Thursday, May 7, 2009

Learning to Read

Learning to read is a journey - a long and winding journey. Sometimes I get caught up in the rocks on the ground or the tangled vines and bushes all around. Sometimes I look ahead and see how far we still have to go. But if I look behind, I see where we have been and how far we have come. I have to look back often, so I won't be discouraged. And I'm not even the one learning to read here!
Teaching is not my special gift. I'm so impatient. But I'm learning how to teach, as Miah is learning to read. I started by sitting Miah down in front of a chalkboard at age 3. Oh, how I regret that! At that point I had not read Charlotte Mason or Montessori or anything really. So I've made mistakes. I've read a bit. I'm improving (I hope!) and so is Miah.
One mistake I made is not providing a big enough variety of readable material. We have lots of books all over the house but only a few that Miah can read without a great deal of frustration. That was my impatience showing through. I didn't want her to be stuck at the beginner level of reading. I wanted her to move up to more interesting reading too quickly. I wanted her to ba able to enjoy a story or gain knowledge. Of course that only made the improvements come more slowly.
Ruth Beechick explains this perfectly in her book, The Three R's.
"Don't be a pushy parent who forces a child into harder books than he wants. Easy books give Johnny opportunity to consolidate his knowledge and skill in the decoding matters. Easy books also help him learn and overlearn the common words in our language that are used repeatedly. These common words make up a large percentage of the vocabulary even in difficult books. But let Johnny practice them in easy books. Easy books help him gain skills in smooth and rapid reading. They stimulate his thinking and his imagination. He also learns that books are fun. When he is not struggling with difficult vocabulary, he can occupy his mind with the content of stories and books. And even at this easy level, wide vistas of information, ideas, and attitudes begin to open up for him.
But remember, gaining information from books is not the main purpose during this step [fluency]. That comes later. The main purpose now is to read, read, read, so that decoding skills become overlearned and automatic."
When a friend loaned me a variety of readers, the very next day Miah said, "I want to read a book!" Not "I want you to read to me." or "I want to look at these books." She chose a book and read it, and it had nothing to do with me! That was a rewarding moment.
Miah is reading 20 minutes a day, and our favorite readers are Bob books and the Sing, Spell, Read and Write phonetic storybooks.

Another mistake I made was not presenting phonics in a systematic manner (at the appropriate time). After reading a little Charlotte Mason, I thought all I had to do was read to her and let her read. But she really needed more of a methodical approach. This has everything to do with the way Miah thinks and learns. And it had everything to do with me understanding Miah, not a method or curriculum. Of course, after I realized what she needed, we started with regular phonics. Yes, we went back to the chalkboard but this time at age six, when this is what she needed. Using Phonics Pathways (old version) as a guide, I present a letter combination/sound on the chalkboard. She reads several words using the day's sound, and the next morning her copywork involves writing those words.

We also play games that I found at used curriculum sales or made. Here are some links for free stuff.
Adrian Bruce - reading games
Montessori Materials - phonics, grammar, and 3-part cards
Montessori Mom - reading readiness activities, movable alphabet

Larkin is a strong auditory learner. He's picked up so much by just hanging around and listening. Some days, he joins us at the chalkboard or in playing games. Sometimes he has his own activities to do. Sometimes I ask him to read to me. Sometimes he asks to read. He may read 5 minutes or 30 minutes - whatever he feels like that day. I like the relaxed approach I've been able to take with him and still see such great headway on the reading journey.
And they all like it when we read to them. Zahana and Rohan are already on their reading journey. Theirs will be a more gentle one.

(A book read 14,367 times.)

Miah, keep up the journey! You're doing great!


  1. Thanks for the reading game links. :)

    ...and now I'm going to go check out the Sing, Spell, Read and Write phonetic storybooks.

    Thanks...and good luck on the continued journey. :)

  2. It's hard, isn't it? We have been struggling with similar issues in our homeschool as well. Thanks for posting and keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks for all the links. I'll check these out for my next reader. My second child didn't learn to read until he was 8. He could real a little bit here and there at 7, but didn't read well until 8.5.
    I love Ruth Beechick's methods. Beautiful picture of your dd in the woods. Holly

  4. I didn't worry at all about reading when my son was in public school... and I said I wouldn't worry about it with my daughter who has been homeschooled. I read constantly, Don reads too... so our children will read. That is all there is to it. One day it will just click. That is what I learned in Psychology, right? But something started to nag me when Cyan wasn't reading early. She did everything else early... but not reading. She will be 8 in July and she is still around a level 2 reader. I am not worried about it most of the time. Alex was the exact same way (didn't read until the summer after 2nd grade), but because I am the one solely responsible for Cyan's education, it wasn't quite so heavy with him. With her, I struggle with being frustrated and also knowing that she will read when she is ready.

    Thank you for your story... it was timely for me.


  5. your blog has so many great homeschooling resources! thanks! i'm starting to think about how to go about homeschooling (my oldest is only 4) and i need all the help i can get. great blog!