This post is the first in my series on “How To” teach specific subjects. Over the next few weeks I will be covering such subjects as teaching math, history, science, etc. If you have any questions or concerns you’d like me to address, please feel free to fill out my contact form so I can address them in subsequent posts!
I have had both positive and negative experiences with teaching my children to read so I feel like I am in a position to address the concerns many parents have with teaching their children to read. First let me give you a brief run-down on what worked, and what didn’t, in my “adventure” teaching my children to read:
- The only time we sent any of our children to a traditional school was the year our oldest child, and only daughter, attended a Christian school for kindergarten. She had a positive experience there, made straight “A’s” and was “valedictorian” of her kindergarten class. Moreover, by the time she “graduated” she could read at a second grade level. When I began home-schooling her the next year I really only had to do some phonics review and then we jumped right into using the Bob Jones University Press reading program.
- My oldest son started home-schooling two years later and I decided to use the same phonics program that had worked with my daughter. This program is a mainstream Christian phonics program and is used at many Christian schools but as I was to find out, it’s not necessarily the best program to use in a home-school setting (whether it is a good program to use at traditional schools I am not going to speculate on…it obviously worked for my daughter but how well it works for children who have a different learning style I don’t know). I struggled for three years trying to make this program work with my son! So if you are kicking yourself for maybe picking the “wrong curriculum” for your child, know that you are not alone! I sincerely wish I had chucked this program and found something else but I was still a “newbie” home-schooler in some respects, so I decided to tough it out. My son’s problem wasn’t that he couldn’t decode the words (i.e. sound them out) but rather, he struggled with fluency which is, of course, the goal. I was fortunate to have a home-schooling friend suggest the “Explode the Code” series as my son was entering 3rd grade and just a few months of review with this program truly did explode my son’s reading ability. He soon was so in love with books that he would bring one with him everywhere we went.
- After my disappointing experience with a mainstream program it was a no-brainer as to what I would use to teach reading to my second son. We started in kindergarten with “Explode the Code” and a set of readers (more on those later). I couldn’t believe how easy it was to teach my son to read using just these two resources. Totally painless. For both of us!
- I was 40 and had been home-schooling for over a decade when my youngest son was born. My little guy is a very unique child who had a fascination with words from the time he was an infant. It would take a whole post to explain what I mean, but suffice it to say that all it took was exposing him to a few phonics DVD’s and games and by the age of 4 he had essentially taught himself to read. Now I know what you’re thinking because if anyone (up until this time) had told me their kid taught himself to read by the age of four I would have said (to myself, of course), “Yeah, right.” But it’s the truth. And considering what a difficult child he was in many other ways, I figure it was maybe God’s way of cutting me a break!
Now that I have given you a brief synopsis of my experience teaching my children to read, I want to explore my recommendations for resources you can use to teach your child to read, as painlessly as possible.
There are many products out these days that will tell you they can get your child reading by the time they are sixth months old (give or take). I don’t know about you but I never really needed my children to read at sixth months. I was more concerned with them sleeping through the night, keeping them from eating the electrical cords, you know, stuff like that.
But, I did start introducing my youngest to the Leapfrog program when he was young and I do believe that is what connected the dots for him that got him reading at the age of four. That’s not to say that your child will read at four using the Leapfrog program, because each child is different. However, they have a solid method of teaching phonics (IMHO) and kids enjoy learning using this program so it is a win/win as I see it.
There are a variety of tools that Leapfrog uses including DVD’s, various hand-held games, and interactive books. If you have been following my blog for some time you may have gotten the idea that I fall into the “relaxed home-schooler” category (and you would be right!) My feeling is if I can find a program, resource, or curriculum that my child can use by themselves to teach them what they need to know, I am going to go with it. Why make my job harder? For this reason if you have a preschooler I strongly recommend you look at the Leapfrog program. And if money is a factor check out Ebay and garage sales and I wager you can put together a nice library of Leapfrog products at a minimal cost.
In addition, if you feel your child is ready for it you might want to consider using the early “Explode the Code” workbooks entitled “Get Ready, Get Set, and Go for the Code.” Many a four-year old could use these books and certainly your five-year old should be able to tackle them as well.
KINDERGARTEN THROUGH THIRD GRADE
For this age group I recommend using the “Explode the Code” workbook series. These workbooks are so easy and fun to use that your child could easily complete a couple of pages a day. Along with “Explode the Code” I used the Christian Liberty Press Phonics Readers. I just happened on these readers when I was teaching my middle son to read and was surprised (and delighted) to find that they dovetail with the “Explode the Code” workbooks perfectly even though they are in no way connected to one another. Using the “Explode the Code” workbooks and the Christian Liberty Press Phonics Readers is a very low-cost, efficient way to get your child reading.
Once your child is beyond the Christian Liberty Press Phonics Readers then I suggest you find a reading program that is to your liking. I use the Bob Jones University Press Readers in first grade through sixth grade. One of the advantages of using the Bob Jones University Press Readers are the “Worktexts” that go along with the books. The Worktexts are workbooks that cover various elements of reading such as: reading comprehension; applying and drawing conclusions from what is read; vocabulary; word usage; and other elements.
FOURTH GRADE AND UP
I continue with the Bob Jones Readers through 5th or 6th grade. For middle school and high school I switch to an English program that I design myself . (I will discuss this in a later post.) This program includes the use of the composition resource “Write With The Best” – you can read my review of this fantastic resource here.
On the other hand, if you are teaching an older child who, for whatever reason, is still struggling to read fluently, a review of the “Explode the Code” workbooks may just do the trick. In addition, you may want to look at “Apples Spelling Drills.” I used “Apples Spelling Drills” as a spelling program for my middle son but it is advertised as being “designed for the older student who needs basic phonics review.” It is not expensive and I highly recommend it.
And if your child is having more than the typical struggles with learning to read and you feel there may be a disability involved (or your child has been diagnosed as having a reading disability) I would encourage you to read this guest post by Tara Jenner: Neuroscience Meets Your Child With Disabilities – to find valuable resources that can help you with your struggling learner.
I hope that this information has been helpful to you. Won’t you consider sharing your own experiences teaching your child to read in the comments below? I would certainly be interested in hearing what has worked for you. Or if you still have questions, include those in the comments as well – I’d love to be able to help!
P.S. When I first published this post I neglected to mention another valuable resource I used when teaching my children to read: the “I Can Read” series. These books are published by Harper Trophy and can be found at Amazon, book stores, etc. One of the helpful aspects of this series is that the books are divided into levels so you can start with the easier Level 1 books and work your way up. I have a couple of dozen of these which include titles such as: Frog and Toad All Year, Little Bear, and The Long Way Westward among others. I highly recommend them for your kindergarten to third graders.Print This Post