Teach your child to read

Teach your child to read! This is one of the greatest delights of homeschooling! It is so exciting to see the little lightbulb go on when your child first gets the concept of forming letter sounds into real words. Once your child learns to read, the world will open before him; exploring the world is as close as a good book and a comfy chair!

Reading Matters

Yes, reading does matter. Reading skills benefit every aspect of life. Cooking/baking requires reading ability; paying your bills needs reading skills, applying for jobs, going to college, filing your taxes – all these demand reading skills. Reading matters, and the better your child can read, the better his future will be and the better person he will become.

The How-To-Do-It Part – How to Teach Your Child to Read

You can teach your child to read without any expensive curriculum or fancy equipment. You can teach reading to your child with just paper and pencil and access to a library.

On the other hand, you can find a curriculum or teaching books to use with your children to teach them to read. The best and most effective materials for teaching reading should focus first on learning phonograms and all the sounds they make, learning how to combine the phonograms into words and sentences, and then adding phonics and spelling rules to your child’s reading skillset. So, let’s look at the basics.

Start with the Basics

Always start with the basics. Without a strong foundation of necessary reading skills, your child will likely face reading difficulties later.

Introduce your child to the idea that the black marks on the pages of storybooks have meaning, that things printed on the page indicate words that tell stories. They need to make that connection.

Also, as you read to your child, use your finger under the words to show that we read from left to right and that the words follow a progression from the top of the page to the bottom of the page. Let your child turn the page for you, so he understands that the story continues, the words move on to the next page.

This relates some to what we talked about in the last post – the importance of reading to your children. As we read to them regularly, they may grasp these concepts on their own. (Did you miss that last post about Developing a Love of Reading? You can catch it here:  Develop a Love of Reading)

First of all, teach your child all the names and possible sounds of phonograms. There are 70 basic phonograms in the English language. Your child needs to learn each one of them and all the possible sounds each phonogram can make.

What’s a Phonogram?

Time to define my terms, right? Phonograms are the individual letters and combinations of letters that make up our words. Some examples include: “a,” “ch,” “ough,” “f,” “igh,” and so on. Sometimes letters of the alphabet make their own individual sounds, and sometimes the letters combine to create unique sounds.

One May Equal Many

The English language contains 70 unique phonograms, each with one or more possible sounds. As your child learns each of the letters or phonograms, he should also learn all the possible sounds that phonogram can produce.

For example, the letter “a” has three possible sounds: /ă/ as in “apple,” /ā/ as in “ape,” and /ah/ as in “all.” So, as your child learns the letter “a,” she should also learn all the associated sounds. Remember, though, as you connect sounds to words, be sure to use words your child already knows.

Flashcards to the Rescue

Is there an easy way to do this? Try flashcards. The Spalding Phonogram Flashcards contain all 70 phonograms and all their associated sounds. Work your way through the flashcards with your kids, starting with a few and adding a few more when the earlier ones are mastered.

Might the flashcards get boring? Perhaps. But try making flashcard time into a game. Be creative! Have your child look for learned phonograms in the books you read to her. Or, as he looks through his picture books, see if he can find words using those phonograms. How many “c” words can you find on this page?

I purchased Romalda Bishop Spalding’s book, The Writing Road to Reading, and the flashcards came as part of the book. I also used the Handbook for the Writing Road to Reading, by Bonnie L. Dettmer. These books teach reading skills, spelling skills, and writing skills (letter formation). Teaching spelling skills from an early age will benefit your child! (Links found in the Resources section below.)

You can also find free pdf versions of the flashcards online, print them out, and make your own. Just search for free Spalding phonogram cards online and see what you can find.

(Did I use both books religiously, exactly as written in the instructions? Absolutely not! As with any teacher’s manual, curriculum instructions, etc., these are guides, not masters! You are never required to teach everything exactly as a book tells you to! Use what your child needs from the books. If your child has already mastered a skill, move on!)

Writing Aids Memory Skills

Learning to write the phonogram as your child learns the associated sounds will help cement the information in his mind. Many studies have shown that writing helps us remember, so begin teaching writing skills as your children learn the early reading skills.

Writing words helps to build print awareness – the idea that words on a page have meaning. Have your child tell you a story while you write it for them. Have them keep a journal – you write what the child dictates until he can write it himself. Another way to accomplish this is by having your child write the letters he knows how to write while you complete the other letters.

After Mastering the Phonograms, What’s Next?

Has your child mastered the phonograms? Or at least, has he learned enough of the phonograms to start combining them into simple words? Your child does not have to know all the phonograms before beginning to read. Time to start putting sounds together into words! Start small and work your way to more challenging words.

First, begin by having your child identify the number of sounds he hears in a word. How many different sounds in the word “at”? He should say “2.” What about in the word “moon”? Check out this “game” you can play with your child to help him learn this skill: Elkonin Boxes and Reading.

Have your child begin by putting two phonograms together to form short-vowel-sound words. Example: “a” and “t.” Now, remember that “a” can make three different sounds, so you need to specify which of those three sounds you want your child to use. Once she gets the concept of “a” and “t” making “at,” try using “a” and “n.”

After your child can easily combine two phonograms into words, move on to using three phonograms together to form short-vowel-sound words. (Also called CVC words, or consonant-vowel-consonant words) Example: Start with “at” and add phonograms at the beginning of the word, such as “b” -at, “c” -at, “h” -at.

Now it is time for sentences! Use several short-vowel-sound words to form simple sentences—hot cat on a hat. A hat is on a cat. Cat sat on a rat. You get the idea. You can even make your little sentences into books and let your child illustrate each sentence. Have fun with reading!

What about “sight words”?

The big question in teaching reading – What about sight words (also known as high-frequency words)? While that is still the trend in many public school reading, I am not a fan. If kids can only read the words they have learned and associated with pictures, what will they do when faced with a word they have not learned?

I believe that teaching reading using only or predominantly sight words does our kids a great disservice. We are limiting their potential and development if they can only recognize the words they have been taught. We are not giving them the tools and skills they need to really learn to read.

With that said, I will admit that some words don’t lend themselves to “sounding out.” We will need to teach a few “sight words” – those words that do not follow the phonics patterns – but we should teach as few as possible. Some examples of words we need to teach might include “the,” “one,” “was.” If you look for Fry’s list of sight words and choose the words from the list that do not follow standard phonics patterns, you will have a list of high-frequency words you need to teach.

It is far better that children learn to decode and put the phonogram sounds together as they begin to read. When young readers learn necessary reading skills, they will fare much better as they face more difficult words.

What about longer words?

So, your child has been doing well with short, one-syllable words. Now what? How do you progress to longer words?

Teach them about syllables.

Syllables determine how words are broken into parts or segmented. Examples: sep-a-rate, el-e-ment, sur-prise, sup-per. Once they get the idea of how big words break into syllables, you can play some fun games. How many syllables in the word “hyperventilate”? How many syllables in “daffodil”?

Read by syllables

Once they understand syllables, kids can read larger words by reading one syllable at a time and then putting the syllables together to form the complete word.

And when they figure this out, they can become super-readers, unstoppable readers!

Every child deserves the gift of reading

Reading aloud together will boost your child’s reading abilities.

Read to your Child

Reading to your child will increase his vocabulary. It will also make your child comfortable with words. She will begin to understand that words make pictures, provide understanding, and have meaning. As you read to your child, consider using your finger to point out that the words go in order from left to right. This may also help a child see that letters and words on a page have a specific meaning. Reading to your child will increase his interest in reading.

Read with your Child

You need to read WITH your child. When a child is learning to read, he needs your attention. She needs your guidance. Here are some ideas:

  1. Choose a simple book.
  2. You begin to read the book and occasionally point to a word or two for your child to read.
  3. As your child improves his reading skills, have him read more of the words.
  4. You read one page, have your child read the next page.
  5. Eventually, work your way up to having your child read more and more of the book.
  6. Always praise their efforts! Learning to read is a big deal! Celebrate!
  7. Book ideas? P. D. Eastman, Theo LeSieg/Dr. Seuss, Bob Books, Else Minarik (Little Bear books), Jean Van Leeuwen (Oliver and Amanda Pig books), and other similar authors/books.
  8. Also, use well-written children’s books with engaging stories and illustrations to model reading as a reflection of speaking.
Reading will take you places

Put in the Time

Teaching your child to read, and doing it well, will take time.

Doing anything well takes time. As homeschooling parents, too often, we think about how many things we have to do, how little time there is to do all those things, and we forget that time spent teaching them is one of our highest priorities. 

Teaching your children to read is worth the time required.

We need to remember that teaching our children to read is an investment that will pay great dividends in the future. We are giving them the tools they need to succeed in life! Don’t shortchange your children!

They will become competent readers.

Competent readers can explore the world around them. Reading gives your children the ability to learn anything they need to know. Good reading skills will serve your children well in future education and employment.

Teaching good reading skills to your children will work towards your end goals –

  • Developing independent learners
  • Giving them the skills to read the Bible
  • Producing independent thinkers
  • Satisfying curious minds

Remember, you can use a curriculum, different materials, or go at this on your own, but whichever method you choose, teach your children the reading skills they need to thrive and be independent readers. Provide them with this vital tool for success – the ability to read!

Resource list: 

Spalding spelling rules: Find a copy here or here.

Also here.

Writing Road to Reading by Romalda Bishop Spalding can be purchased here.

The Handbook for the Writing Road to Reading by Bonnie L Dettmer can be found here.

Note: I do not work for or represent either of these authors or the Rainbow Resource Center. I have used these two books to help teach my children to read. I have done business with the Rainbow Resource Center many times and have found them to be a reliable source with reasonable prices and a huge inventory!

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