Teaching Reading



Education ... has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.” - G. M. Trevelyan


Keep the goal in mind: Teach them to read fluently so that they can use their reading skills to read the Bible, read literature for enjoyment, and learn history, science and other subjects written in books. It’s not to brag on them or put another child down. For information about reading readiness, read over The 3Rs.

Controversy over “whole language” vs “phonics”.

Whole language instruction is done by reading aloud to them while they "follow along" in the text. No phonics rules are taught. (Whole Language from National Right to Read foundation.

Straight phonics is teaching all the rules of phonics before allowing the children to read.

  • Straight phonics involves lots of worksheets that tend to be tedious busy work.

  • In many curriculums, there is so much time spent on phonics that the children get little exposure to actual reading and quickly lose the desire to read.

  • Exceptions to phonics rules are confusing. Only 80% of the English language is phonetic. The other 20% must be learned other ways.

The answer lies somewhere in between.

  • Teach what is needed by your child when he needs it.

  • One child may need systematic phonics instruction while the other can learn to read through the whole-word approach and a minimal use of phonics. The biggest deciding factor is readiness. Read Dr. Raymond Moore's book, Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home , for more information on readiness.

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Limit the amount of time spent in close up work to 5-15 at a time for young children. Their eyesight is not completely developed until age 8-10.

Break up formal learning into small chunks. The attention span of a child is about 1 minute for every year of age.

Read to your child as much as you can.

  • Begin with wordless books. Two good resources for book lists are Picture Book Database (Input a one-word keyword and find a book to match.) and 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know.

  • Add predictable books -books with patterned structures, predictable plots, and so much repetition that children can guess what is coming next and start “reading” them. (Henny Penny is one of my favorites because of it's alliteration. The kids love it! (NOTE: It does have a scary ending, if that bothers you.)

  • Add ABC books, counting books, and nursery rhymes.

  • Read books that teach shapes, sizes, colors, position.

  • Run your finger under the words occasionally to teach them that you read top to bottom and from left to right.

Go to the library. Take advantage of Reading Times at Library.

Start a library collection for your child. Read How to Stock a Family Library, Literature Resources, and use Multi-Level teaching to build a great library while homeschooling!

Ask questions about what you read together . Caution-this is not a quiz!

Listen to books on tape while driving in the car or instead of watching TV.

Watch the movie after reading a book that has been made into a movie. Examples: Little Women, Anne of Green Gable, and Treasure Island.

Take time to read yourself. Model. A child learns by watching his/her parents.

Provide your child with a variety of interactive activities.

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Read to them every day.

  • Expose them to a wide range of reading materials: easy or step by step readers, chapter books (The Boxcar Children, Nate the Great), biographies, nonfiction, and classics.

  • Expose them to a variety of subject areas: history, space, animals, clouds, soccer, electricity, insects, etc.

  • Read poetry and rhyming stories together; have them create their own rhymes.

-The Christian Mother Goose Book of Nursery Rhymes by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker. Also available: -Christian Mother Goose Big Book.

-For traditional Mother Goose, Richard Scarry's, Best Mother Goose Ever is my favorite, ISBN 0307155781.

  • Read and reread the same books. Research shows that rereadings result in marked improvements not just in children's speed, accuracy, and expression but also in their comprehension and linguistic development.

  • Maintain a list of books read to and by child; keep in portfolio.

Have them practice breaking up words into syllables (clapping syllables) Bub–ble–gum, tel–e–vi–sion.

Have them play with alliterative language.

  • Read stories such as the TEENY TINY WOMAN - a favorite of many!

  • Create silly sentences such as Sally saw Sandy scoop sand on the seashore.

Teach your child the letters of the alphabet. Start with the upper case, then add the lower case. Use all the senses (taste, touch, hearing, sight, smell). Good resources for this are

After your child recognizes the letters of the alphabet, teach him/her the sounds of the letters. (You might want to administer a Readiness test to see if he/she is ready for phonics - Test of Phoneme Identities) Teach only a few letters and vowels at a time. My favorite cut & paste resource is Letter of the Week! which contains 26 lessons using craft projects, recipes, and other fun activities to teach the alphabet sounds. Recommended for the Visual learner and kids who like to cut and paste. Other good resources are:

Teach sight words - a few at a time. (Dolch List, pdf document) Not all words are decodeable. Books and other text cannot be written without these high frequency words. A workable number of these words should be taught in kindergarten through third grade, a few at a time. For your Visual and Kinesthetic learner, try this free, Dolch Bingo Game.

After your child knows most of the sounds of the alphabet, begin to teach blending using Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers by Samuel Blumenfeld, highly recommended. It's not pretty, but it's inexpensive and more importantly, it will work 100% of the time if you start when your child is ready. Spend about 10 minutes per day working through the lessons (or until your child begins to get frustrated). Continue with the same lesson until it is mastered, then go to the next lesson. If the lessons are taking too long to master, your child is probably not ready. Supplement with suggestions below, as needed. ISBN 0941995003.

Practice making new words by substituting one letter for another (cat, rat, bat). Good resources for the Visual and Kinesthetic learners are Short Vowel Word Machines: Grade 1-3, Long Vowel Word Machines: Grade 1-3. For your Auditory learner, use an occasional workbook page while continuing with Phonics CD .

Teach letter combinations such as ck and th. (Recommended resources for the Kinesthetic learner are: Reading Rods®: Word Building Classroom Kit and the Cosmic Critters game.

IMPORTANT! Keep in mind that:

  • until your child can quickly recognize letters, he/she cannot begin to understand that words are made of sequences and patterns of letters.

  • until children can comfortably discriminate the shape of one letter from another, there is no point in teaching letter-sound pairings.

  • knowledge of the letter names is important as it is the major means by which children can recall or generate the sounds of letters in their independent reading and writing.

Recommended Textbooks:

For Read/Write Learners, I recommend:

For Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic Learners, I recommend: Learning Language Arts Through Literature, Grade 1, Teacher, Blue

For Kids ages 8 and up who need a short, remedial phonics course: Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers

FREE! Downloadable McGuffey Readers:

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Determine the reading level before assigning independent reading. Count off a passage of 100 words and ask the child to read the passage.

  • If he misses 0-2 word - Independent level - child can read alone
  • If he misses 3-5 words - Instructional level - read together with your child
  • If he misses more than five words - Frustration level - too hard. Read to your child.

Have them read Independent level (below level) books independently.

Read aloud together books that are on or above level (Instructional or Frustration level) . You read words that your child cannot and let your child read words that he can.

  • Use read-aloud sessions as a means of helping students to learn about subjects that (s)he wouldn’t learn on own and to increase vocabulary.

  • Read stories, chapter books, poetry, reference books, news clippings, math, science, history, biographies; jokes and brainteasers.

  • Of the roughly 3,000 new words that the average student learns per year, the majority are learned by encountering them in text. However, the number of new words that children can learn from text depends on how much they read. Research shows that the 90th percentile fifth grader reads about 200 times more text per year than the 10th percentile reader does. (Nagy, Herman, and Anderson, 1985).”

  • List of Recommended Literature.

Use “Now I'm Reading” to reinforce phonics skills. These are great for the Visual learner and the child who likes sticker rewards.

Diagnosing and Correcting Specific Reading Problems:

Use activities to reinforce phonics skills. This is especially important for the Kinesthetic, Visual, and Auditory learners:

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Fluency is how fast a child reads.

  • A child who reads slow will have more trouble in school because school is focused around texts.

  • Some children just seem to be slower readers.

  • One benefit of homeschooling is that you can accommodate children who have a slower reading rate. They CAN still learn - you just have to change the method.

Have them read Independent level (below-level) books to develop fluency. Forcing your child to read a book that is too difficult undermines his confidence and diminishes his desire to learn.

Play reading games. Some recommendations for easy-to-make reading games are:

Give them a reason to read:

  • Let them stay up longer if they read.

  • Enroll them in reading reward programs.

    • Library reading programs, Pizza Hut, Braums Book Buddies, etc.(Scroll to "Reading Programs") Check with your local support group for more information.
    • Book Adventures (http://www.bookadventure.com/). Here is a wonderful, free resource to encourage your children to read! Book Adventure is a FREE reading motivation program for children in grades K-8. Children create their own book lists from over 6,000 recommended titles, take multiple choice quizzes on the books they've read offline, and earn points and prizes for their literary successes.
  • Subscribe your child to magazines they enjoy. This was a big help for me with my son. Once he started getting computer magazines, his reading rate increased dramatically. Try Magazines.com for discount prices.

  • Limit television, computer games, and other activities that decreases available reading time.

  • If you can afford it, I highly recommend a Kindle. You can use the Kindle's text to speech capability to reinforce reading skills and help increase fluency. My husband who has some vision loss loves his Kindle. He's had it more than six months now and takes it with him everywhere! He, like most men and boys, never used to like to read. But now, he's reading all the time! The text to speech is increasing his reading speed, too. I found that out when I got on his Kindle one day and couldn't keep up with the speed on which he had it set to scroll. After seeing him use the Kindle, I heartily recommended everyone who has a reluctant reader to get one!

  • Dr. Ben Carson, world’s premier brain surgeon. His mother had a 3rd grade education. Single parent mom, inner-city Detroit. Worked 2 or 3 jobs to take care of her children. Ben was the worst student in his 5th grade class. 1st rule: learn all your times tables. Can’t go outside til you do. Ben learned his times tables. From then only, she only allowed them to watch three TV programs per week. To fill the free time, they had to go to the library and check out two books. At the end of the week, they had to write a report on what they read. His grades went up and won scholarships to West Point, Yale, and Stanford. Notice she didn’t trash the TV, just controlled it. b. Research has shown there is a correlation between “overviewing” and “underachievement”. Scores begin to decline with TV viewing over 10 hours per week. Most negative effect is felt among girls and students of high IQs. The children who watch the most TV also have the lowest school scores.

    Research among 9 yr olds in Finland show that their highest scoring young readers spend the most time watching TV. However, most of shows are foreign films which are subtitled. The children there have a motivation to learn to read in order to watch TV. By age 14, the situation reverses itself, those who watch the least amount of TV outscore those who watch the most.

    Viewing a limited number of educational shows, however, have been found to have a positive effect.

  • Research has show that the biggest influence on children’s reading development is parent attitudes about reading and the availability of books in their homes.

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Fact: The more a child struggles to read the book, the less they will understand what they have read.

Ask questions about what you have read, but don’t over do!

Make a comprehension question & answer game. Find a plain, cube-shaped box or make one out of heavy cardboard. On each side of the cube, write one question from the following: (Who is your favorite character and why?, What do you think will happen next?, What did you like about the story?, What did you dislike about the story?, What new word did you learn?, and What was your favorite part of the story?) To play, after the reading session, have each child roll the box and answer the question that comes up.

For older children (8+) who need remedial work, I recommend workbooks such as

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The ChecklistRead to them every day. Have them create glossaries of the new words they encounter in their reading. Use for handwriting practice.

For older children (8+), I highly recommend:

Keep track of what you do in reading with The Checklist!



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