This post is sponsored by Bookroo. All opinions on teaching twins how to learn how to read are definitely my own.
I never once thought teaching children how to learn how to read would be an easy feat, especially because I knew I’d be their teacher.I do not have a teaching certificate nor did I major in English in college. Sure, I enjoy writing and reading as I participate in a monthly book club (I actually started my current book club) and I write regularly for this blog. But, the English language is so complicated!
Our vowels all make multiple different sounds, for various different reasons. A spelling rule doesn’t hold fast and true for all words or situations.
I remember learning this little song in elementary school: “I before E except after C or when sounding like “a” as in neighbor or weigh.” It engrained in my head and helped me remember how to spell many words, but I quickly realized that the word Science has an I before E right after C…. (This mug further emphasizes my point on this “rule”…)
Sometimes letters don’t make sounds, like the g and the k in words that start gn or kn.
The examples of strange pronunciation go on.
It’s crazy that though I read and write fairly well, I cannot easily explain why some words don’t follow the phonics sounds we worked so hard to ingrain upon our children in preschool and kindergarten!
My homeschooled twins (who have always been homeschooled) are now six years old, fast approaching the age of seven in a couple months’ time. How thankful I am that they know how to read and are getting better at it every day.
My approach hasn’t been perfect, nor my implementation. I’ve made mistakes along the way, I’m sure, but here they are, learning how to read as homeschooled children under my direction. I’m amazed, too!
Through reading several different books about learning how to read, talking to educators and homeschooling parents, I discovered that:
- Children will eventually learn how to read, despite any failings I have in teaching them, as long as we keep working at it and keep a positive attitude about it.
- The average age that children learn how to read is 7. How early a child learns to read doesn’t matter in the long-term educational success of the child either.
- A parent’s attitude toward books makes a big difference. They should see me reading books regularly, and enjoying them.
- Reading out loud to children from an early age is fundamental to developing great language skills.
- A mix of phonics-based reading and whole language learning is ideal.
- Children need access to great books at home.
What this means is that in order to teach my oldest children, my twin daughters, how to read at age six, when I had really no idea what and how and when and whatever to do so, I read more books with them than we spent time directly studying and drilling phonics and sight words. By far.
I’m not saying my method is perfect (it’s not) but I am suggesting that perhaps it’s okay to go with the flow when it comes to teaching your children to read, especially as a homeschool parent.
At various ages I focused on the following:
Learn How to Read Focus for Ages 0-2
I will be 100% honest and admit that I did not read to my children from infancy. I did not read to them daily. I did not prop up picture books during their tummy time to look at. We didn’t go to baby or toddler story time or spend hours snuggling and reading stories together. It just didn’t happen.
With my twins, it was survival mode. Plus, sharing my lap often led to brawls as they couldn’t sit still. (For great tips on how to read to kids who won’t sit still my friend Rachel over at A Mother Far From Home has some great suggestions here.)
My twins were also known for destroying the few books we did have, chewing on the binding, drawing all over them with crayons, ripping out pages, destroying the pop-ups in the pop-up books, tearing pages, and ripping covers completely off.
So, despite our attempts to give our children access to books in their room, at their level, so that they could get to know books, and be surrounded by them (which I had read many times in various articles and books would help their future literacy) it was a seemingly wasteful and expensive endeavor to do so.
My major takeaway from raising twins, and two more (single) children in the 0-2 age range is to not fret too much. Make sure you have some great inexpensive board books (not paperback) or bathtime books that don’t tear, with simple words, bright colors, and keep it simple!
Pull out books and read to them, but more than anything, be with your child, and have fun looking at the pictures together, letting her practice turning the pages. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t make it through a story. Don’t worry about reading the words on the page as they’re written. Have fun! Do voices. Make it up!
Ask them to point to the objects in the pictures. Ask what sounds the duck makes or the dog. Name the color of the objects on the page (and say “the ball is green” rather than the “green ball.” It’s weird but actually more helpful for children learning colors!).
Learn How to Read Focus for Ages 3-4
With a child fully into the preschool ages, we find that our children are much more eager to sit down with mom or dad and enjoy a good story… or five! It’s important at this age to make more time to read with them, to take them to the library for storytime and to check out new books, and for them to see you reading books for leisure as well.
As books play a big factor in a child’s language development and vocabulary, we read books with big words they do not know, which is why we upgrade from the board books into the picture books.
There are so many amazing picture books out there to choose from on any subject imaginable. You can pick up educational books about dinosaurs and trains, or fantasy books about princesses or classic fairy tales, or books with silly stories featuring talking animals. Whatever your kid is interested in, there’s likely to be picture books about it. It’s also fun to teach them a few facts along the way with non-fiction picture books.
Also at this age, it’s good practice to start running your finger underneath the words as you read them. It helps a child understand that we read left to right and that the words you are saying relate to written words on the page. It also encourages them to look at the letters and words rather than only the pictures and images on the pages.
At this age, we ask bigger questions about what they think might happen next, or which character they like, and so on. We encouraged our children to tell us what happened and ask them to narrate the story to us, in their own words.
Children begin looking at books by themselves now, looking at the pictures, enjoying seek-n-find type books to do on their own and with you.
We also began introducing the letters individually and their phonic sounds through the use of various methods, including Leap Frog DVDs, Sesame Street, and other preschool-geared shows and educational apps, as well as through a little formal preschool instruction and time together.
The preschool years are a great time to start telling stories to your children. Classic fairy tale stories, made up stories, stories based on your life, or your child’s life, or whatever. Children love bedtime stories. And while it may not seem like storytelling directly relates to reading, it does.
Storytelling develops the skills a child need to be an active listener and learner. It improves their memory and sharpens their creativity. It connects children to books and the stories they contain, among other great things.
Then let your children tell stories to you! Don’t be surprised when they are the same ones you tell them with more or less details included.
Learn How to Read Focus for Ages 5-6
We didn’t do a very formal preschool curriculum, so it’s not until kindergarten started that we worked actively in learning how to read. We used the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to develop a strong phonics awareness, decoding, and blending. We used worksheets to practice writing and identifying letters and words. We began reading Bob Books and other very simple early readers like the Dick and Jane books.
I did realize though that sticking too much with easy readers that were, well, too easy, did not keep their interest or their efforts. I decided to start picking up books with words they didn’t know and were a bit above what they actually knew and have seen great improvements. I also chose early readers that had more interesting story lines or featured characters they liked from TV shows.
Also, if something is painstakingly boring and your child hates it (like the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons after lesson 44 or so) it may be time to call it quits and try something else.
We continued to use educational apps and websites here and there as well as movies and TV shows too, but we also began to read short chapter books aloud to our children, starting with The BFG by Roald Dahl and moving onto James and the Giant Peach followed by The Adventures of Captain Underpants series because my children find them hilarious (as do I).
Reading chapter books has totally piqued their interest in learning how to read and is great for comprehension, listening skills, and so much more.
Now that our children are reading some, we’re still working on sight words, word families, and making them read to us every day, and reading to them every day. We also stretch their reading abilities by asking them to read one verse straight from the Scriptures each night.
I still take them to storytime and the puppet show at the library (in part because they have younger siblings) where we check out books to supplement what we’re learning about in our homeschool, pick up early readers, and fun books, too. I try to challenge them to read by playing games to get them excited. We also write, even as part of our math curriculum.
It’s a great age to have them illustrate and write their own picture book stories, even if the written words are missing all the vowels and are pretty illegible.
The Key to Learning How to Read
The secret to learning how to read is books. Lots of books. Lots of reading. Lots of stories written, illustrated, and oral. Surrounding them with books, getting them excited about the stories themselves, making up stories together, and so on.
This means you need great books. If you don’t have easy access to the library, or for whatever reason don’t care for yours, there is another great way to get new and wonderful books into your home, and without leaving your home.
When I heard about Bookroo and their business model I thought it was perfect for parents who value owning books and encouraging them and their children to read more and be read to more.
Bookroo is a monthly subscription service that delivers 2-3 vetted (by parents and kids for re-readability) storybooks to your doorstep. To make it even more exciting, the books are individually wrapped for your child to open!
Bookroo was founded by three sister-in-laws who not only share a love for their husbands, but also a love of reading. They’re passionate about building libraries and helping others foster a child’s love of reading. Plus, they donate books to the Reach Out and Read program which works to get books into the hands of low-income children.
You can choose to either receive three board books or two picture books. The combined retail value of the books always exceeds the subscription price too!
We recently received our first Bookroo delivery of two picture books. The books were very cute and well illustrated and constructed.
The subscription fee is only $17.99/month or only $16.66/month with a 3-month subscription, plus $5 S&H in the US ($16 to Canada, and $25 everywhere else).
For 2-3 brand-new, high-quality books, it’s a pretty great deal! It would make a great gift for a new mom or for a child’s birthday.
How grateful I am for books leading the way in my teaching methods! I do not know what a digraph is or all the “rules” of the English language or why sometimes letters are silent or sometimes sound different. I don’t even remember how I learned how to read. Yet, somehow I figured it out. And somehow my kids are too and doing just fine.
If you’re also a homeschooler, I encourage you not to freak out and stress about how your child will learn how to read. Do your best, and chances are it will happen when they are ready and find the right motivator.
PIQUED their interest, rather than “peaked.”
Katelyn Fagan says
Thanks. I always forget that. Again, NOT an English major. 🙂 Hope you enjoy the post otherwise.
Christina Jane Stuck says
Hey! I just found your website and looked at this article. I wanted to add some tips for the 0-2 age group (yours are wonderful!). Mainly, the focus at that age is to help make a ritual out of reading. Build it up as a habit. But reading isn’t the only way to raise a reader. I have a series called On Raising a Reader, with a segment on Babies and I’m working on the Toddlers one. But basically singing, playing and talking are all ways to help your “can’t sit still” baby/babies become readers. Pressure off and fun on! I’m a children’s librarian, by the way, so these are little nuggets of comfort I like to tell parents and caregivers.
Katelyn Fagan says
Thanks so much! And that’s great to hear! I LOVE doing songs and playing with my toddlers and babies. Currently been doing lots of fun nursery rhymes with my 19 month old.