beginning readers

Learning to Read

Boy, did I stumble through this with our oldest.

It’s hard. I believe in waiting until a child is “ready.” Unfortunately, “ready” isn’t so easily defined. There’s developmental readiness.

And then, there’s the kid who wants to get started.

Just before he turned three, we moved into a tenth floor apartment that overlooked a downtown, city-center charter highschool. Every day those kids went outside to have lunch. He’d look down on them. He knew they were in school. He wanted to “do” school

So, for a while, I got away with once or twice a week, “doing” school. Sometimes we sat at a table and would talk about a specific letter of the alphabet. As time went on, we’d add in activities from Before Five in a Row.

But he wanted to read those books, just not be read to. He’d memorized quite a few, but even that young, he knew that wasn’t what we were doing when we read to him.

After reading on message boards what was working for other families, and having been introduced to the alphabet, when he was four, we tried Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. That was a disaster for us. He simply was not developmentally ready to deal with the lessons in that book. I think if he’d been older, about six, we would have gone through the lessons with no problem. But it was too much for him.

Later, I (very luckily) discovered the book Teach Your Child to Read in Just Ten Minutes a Day. That was the ticket. The approaches and activities in the book worked amazingly – even my then-two-year old was starting to read very small starter words. Wow! The author said these would with children his age, but (frankly) I didn’t believe him. Yet here was my little guy, picking it up just by watching me and his brother. 

Unfortunately, a few months into this process… we moved. It was one of the big ones, nearly a couple thousand miles. There was packing, and airplanes, rental cars and our first (ugh!) experience with using early GPS devices in an unfamiliar city, then UNpacking, and the boys learning to navigate moving from a very small apartment to a very large house… There was a trip just to house hunt, and movers to book. I just let it go. 

When we got back to it (a few months later), we hit the ground running. (Well, my oldest son did; my just-turned-three-year-old decided there were more important activities he needed at that point… like playing. Which was fine; he was three. Sounds like wisdom to me.) My mother-in-law had gifted my children a set of Hooked On Phonics, so we used those materials, plus the BOB books, in conjunction with the activities from Teach Your Child to Read in Ten Minutes a day. This process worked very well, and turned out to be very adaptable.

My first child went through all the BOB books and Kindergarent, First, and Second grade books in less than two years, and was reading confidently and independently. In second grade, he read all of the Chronicles of Narnia, on his own. The process we followed let him get to what he really wanted to do, which was read books on his own.

My second child went through the same activities, but took the full three years (kindergarten, first, and second grade) to do so. It was fine, though. He was never stressed about reading, he just took each new day in stride. 

My third child – it’s always the third one, right? – he took to the process like a duck to water. He actually completed all three years’ worth of books in one year, and that was with plenty of goofy kindergarten antics. There were days where I’d just say, “It’s okay, you don’t feel like doing this now, go on…” (so many more days than with his brothers!), and he still worked his way through all of those materials faster than his brothers. He remains a competent, if not enthusiastic, reader. 

Personally, I’ve taken two lessons from this experience. First, it’s worth it to find a model or method that works in the situations. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons didn’t, Teach Your Child to Read in Just Ten Minutes a Day did. And second, work your plan and trust it. Have patience and perseverance applied to the execution of the plan. In one effort, it took three years, in another, one year, but both resulted in success.