How Our Boys Are Learning to Read

It's probably just good luck, but both my boys have caught on to the art of language and reading pretty quickly and easily. In case I happen to have any tricks that might be helpful to those of you working with non-readers, I thought it would be worth sharing some of the things we do.

Ages 1-4
  • Read aloud together as often as possible! Try changing some of the words to keep them paying attention {and help them recognize that those black symbols on the page really matter}! We had fun with Goodnight Moon and Curious George books when our boys were little. 
  • Ask simple questions while you read -- where is the mouse on this page? what do you think will happen next? why do you think she is sad? 
  • Fill a basket or two with books that your child likes and keep them easily accessible. 
  • Sometimes point to the words while you're reading, just so they can keep track of where you are and start to recognize the letters that match the sounds. 
  • Sing songs that play with words or maybe even nonsense words!

Ages 3-5

  • Play alphabet games! We have magnet letters on the fridge and it's fun to make little words while they hide their eyes and then see how fast they can name the letters and try to say the word. Then change just one of the letters to make a new word!
  • Get them started with, a super fun and educational space with lots of games and activities. 
  • Watch some LeapFrog DVDs together. These are our favorites -- The Letter Factory, The Talking Words Factory, Word Caper. 
  • Write some word families like cat, hat, bat, sat, mat on a whiteboard. Have your child tell you what to write and try writing some words himself!

Ages 5-7
  • Print off the high frequency word lists and start with list one. See how many your child can already recognize and use in a sentence. If there are words that need to be practiced, put them up on the fridge and play sight word games like bingo or hopscotch. They just need to see these words a lot in order to memorize the way they look.
  • Start to introduce outlaw words and the idea that words don't always follow the rules {we can't always sound them out}.
  • Teach the "silent e" rule and "when two vowels go walking".
  • Teach digraphs {the letters make a new sound as in "ph" or sh"} and blends {you can still hear the two or three letter sounds as in "bl" or "nd"}. 
  • Introduce I Can Read books at their level and read together until your child becomes more confident. 
  • Later, when reading has become fairly painless, begin spelling the high frequency words, starting again with list one. He can write them on the whiteboard or spell them orally. Adding a sensory element can help -- tracing letters with your finger in shaving cream or sand. More ideas for spelling games than you could ever hope for found here
  • There are letter groupings that have sounds that are hard to remember like "ous" and "ir" -- here are some fun ways to teach these:
  • In the photo above, Peter is writing in a workbook called SpellWell {read reviews here}, which has some fun unscrambling and rhyming and complete the sentence games with a weekly list of spelling words. 

In general, our philosophy is that learning should be fun and at an appropriate developmental level. If it's causing huge stress and coming very hard, we put the brakes on. If they want more, we provide a challenge. If they are showing an interest in a particular topic, we move that way. Pete has a HUGE interest in Lego Robotics and is very motivated to read the instructions so he can build and program robots. Perfect! Buzz hasn't wanted to read together as often, but loves rhyming words and playing games. Okay!

Don't neglect the sponge that is waiting to be filled. Don't saturate the plant until it molds. Pay attention to your child's specific interests and abilities and have fun! Think of education as a gift you're giving them, not a burden to bear.