Customize reading to your child’s interests.  I had one child completely uninterested in reading until we started getting car ads (Auto Trader, etc).  Another child’s reading ability exploded when he discovered the Sports section of the newspaper.

Dr. Sax’s book, Why Gender Matters  has some tips on the differences in boys’ & girls’ reading.  If you have not read this book yet, I highly recommend it.

Make It A Privilege
Part of growing up is the acquisition of new skills.  Children are excited to learn new things and not have to rely on parents to do things for them.  If you are not careful, this can make children resist learning to read.

  • Now that your child can walk, you don’t carry him around.  He walks for himself.
  • Now that your child can use silverware, you don’t feed him.  He feeds himself.
  • Now that your child can dress himself, you do not put his clothes on him every morning.
  • Now that your child can read…

It is a good idea to make your children promise that you’ll only teach them to read if they promise to still let you read stories to them.

Curriculum Options for Reading Instruction
I don’t like any of the expen$ive phonics programs out there; they are overpriced and just not worth their cost; you can teach phonics and reading by drawing in the dirt with a stick. 

We started with Why Johnny Can’t Read by Rudolf Flesch.  This is recommended reading for anyone who plans to teach a child to read.  The book contains narrative in the first half, followed by reading lessons in the second half.  The lessons are simple and kids learn to sound words out, however I found that the type-face is too small for beginning readers.  I had a large amount of preparation time rewriting the words for my children.

After I had already found something easier to implement than Why Johnny Can’t Read, I learned of Reading Reflex and highly recommend it.  This book should be available through your public library.

The Writing Road to Reading by Romalda Spalding is probably the best reading program available to classroom teachers.  A large amount of preparation time is required to figure the program out, and I found it impractical to implement in my homeschool setting — I know other families who have been very happy with it.  Kids who learn with this method are good readers and spellers.  Teach America To Read And Spell (TATRAS) is an attempt to make Spalding’s program easier, but it has a lot of cumbersome parts to keep track of and figure out how to use – also I obtained a used copy, and haven’t found a current publisher.

100easylessonsWith that information as background, my personal recommendation for teaching reading is Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy LessonsIt is well written, fun for children, and requires zero preparation time for the parent.  At the end of the book children can read at a second grade level.  At that point you will need to supplement with additional phonics; I recommend the Explode The Code series for ease of use, fun for kids, and thoroughness.  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons cost less than $20 through Rainbow Resource.

AlphaPhonics  is very good, and I would recommend this for younger children who don’t like 100 Easy Lessons, as well as for older children needing remediation.

I have also used Sonlight’s I Can Read It and don’t recommend it because 1) I think 100 Easy Lessons is better in many ways, 2) it’s too expensive.  I do not like the McGuffy’s Reader’s because they contain inaccurate information and are not well written.  The worst readers I’ve ever seen are the Pathway readers; although the content is wholesome, the quality of writing is terrible.

What Next?
After children have learned to read, they need reading material every year. 

After a kindergartener or first grader has learned to read, the child can advance to real books.  He’ll also benefit from additional phonics instruction – try something like the Explode The Code workbooks.

For reading material, I like some of the books from the I Can Read It series – your public library probably has a section of easy readers in the children’s library.  When we read, it has worked well for me to read the title and first paragraph, then have the child read a paragraph, and we alternate so that beginning readers don’t get overwhelmed.  Sometimes I’ll read a whole page.  It’s a good idea to stop before your child is tired.

Before long they’ll be doing all the reading.  With Fire Cat, we read one story, then put the book away while the child was still interested and wanted to know what happens next – that way they’re looking forward to reading the next day.   I Can Read Books that my kids have liked include  Fire Cat,  Frog & Toad, Amelia Bedelia, Mouse Tales, Daniel’s Duck, The Boston Coffee Party, George the Drummer Boy, The 18 Penny Goose, Long Way to a New Land, Wagon Wheels, The Long Way Westward, The Josefina Story Quilt, Clara and the Book Wagon, Dust for Dinner, Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express, Snowshoe Thompson, and The Drinking Gourd.  By the time they’ve read all of these, children should be capable of reading just about anything they get their hands on.  I like the reading recommendations in Sonlight’s catalog (however I do not always think that their read-aloud selections are age-appropriate, so be sure to pre-read books if you use SonLight’s list). 

New readers will enjoy some sort of visual display to show off the books they have read.  We made a reading train and posted it on the wall – I glued my beginning reader’s photo onto a drawing of a train engine.  As the engineer, the child could “hook up” one additional train car for every book read.  A friend of mine made a large paper “tree” on her living room wall; her daughter loaded the tree with an “apple” for every book she read.  I’ve also seen “worms” with construction-paper circle segments representing every book.  Use your own creativity and your childs interests to find something fun for your kids’ reading records.

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