Books, Books, Books!!
Reading is the most important academic skill children can acquire. Once children are readers, they can learn anything - no limits!
Learning how to read is not as hard as you think.
Let your child learn to read. I like to brag that I didn't teach my children to read. They taught themselves. Given the right environment and opportunity, children naturally use their own learning styles to become readers – and - they read quite well!
You see, reading is wonderful and enjoyable. Reading is only hard and boring when there's nothing good to read or when it's turned into a chore. I've never met an adult that enjoys snuggling up with a good list of sight words. Like us, children prefer to read things that are interesting, both fiction and non-fiction. Interesting equals learning. Allowing children to listen to and peruse books of their choosing ensures continued interest.
Reading is simply our language in print. Learning to read can be just as easy as learning to talk. When your child was learning to talk he may have said something like, “I runned real fast!” Did you give him bad marks for the mistake? Not likely. Instead, you probably thought is was cute! You may have chuckled and said something like, “Did you run fast?” Without even thinking about it, you were teaching him how to speak correctly.
Learning to read can be just as natural and easy as learning to speak. The only difference is children do not see the printed language as frequently as they hear the spoken language. This is why reading to your child is so vitally important.
The reading environment
A big part of learning to read is the environment. I can recall that the first word one of my sons read aloud was “HOT” on a piece of machinery. Words are – and should be – all around.
Learning to read is enhanced by the environment of the reader. It's important to have lots of books around. Children should have many different kinds of books to choose from. You never know where your child's interest may wander. Get both library books and books at used book sales. Don't be afraid to have bookcases in your living room, family room, dining room, and/or bedrooms.
For many years, one of the hallmarks of a homeschooler is the plethora of books in the home. Homeschool moms tend to be bibliophiles. Not only do we have multiple full bookshelves in our homes, but we also tend to have books strewn around the home.
Strewing is a great tactic. Books OFF their shelves and laying around on the coffee table, on beds, and even in the kitchen are all opportunities for a child to pick up a book. Books are to be read, not dusted. If the books are all kept all in one place – the schoolroom – there are less opportunities for a child to casually open a book and read. Don't be afraid to leave them laying around!
Children learn through example.
It's important to set the right example for your children. If you want your children to watch more TV, then you should watch more TV. If you want your children to read more, you need to read more. You need to create an environment where interacting with the printed language happens all the time.
Our children learn by mimicking us. There was a time when I had two potato peelers. One worked by scraping away from yourself, the other worked by pulling the scraper toward yourself. One time, as I was peeling potatoes, my young son was intrigued with the process and wanted to participate. I gave him the peeler that you operate by scraping away from yourself. But seeing me scrape toward myself, he imitated my motions. Unfortunately, his peeler did not work that way and he got frustrated. So we traded peelers. Now I was peeling away from myself and he copied, again, without success. Lacking the learning experience he was looking for, he gave up.
So consider what examples you're setting for your children. If you want your children to be avid readers, then turn off the TV, set down your phone, and pick up a book. Read in front of your children, read to your children, and read with your children.
Truth is, there is no one way to teach a child to read and reading does not need to be a sequential series of assignments. It can be a joyful experience shared with those we care about the most. Very basically, there are three steps to helping a child learn to read:
1. Read to your child.
I once heard a public school teacher brag that she has 20 minutes of classroom reading time a day. I was shocked. Perhaps this is an accomplishment for a large classroom of children, but I think it's very sad that all the children in that room – and countless other classrooms like it – get only 20 minutes or less of reading time each day.
As a homeschooler, you do not need to limit the reading. Read to them every day, and read a lot. Have lots of reading books on hand for scheduled and spontaneous reading. It is never too early to start reading to your children and they're never too old to be read to. For each of my children, I started one-on-one reading time with them when they turned one. Other mothers start reading to their children at younger ages – even before they're born. In a reading home, there is no set time when you stop reading to your children. I read to my children for many years past when they started reading on their own – right into their teen years!
When choosing books to read, remember that just because your child is not yet reading, it does not mean she wants to listen to early reader books. She can enjoy many different types of stories. Picture books increase interest in the stories, but you can also read stories that don't have pictures, including chapter books. Both you and you child should choose the books. Perhaps take turns choosing them – even if he only wants the same story over and over. Children learn through repetition and your child's natural desire to hear the same book – again and again – is his way of enjoying the learning process.
Don't be afraid to read above your child's level. There is nothing wrong with children learning difficult words right along with easy words. Reading more complex literature to your child allows her to become familiar with the sounds and cadence these books – long before they would be exposed to these things in a traditional curriculum.
Reading to your children is always important, even when they are not seeing the words being read. Allowing your child to play with Legos or do crafts while you read to her can increase the experience. Some children listen better when the are busy. When a child does activities while listening to stories, it can even help him remember the story for longer. My 4th-grade teacher read to us every day. She let us color while she read. Many years later, when looking at the things I colored, I was reminded of the parts of the stories that I listened to while coloring.
Of course, while reading is vitally important for a student, perhaps the best part of reading to your child is the closeness that you engender with your chi