Over the past few months, Sophiapea has blossomed into a bookworm. We’ll sit down and read a few lessons out of the McGuffey Primer, and when she starts to get tired of that we put it away. Then she moves on to the library books. I sit beside her in awe as she forges her way through all kinds of picture books, stumbling over some words but learning the rules of phonics as she goes. As exciting as it is to see her developing such a passion for reading, I’m excited for more than just being able to check the box beside ‘learn how to read’. I strongly believe that the real purpose of these “pre” school years is to nurture the curiosity and creativity that will hopefully follow my children beyond formal schooling years and throughout their adult lives.
Early Reading is about more than just teaching your child to read. Not every kid is going to read early, and that is perfectly okay. Every child has a unique brain and learns in their own particular way. Every kid can enjoy reading by listening to books read aloud from an incredibly young age. On that note, here are 5 of the things we do to encourage early reading.
- Read aloud every day, but be flexible about it. I’ve never been one to force the reading aloud–when they’re too wiggly to continue beyond one story, we stop and do something else. When they settle down again, we read another book. We read before naptime and before bedtime, and sometimes when they wake up. Reading is just a part of life, as much as eating and sleeping.
- Let them pick out their own books. Ask them what they like and help them find books about it. I’ll tell you now–there are some repetitive phases. Klaus is only two and we’ve read every book on motorcycles that our library stocks in the juvenile section, multiple times. It’s okay though, because this education isn’t about me and what I like, but about him and what HE likes.
- Play with letters. Arrange things into letter shapes, draw names in the sand/dirt/mud, write the alphabet with chalk and jump through the alphabet.
- Notice the words everywhere you go. Stop signs, store signs, road signs, especially if it’s funny or relatable. Some words will just tickle funnybones. For instance, there’s a restaurant called Smashburger across from one of our favorite grocery stores and for some reason, the name cracks Sophia up every time we’re there.
- Finally, I really recommend the book ‘Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons‘ by Siegfried Engelmann. We started it with Sophia when she turned 4, but I think it is appropriate for children younger or older, as long as your expectations are in line with their age. It’s a phonics based approach to reading that starts really simply, with short, scripted lessons. You read a few sounds, do a few simple exercises, and write two letters. That’s it! The lessons build from there, and by the end of the book your child is reading full pages of text. It is so beautifully simple, there really isn’t that much to say about it except that it was wondrously effective for us and everybody I know who used it. Fun, slightly random fact: My mom used ‘To teach ME to read way back in the day!
Finally, I think it’s important to reiterate the importance of being relaxed and focused on helping your children learn to love learning more than just dotting i’s and crossing t’s. As you go through 100 Easy Lessons book, particularly if you’re doing it with a younger child (under 6), take it easy. Some days she/he will breeze through the lesson. Other days, it will be a struggle to get half of a lesson done. They are learning; it’s just not necessarily as linear a process as we might prefer. Right now, they’re still little. Right now, they are easily pleased and eager to be entertained, and learning is entertaining to them! It is at once our greatest challenge, responsibility, and joy to help them retain that mentality. It is also one (of many) reasons why my Superman and I have chosen to home-educate.
My closing thought for the day: Let them be little, but help them love learning. It’s a beautiful universe with an abundance of wild and miraculous wonders, and even more waiting to be discovered and released upon the world by the phenomenal adults our children will become. THAT is the most sustaining thought of all in this education process!
I hear babies cry and I watch them grow. They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know–and I think to myself, What A Wonderful World. ~ Bob Thiele and George David Weiss.