If you want to know how to teach reading without a curriculum, you have come to the right place! Learn what should be taught first in reading, and how to proceed in a fashion that will help your child succeed in reading!
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Teaching reading doesn’t have to be hard. I have taught both of my kids to read without any type of formal degree, and without buying an expensive curriculum. I used bits and pieces of things that I could find.
Both of my children are older now (21 and 14) and they both love to read and write. My oldest has read many classic books, and they can be quite hard to read. My youngest also loves to read, and would love to be a writer one day. I don’t have to try to get either one of them to read or write because they love to do it.
I know that teaching a child to read can be intimidating. I remember when I was very worried about how I would teach my children phonics. But, it isn’t as hard as you think. It takes time, but it can be a really enjoyable experience.
Here are the steps to teaching reading effectively.
1. Read engaging books to your child
Curiosity is a great motivator. Find books that pull your child in, and make him want to know more. Let your child pick out books that interest him at the library, or buy books about his favorite things.
Children are especially interested in animals and books that rhyme. (You can see the books that motivated my second child to read here. These books would be great choices for you to read to your child until they are ready to read themselves.)
When you read to your child, use your finger to trace under the words as you read. Don’t do this all the time, but do it occasionally. It will help your child to see that letters make words and that you are reading from left to right.
Occasionally point out a simple word like cat. Tell your child that the word says cat. And then sound out the word c-a-t. Don’t do this all the time or it will be hard to keep interest in the book you are reading.
2. Watch for Signs of Readiness
Did you know that teaching a child to read before they are ready can actually hurt your child’s reading ability? Ruth Beechick talks about this in her book “A Home Start in Reading“.
She tells of a school district that set up an experiment with kindergarteners. Some kindergartners received intensive instruction in reading. Others spent the same amount of time learning science. They did science experiments like playing with magnets or melting ice. They grew plants and learned about animals. There were books available for the children if they wanted them, but they were given no formal reading lessons.
By the third grade, the kids in the “science” group were far ahead of the “reading” group in their reading scores. This was because the vocabularies and thinking skills were more advanced. They could understand higher level materials.
The “science” children learned more real stuff while the “reading” children used up a lot of time working on the skills of reading. When the “science” children began reading they were older and knew more and learned reading much faster.
Another book by Raymond Moore and Dorothy Moore called “Better Late Than Early” talks a lot about waiting until children are ready to start “formal” education. They were educators themselves, and they also analyzed many studies. From their own observations and from the studies, they concluded that children do better if they learn when they are “ready”.
Readiness is something that is very important for parents and educators to keep in mind. Some children show signs of reading readiness a lot earlier than others. But keep in mind that “late” readers often catch up quickly to early readers.
So, how do you know when your child is ready to read? Reading specialists have observed that children display certain behaviors when they are ready to read. Here are some signs that your child is ready to start reading lessons:
- Your child likes to look through books and magazines
- Your child can express herself with words
- Your child can repeat a sentence of six to eight words
- Your child understands that writing carries a message
- Your child pretends to write or read
- Your child understands that reading goes from left to right
- Your child shows interest in being read to and looks forward to you reading aloud
- Your child understands a short story and can answer questions about the story
- Your child can look at a picture and tell you a story about it
3. Teach the Letter Sounds
Once you have spent many happy hours reading to your child, and you have determined that they are ready to start learning to read, you are probably wondering:
What Should Be Taught First in Reading?
The first step in teaching your child to read is to teach the letter sounds. It is a good idea to teach the vowels first-specifically the short vowel sounds (a as in apple, e as in egg etc.). Once you have taught those, teach the sounds of the consonants. If you want to hear the letter sounds, this letter sounds app can help.
You can use worksheets, flashcards, and activities to help your child memorize the sounds of letters.
If you are new to teaching letter sounds, you can pick up my free letter a worksheets and teacher’s guide here.
4. Practice Blending Sounds Together
Once your child knows the alphabet, you can teach them to blend sounds together. This can also be taught when your child only knows some of the letter sounds. To do this, you will need to show your child that you can put 2-3 letters together to form a word. (I have some teaching tips for blending and some free printable letter cards here.)
Another great book to practice blending from is Abeka’s Handbook for Reading. It has many pages that have a line that your child will read through that says “jo ju je ja ji”. The next line they will read says “jog, jug, jell, jam, Jill.” If you are consistent in this type of practice, blending and reading will soon become automatic for your child.
You will spend a good amount of time teaching blending with the short vowel sounds before moving on to step 5 (which introduces long vowel sounds). It is good for your child to be very familiar with the short vowel words before introducing long vowels.
5. Introduce the “Magic E”
Up until this point your child has only learned the short vowel sounds. There are two main ways to make a vowel say its long sound. One of these ways is to use the “magic e”
The magic is that if you add an e to the end of 3 letter words, the vowel will say its long sound. Here are a few examples:
man becomes mane
fin becomes fine
kit becomes kite
The magic e rule is “An ‘e’ close behind another vowel (with no more than one letter in between) usually makes the first vowel say its name, and the ‘e’ is usually silent.”
6. Introduce Other Long Vowels
There is another way to make vowels say their long sounds.
When there are two vowels in a word, the first vowel says its long sound, and the second vowel is silent.
Some examples of this are the words “team” and “boat”.
Next, we have the special sounds. Actually, I want to let you know something at this point. With my first daughter, I taught some of the special sounds first, and then taught the long vowels. I mention that because some of the phonics rules can be taught in a different order and everything will still turn out all right in the end.
7. Learn Special Sounds
The next step is to teach your child “special sounds”. These are things like consonant teams (digraphs), and consonant blends.
A consonant blend is a group of two or three consonants in words that makes a distinct consonant sound, such as bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fl, fr, gl, gr, pl, pr, qu, sc, sk, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, sw, tr, and tw.
We can group these into “l” and “r” blends, which are the most frequent and easiest to categorize.
In the Handbook for Reading there are rows of blends to practice these sounds. The first row will say: pla ple pli plo plu.
Another row will have words with those blends like plot plan and plus.
Consonant Teams (Digraphs)
Consonant teams (like sh, ph, th, ch, qu) are two consonants that team together to make one new sound. These can also be called digraphs. Some of these create a new sound, as in ch, sh, and th.
Some consonant teams, however, are just different spellings for already familiar sounds. For example gh is a different spelling for “f”. Some consonants have “silent partners”: and mb is “m” while wr is still the “r” sound
In the Handbook for reading, there are rows of blends and words to practice these sounds. First the child reads the row that says:
sha she shi sho shu. (In the book there is a little smile symbol to indicate whether the vowels say their short or long sound.)
In the next row he will read the words:
shag shell ship shop shut
8. Don’t Worry
When you see all this written out, you may begin to feel overwhelmed or worried. I totally understand. I have been through the entire phonics process twice, and have two good readers, but there was some stress along the way.
I hope I can spare you that by encouraging you that reading will happen! In fact, it seems to click all at once, and suddenly your child will be reading! That is a very exciting and rewarding time.
It does take some practice, but moms are some of the most dedicated people I know. I am sure you will do a great job. Just introduce a little phonics-my letter a teacher’s guide and worksheets are a good place to start, and see how your child does.
If your child seems overwhelmed, go back to reading to them for fun and wait until you see more signs of readiness. They may be ready in a few months. Some children are active and not interested in reading till they were older.
Neither of my children were early readers, but they are excellent readers and aspiring writers now. I know it can happen for you too!
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