Homeschool Guide to Teaching Reading

homeschool reading

As a homeschool mom, I think the scariest thing to teach my kindergarten children was always reading. Yet,  I love to see the light come on when they finally are able to read! The problem is… it’s getting to that point that really can be overwhelming. I am currently on my last and final version of teaching reading. (sniff,sniff) My youngest is in the process right now, and I have to admit she is definitely a challenge. So, I’m sharing with my homeschool friends… all of the wonderful “pointers” that I try to keep in mind as I take on this last reading challenge.

One thing to keep in mind as you teach reading is that it isn’t a skill unto itself. Reading is a culmination of many skills put together into a process. This is why teaching reading can be such a challenge. The research shows that the most flexible method and the method with the most long term benefits is to teach reading phonetically. The idea of phonics comes from the term “phoneme” which is the individual letter/sounds of our alphabet. The simplest skill in learning how to read. The overall idea of teaching phonics is to teach the basic sounds in conjunction with letter recognition, vowels and consonants, digraphs(consonant/vowel blends), special rules/sounds, sight words, and suffixes/prefixes.

I love Time4Learning’s reading pyramid. They have made the process of teaching reading phonetically very simple to understand with a  reading skill pyramid. I like to keep a copy of this handy to help me remember the foundational skills that are necessary.  I’ve heard many people complain about the phonics method they were taught. Some have even said that they cannot sound out words as adults because of it. To be honest, if they were taught phonics correctly, they would be able to sound out any word that was given to them. That is the beauty of teaching phonics. The phonetic method of reading gives a person the skills needed to decode any word at any level. The damaging methods such as the whole language approach or site word method teaches only a set of words and then the student learns these by rote memory. These methods are limiting and put the adult at a loss to decode/sound out new words that they encounter. There are some that use blended methods, and I believe that is probably the method that was used in those rare incidents where there are complaints.

To build the skills necessary to make fluent readers, the student must:

1)recognize individual sounds, sounds within words, and recognize the sound’s symbol

2)distinguish between first and last sounds and middle sounds

3)know and recognize all letters and their sounds, begin blending consonant/vowels, blending consonants with consonants,  begin “sounding out” words, and “decoding” to spell words

4)learn the various “sight words” – I know that this sounds akin to the whole language approach – However, there is a place for learning sight words. These are usually words that defy the “rules” and are pronounced with no rhyme or reason. ie. the, put, was, etc.

5) read, practice, read, and read! Read for smoothness and expression… read for comprehension… read for accuracy…the more they read – the better reader they become!

4 Reading Rules to Boost Literacy

#1 Consistency

There are several different approaches to reading instruction. Yet, the most widely accepted and proven method to teach reading is through phonetic instruction. Even within phonics instruction some teachers begin with letter sounds, and add vowel blends moving to the right… others learn by word families such as “hit”, “bit”, “sit”, “wit”, and “kit.” The connection between these words are based on rhyming. Most new words we learn are decoded from words we know already and that rhyme. Once you’ve begun phonics instruction, it needs to be practiced daily. After they’ve gained a foundation, then introduce early readers to your children. Daily work with consistent rigor will yield success!

(If you are worried about just how to introduce phonics check out “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”, or “You can Teach Someone to Read” or use the website “Explode the Code.” My favorite early reader books are the Bob books, inexpensive, simple and easy to read. Don’t go for the expensive reading programs, you have everything you need in your local library and your computer.)

#2 SSR – Sustained silent reading

This is a well-known teacher strategy. The more a child reads silently and on their own the better they can read. Setting aside a specific amount of time each day for reading will grow a successful reader. You just might find that after you begin this, it will become a habit that your child will keep for life.

#3 Read for Understanding

Teaching you children to read for a purpose should be a primary objective. This should begin as early reading skills emerge. When a child reads his first sentence, understanding should occur. This should grow in to a process of analyzing and critical reading. There are several great books to help parents direct their children. “Critical conditioning” by K. Stout is great for exercises reinforcing these skills.

#4 Develop Expression and Love for Literature by Reading Aloud

A great way to hook you children on classic literature is to read aloud to them. Find a great story that they otherwise would not choose to read, and read it aloud to them. Another read aloud benefit is to have them read aloud to you. This develops expression and opens them up to dramatic reading opportunities.

Don’t let your children settle for poorly written literary works. Always encourage them to vary the genres that they enjoy, and challenge them to explore the classics.

A good reader is a good learner!

Teaching Your Child How to Read – Part 2

Vowels and consonants and blends

In the first edition of our series on how to teach children how to read, we discussed the beginning steps of phonemic awareness. Many homeschooling moms are terrified of teaching their children to read, but taking one baby step at a time will naturally bring your child to the place where they not only read, but read well!

Baby Step 2

Differentiating between vowels and consonants can be something that you incorporate with your beginning letter awareness or something that you really bring out after your child has already learned their alphabet and the letter names and sounds. There are alot of really great games that you can play and songs that you can sing to help bring out the concept of vowels. One of my children’s favorites was “Old McDonald” but on his farm he had vowels… with an aa here and an ee there… you get the point. They loved it, and my four year old still loves it! We played memory with vowel cards, and then of course they would have to tell me their sound and one word that began with that sound.

It is easiest to start with the concept of vowels, because then you can state that all the rest of the letters that aren’t vowels are consonants.  After your child has mastered these two concepts and completely understand what vowels and consonants are, you can move on to blends.

Blends are simply the combination of vowels and consonants. When I begin to teach this I usually make blend families. These are little groups of blends that have the same consonant but use each of the vowels. For example, b-a, b-e, b-i, b-o,bu. Introducing a new blend family and then reviewing it each day is an incredibly important step on the road to reading.

As with every step toward reading, making sure the child enjoys a print rich environment is important. Surround him or her with plenty of books that they can “read”, and then be sure to read to them each day.

Let’s Get Reading… in our homeschool

Reading is one of the those awesome subjects that appeals to almost anyone. Why not… when the written word is the gate to adventure, romance, mystery, and drama. Reading opens new worlds, and gives the gift of imagination.

Yet, as homeschoolers we often don’t realize or know just when the appropriate reading steps should take place. Even with saying that, I am thinking… some children will not fit into those “appropriate” reading readiness steps. Some children read sooner and others later… and that is just how God made us…perfectly individual.

However, there is are basic stages of reading readiness that most people follow as they learn to read. The ages may differ, but the process remains mostly unchanged. With that in mind, I found an awesome reading skills pyramid put out by my good friends at Time4Learning. In all my years of teaching chidlren, homeschooling, and even teaching college level teachers I have not run across a skills pyramid so well designed. This is something that every homeschool mom should have a copy of. Print it out and put it in your planner. It will help you remember some basic guidelines that you will find useful in the reading process.