A Home Start in Reading

Teaching a child to read is one of the areas that we tend to make more complicated than it needs to be. One easy solution is to simply teach a child to read in a natural way.

Frequently, many of our problems in this area stem from simple impatience! We tend to start before our child is ready, and take it personally if he doesn’t respond to our teaching in the “proper time frame” — putting tremendous pressure on the child, and Mom.

Another part of the problem is our non-ending search for that magic bullet — the A+ phonics program that will cure all of our reading ills.

One way to get around both of these issues is to simplify — to teach phonics in the natural way.

With our first child, I didn’t know any better. I taught her how to read without giving it much thought: a makes the ah sound as in apple. Then we would practice: bat, cat, hat, etc. She would read to me and I would encourage her that she was doing great, incidentally correcting any errors along the way.

With our second child we were already officially homeschooling. Oh, such pressure! We went through a few phonics programs before he finally connected the ah sound with that a in cat. And it took a little longer before he understood how to blend c-at or h-at.

Ruth Beechick says we tend to try several phonics programs before hitting on the right one, when all that is really needed is time and practice.

Blending skills is one of those things you cannot hurry in children. You can’t sternly shake your finger at Johnny or promise him cake if he gets it right. All you can do is give him opportunities to learn it, and one day you will see he is beginning to catch on.

Dr. Ruth Beechick, A Home Start in Reading

Suggestions (many taken from A Home Start in Reading)
  1. Begin by teaching the sounds the letters make — a few consonants (n, t, m) and the short vowel sounds in a or e. With just these few letters you have a place to start.

    …[Y]ou did not teach all the letters or all their sounds. That’s the dull, memorizing, way of teaching. Your goal, instead, was to start your child toward the exciting discovery that the sounds blend together to make words.Dr. Ruth Beechick, A Home Start in Reading

  2. Now begin the blending process by placing a vowel on one line, and the consonants the child knows listed in a row beneath:

    an t m

  3. Show him how to blend the two letters together to make a word, sliding your finger from a to the consonant as you say the two sounds — an, at, am.
  4. Once this becomes an easier process, you can work on a phonogram sound such as an using consonants your child knows:

    m p r tan

    Think of the joy your child will have as he realizes he is reading words!

  5. Use magnetic letters on the refrigerator for hands-on blending practice and a change of pace.
  6. Make a phonogram flip booklet for more hands-on practice.
  7. Try reading simple books that contain the sounds your child knows. The Bob books are great for this.

Your child is on his way!

Just a note: Reading should be a joy, not a chore. Worksheets and other devices that make learning the phonograms schooly are not only unnecessary (until your child is learning to spell), but may make him think twice about wanting to learn to read!

And as a word of encouragement, that second child is an incredible reader!

Additional Resources
A Home Start in Reading

A Home Start in Reading by Ruth Beechick
This little book is all you need to teach your child to read. Really.

Interactive Flip Book Maker
Free interactive that can help you make your own phonogram flip book.

Teach a Child to Read: The Natural Way

Bob Books
These simple beginning readers are designed such that your child can read from a real book using the few sounds he already knows. Set 1 covers the short vowels and three-letter words. We went through several of the sets with great success!

Phonogram Flash Cards
Once your child is a bit further down the road, these beautiful flash cards from Jan Brett can provide a review.

Book Study: The Little Red Hen {Free eBook & Activities}

Book Study: The Little Red Hen {Free eBook & Activities}
You might find this book study helpful in seeing how to apply these lessons to books already on the shelf!

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