Teaching a young child to read can be the most rewarding and the most frustrating thing you can do as an educator. All of my children have learned to read in different ways and at different ages. We do not like to push this skill, as we believe that a stressful beginning to this journey will hinder the enjoyment down the road. We like skills to develop naturally and on pace with the individual child.
One misconception about unschooling is that we do not teach our children. This is not true. We just do not teach our children in a traditional, curriculum related way. If you want to hear the stories of how my children learned to read, check out this video.
In our experience, the best way to teach a child to read is to just read with them. My children have all loved books, especially if those books have bright colours and beautiful pictures. I make a very conscious decision to buy the books I do. The boys might not realize this but, as I look for books to purchase, I am not only analyzing the content and quality of the story but am also looking at the way the book is formatted.
Usborne’s My First Reading Library
Usborne’s My First Reading Library is a collection of books that I purchased because of the way the books were formatted.
They are designed to help young children learn to read. They are designed to be read by both the adult and the child. Smaller font is read by adults and larger font is to be read by the child. As you progress through the series, the reader changes. The first few books are tailored more towards the adult being the reader, with the child reading smaller words that are sight words or words that can easily be sounded out. Later on in the series, as the confidence of the young reader grows, the words become more difficult and there are more words for the young reader and less for the adult reading along with the child. All of my children have really enjoyed this series when they started reading. They also really enjoyed the stories long before they ever started reading. My 9-year-old will still pick up these books when he is looking for something quick to read.
We also really love keeping board books in the house, long after the children have outgrown the need for a board book. Board books can be great little stories for new readers. Many have large fonts and easy words, which make them great stories for young readers to try and read.
Brain Quest Flip Books
Another resource we love using is Brain Quest flip books. We have many different levels of the Brain Quest resources, but we find them particularly handy for the pre-reading stage of development. Letter recognition and recognizing features of images are big parts of these flip books.
For young readers, sitting down and doing workbooks about letter recognition can be downright boring and overwhelming. These flip books allow the child to learn their letters while answering all sorts of different styles of questions or asking their own questions about what they see on the pages. By incorporating topics and skills your child is already comfortable with, in combination with the letter recognition, they are able to concentrate for longer periods of time because they are not getting overwhelmed by the information in front of them.
We do not use the Brain Quest books only by design, we love to throw our own twist into the mix. When there is an image of a letter, instead of simply asking what letter they see, we ask a variety of questions. Can you trace the letter with your finger? Can we think of an animal that starts with this letter/sound? These might be common questions to ask around learning letters and sounds but are great things to apply to these brain quest books.
There is a lot of controversy around whether children should be exposed to screen time. I have done a lot of research on the topic and am comfortable with using screen time and electronics as tools to aid in our journey to gain knowledge. If you are against the idea of screen time, then my next two suggestions will not help you. I thank you for reading this blog up to this point and I hope it has provided you with some ideas to incorporate into your journey to help your child learn to read.
Reading Apps on Tablets
There are many great app available for tablets and smartphones. There are also many great websites that are designed to help children learn to read while they are engaged and having fun playing a game.
One of our favourite reading games is Alphabet Goop. Alphabet Goop is available both on a computer and on Android devices. You are given two letters to which you have to match objects. To find your objects you have to stir the goop. I think this is a favourite of the boys because it involves goop, but they really enjoy playing and learning with this game.
One of my favourite resources for learning to read is to simply turn on the closed captioning on the TV. Closed captioning displays text on the screen so the children are able to follow along with the words as they listen to their favourite shows.
We love to use the closed captioning in conjunction with shows that are designed to help teach children to learn to read. One of our favourites shows to help a child learn to read hows is Super Why. All 4 of my boys have loved Super Why and, even now, my 9-year-old will sit and watch it with my 1-year-old. It provides value and entertainment for a large age range.
If you are looking for a list of TV shows that promote literacy, check out this article. We have not watched all of these shows, but many of them are on our list of favourite TV shows to help young readers.