstream school for the first time, maybe ever. He is going into 5th grade and is significantly behind in reading and math. Any recommendations? He loves reading his Bible and we read CBH’s Keys for Kids together as well. I would love to see him devour books, since he is interested in so many fascinating things (stars, animals, the military etc…)

    Blessings!

    Hannah

    [Reply]

    Raising Olives Reply:

    Thanks to everyone who chimed in with your ideas and thoughts on teaching reading. I love hearing what worked for you!

    Hannah,
    I’m sorry, but I don’t think that I can be much help. All I would recommend is to read to him, read with him and allow him to read below his ability for a while so that he can get that sense of accomplishment and learn to enjoy reading. We love Singapore math and all of our children enjoy it. Other than that we really haven’t used many other math programs.

    Esther,
    We do use direct supervision for training children with books, but then when our little ones are little they nearly always have direct supervision. 🙂 I would certainly not say we use “endless nos”. With Nicholas (1), I can only remember a handful of times that I had to remind him to be gentle with books. Children are very smart and if your training is consistent it will not be endless. Training our children to be gentle with books has never been a battle and has never been a long process. Every child is different, but in our house a few simple instructions and yes, sometimes discipline about taking care of books has been sufficient for them to learn. Don’t get me wrong, we have had some books torn by little children, but for the most part we can be confident that when our children pick up a book they will treat it appropriately

    As soon as our babies can sit up we give them board books to look at and play with. If they try to put it in their mouth we tell them, “Not in your mouth” and if they continue to want to mouth something we give them another toy. The board books allow the babies to learn the motor skills necessary for turning pages in a book without needing to worry about torn pages. By the time they are mobile enough to get to our regular books (which are kept low) they already know how to turn the pages so it is simply a matter of telling them to be gentle. Again, after a few gentle reminders we haven’t had any problems. Of course they are already know the meaning of “be gentle” from other training.

    Thanks for the comments!

    Blessings,
    Kimberly

    [Reply]

  9. Nicki
    July 14, 2009 | 12:25 pm

    Great post, Kimberly! My 2 daughters both learned to read with Abeka Phonics. I liked it a lot, and they read well. However with my boys (3 and 1) I have been leaning heavily to 100 Easy Lessons, based on lots of recommendations. I like “Easy”, and my 3yo has a very short attention span.

    One trick that helped my girls LOVE to read was finding the right book! After they had most of their sounds down, sometimes I would find that they didn’t want to read for pleasure. But at some point the “right” book would end up in their laps, and they would love it, read it over and over, and take off from there. It happened with both girls, with different books, and now they LOVE to read.

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  10. Jessica
    July 14, 2009 | 3:37 pm

    What a wonderful post. Oh, how I struggled with teaching my 2 oldest to read. If the lessons ended with just one or two of us in tears (instead of all 3 of us!) I considered it a successful day! I started WAY too early and after 2 failed attempts with 2 very expensive methods, we finally sat down with “100 Easy Lessons” when they were 4 and 5 years old. It was wonderful, fun and so easy. They went from struggling to sound out the easiest words to reading almost anything in just a matter of months. It’s been three years, and my 7 and 8 year old gobble up every book they can get their hands on. And even after these years have gone by, I still find myself just looking at them in amazement as they sit and read. Wow, we did it! I really do think that teaching them how to read is probably the hardest part of homeschooling…everything else (so far!) has seemed so easy in comparison. Yet, what a great accomplishment it is.

    [Reply]

  11. Jamie
    July 15, 2009 | 12:26 pm

    Hey all! We use Alpha Phonics, at the typical “school” age. However, we do other basic reading stuff prior to. I have never used (or even heard of, though I’d like to check it out) 100 Easy lessons! What we do is lots of reading from infancy (something that happens easily with lots of children). Then we start working with blending sounds (whether or not they’re actually READING the sounds). Sort of like, Kimberly, the “AAAAAMMMM” turning into “am”. We’ll “count” sounds in simple words, practice blending the sounds to make words… we do this sometimes for school or at the dinner table or different times. It’s just sort of conversation and play more than actual “school time”. It’s made the transition into Alpha Phonics pretty easy. Then, we just do easy readers that I have picked up randomly. Some from the library, some from my mom, some hand me down “real school” ones from my sister, etc. My 6 year old (7 in September) is still very slow with reading. Our five year old actually reads better than the older one (which, fortunately neither of them know or realize). Each child is so different. What works for one will not always work for another. It’ll be interesting to see what works with my littler ones coming up!

    [Reply]

  12. Cardamoms Pod
    July 15, 2009 | 2:38 pm

    Great post! We have always read aloud to our children, with expression. We even “act out” scenes from books. Our children have always seen Mommy and Daddy with their noses in the Bible, encyclopedias, and other books, then talking excitedly about what we just read. Looking back, I think this helped greatly in our children being very motivated to learn to read. We also get them their own Bible when they can read, and they all long to be able to read out loud with the adults at Sunday evening Bible study. When they are learning, we always make a BIG DEAL whenever a child can read a word, a 3-word sentence, and so on. That encouragement and praise is very motivating!

    When I started teaching reading, I used ABeka phonics readers, ABeka charts a little bit, and the Little Owl books. I also used the Christian Liberty Academy Kindergarten Readers – we love those! Very cute stories and drawings, and our set is very tattered, but still alive, after 7 of our children using them. For a short while we enjoyed the Reader Rabbit computer CDs, and I think a little Schoolhouse Rock – these were usually used when I was having babies all the time and was quite busy! Lately I’ve acquired a set of Fun Tales from Sonlight, and while some of the stories are goofy, they build a little at a time, so that your child only needs to know a few sounds before they’re reading REAL words. Also used a lot of ideas from Get Ready to Read: A Practical Guide for Teaching Young Children at Home and in School, and lately have Ruth Beechick’s books. I wish I’d had those before I started teaching my children! They would have given me more confidence to realize that all my “informal” methods were actually very good teaching strategies.

    For us, I found the hardest part is the child learning to blend the sounds together. We’d always end up taking a break here – keep going over sounds, and some basic sight words, keep reading aloud to them, but not much formal instruction. Our 7 readers (so far) learned to read well (short vowels and long vowels – help with longer words still needed): most by age 5, two by age 4, and one by late age 6. I basically just feel extremely blessed, and have usually felt like I’m having to keep up with them, instead of having to push them.

    [Reply]

  13. Lynnette
    July 15, 2009 | 8:13 pm

    I love your website! I also used the 100 Easy Lesson book to teach one of my children to read. I checked it out at the library and didn’t even have to buy it! 🙂 I thought it was very good and will be using it with another child this year. Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful ideas and the way you live with us. I will be reading your blog on a regular basis now.

    [Reply]

  14. Michelle
    July 16, 2009 | 7:42 am

    If you don’t mind Bible Stories (some people feel very strongly against them), Mary Manz Simon has a wonderful series of easy readers through Concordia House publishing that tells an entire Bible story using very few simple words. The illustrations are charming and gives the emerging reader a chance to read these stories for himself at an early stage.
    http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part%5Fno=562270&find%5Fcategory=&find%5Fdescription=&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=hear+me+read+collection They are a little pricey if you buy them new, but that is true for many homeschooling materials. They have quickly become very beloved readers in my home. This is a set that I will hold on to once we are finished homeschooling to read to grandchildren someday.

    In response to Hannah’s queery about her son who is behind in math and reading, if you were to keep him home this year, I would recommend Math-U-See. I’ve used this program with my daughter who is on the autism spectrum and it has made all the difference. It makes good use of manipulatives to make sense of what he is teaching. I’ve allowed her to continue using the math blocks to help her solve her problems at her own pace and slowly she is learning them for herself. He uses greek letters to identify his materials rather than grade-specific numbers so it is not readily apparent that my 11 year old is just beginning 2nd/3rd grade math. For reading, I would encourage you to continue working at his ability level (your local librarian should be able to help you find materials that he is interested in at his level) but make good use of your read aloud time. *Usually* (each child is different), a child’s comprehension level is far above their ability to decode the written word, so this is a good opportunity to read books that really catch his interest that aren’t “baby” books. My sons interest in reading really took off when their dad and I read the Redwall series to them. They wanted to learn to read so they could read them for themselves! Now they take a book with them wherever they go (quite literally). Audiobooks are also a good way to keep interest in reading alive while you are waiting for skills to catch up.

    Kimberly~I apologize for taking up so much space in your comment log!!

    [Reply]

    Raising Olives Reply:

    Michelle,
    Take as much space as you want, no charge! Have I mentioned that I LOVE comments.

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  15. Barbara
    July 17, 2009 | 3:07 pm

    Thanks for the great post! I found 100 Lessons at my library and put a hold on it – gotta love the library! My 3 year old asked me to teach him to read a few weeks ago and is just eating up the sight words. Can’t wait to get this book and try some new techniques!
    Thanks again!
    Barbara, http://babyconnorc.blogspot.com/

    [Reply]

  16. Esther
    July 19, 2009 | 9:03 pm

    I’m curious to know how you train your children to treat books well early enough to let even your babies look at them. Do you use close supervision with endless “nos”? My girls ***love*** books but I still struggle with mouthing and page tearing. My 2 1/2 yr is finally allowed most books and I’m in the long process of training my 11mo to explore with her hands more than her mouth but I’d love to be able to put all board books at least within her reach without finding pieces of the books missing or strewn across the floor.

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  17. Nicki
    January 13, 2010 | 12:23 am

    Just an update: We started Nicholas (then 3) on 100 Easy lessons and he is moving right along. He doesn’t do a whole 10 minutes yet, but he does pick up the new sounds and wants to move ahead so fast that I don’t end up reading the scripted material. He’s reading! Yay! And he’s so proud of himself. It’s also fun for the bigger kids to see, because they’re so proud of him, too. And Nathan, (1) sits nearby and repeats the sounds.

    [Reply]

  18. Marla
    March 29, 2010 | 2:53 pm

    Kimberly,This blog is very helpful.Just love reading all your helpful information.Keep up the good work!God bless you,Marla

    [Reply]

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