Does the thought of teaching your child to read make your heart race? I’ll admit that my two biggest fears when we started homeschooling were the prospects of teaching my child how to read and of one day having to conquer algebra. After all, reading is the basis for everything in between!
Homeschooling = A Learning Lifestyle
I learned along the way that the more I make learning a part of our lifestyle, the happier our days are. With laundry, errands, and toddlers, “life happens,” as the saying goes. Creating an environment for learning that happens naturally is crucial to success. Charlotte Mason’s motto was, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Her living book approach to reading feels intuitive in many ways.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to teach your child to read. Start with real life experiences, use real literature, and even incorporate nature study. I’ll also let you in on a little secret—if your child isn’t reading fluently at age four, you are not a failure. Adopt a gentle approach, and it will eventually happen.
The ABCs of Teaching Your Child to Read
Building an atmosphere for learning doesn’t mean you have to equip a schoolroom with all the latest materials and curriculum packages. Simply talk to your child throughout your day, teaching him that /s/ begins socks as you fold the laundry together.
Play with magnetic letters or Scrabble tiles, pushing them together to form word families (once at is mastered, add b for bat, c for cat, etc.) Make letters out of play dough, draw words in the dirt with a stick.
Take a walk and talk about the things you see in nature. “See the yellow flower? It’s a daffodil. Daffodil starts with the sound /d/.”
Read aloud, often. And read things that are beautiful. Phonics instruction is fine, but it should not be the primary focus of reading lessons. Charlotte Mason wrote that children need to read what is “pleasant and meaningful.” Move beyond a textbook approach to reading and incorporate poetry, nursery rhymes, and living books.
Good literature is not only pleasant for the parent to read aloud, but words with meaning are more interesting to children. If they can form a picture in their minds as you read, language will come alive for them. Even emerging readers will start to pick up words as they learn them by sight. Poems with repetition are especially enjoyable. One of my young child’s favorites was A. A. Milne’s “Happiness”:
John had a
John had a
After just a few readings, my son recognized “Great Big” and “Waterproof” when I came to them. I began to pause at these points, and he would chime in. Here he was reading words beyond three letters/one syllable. We were reading together!
God gives each of us the gift of language. Just as children learn how to talk, they have the ability to read—we just have to help them unleash it. Nurture this time of emergence, and keep young readers engaged and excited about words.
Start training children to narrate even before they can write. Ask them to tell you about the birds at the feeder, have them tell stories back to you after you read aloud, and give them your undivided attention when they want to tell you about their discoveries.
Expose your child to living, breathing literature. If you must go the traditional textbook route, remember that keeping reading joyful and meaningful will ensure that your child will grow to love reading. Don’t squelch their enthusiasm by making reading lessons tedious and boring, but nurture it and watch it flourish.