A friend recently asked our advice on preparing their very young children for reading. My husband responded first and you can read his thoughtful, more academic reply here. Below is the explanation I offered for what works for us. ~K
J has provided an excellent response to your question so I will just add a thought of my own on teaching approaches and offer some examples of how we have implemented the priorities J described. As far as teaching philosophies, etc. related to reading, I confess more ignorance than knowledge. The few times that I have looked at teaching materials (for reading) whether through my own research or because I am in discussion with other homeschool moms, I eventually feel a little brain-numb. Based on my own experience it all seems so unnecessarily complicated!
I think a fair comparison is teaching one’s able-bodied toddler to walk. You don’t sit them down, show them pictures of kids walking, talk to them about walking, give them walking workbooks in which to scribble…you provide them the proper environment and encouragement from tummy-time at infancy through rolling over, pushing up and crawling, to wobbling along while holding onto your fingers around age 1 (or so.) And so it goes with reading!
We read to our kids as soon as they’re born. I like this experience because I’m not concerned with anything except that they hear my voice reading aloud, so I can read whatever I want to read! I specifically remember reading scripture aloud to all of the kids, Anne of Green Gables with my son (sorry, buddy!) and most recently, Pride and Prejudice with Z. As soon as they are focusing enough to look at a book, then I start using the typical infant/toddler board books. At this a ge, I try to read to them 5-10 minutes a day, but in addition I may read aloud bits from my own books and almost always have the child near when I am reading aloud to the older kids.
By the time they’re two, we’re regularly reading story books, nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss. By now read aloud time has extended to 30 minutes a day. (I definitely break that up throughout the day!) Also, we’re starting to spell out the titles of books or simple words, having the kids say the letters with us. This is when they start to recognize letters–very fun!
As J mentioned, kids love to “read” books by themselves, and you’ll soon witness S “read” an entire book that she’s memorized because she’s asked you to read it to her so many times! (Maybe she’s already doing this–knowing her parents, we’ve no doubt that she’s brilliant!) One thing I’ve found that encourages their own reading is to read a couple of books aloud to them, then have them sit near me with their own stack of books while I read my own book. This is firmly labeled “quiet time/reading time”and even the little ones will sit quietly for some time and “read”.
One final practice that really helps them start to “break the code” of recognizing letters and simple words: after you have read a favorite book over and over, start to fall silent when you come to key words, and simply point at the word and ask if they know what comes next. This is really easy to do with things like Dr.Seuss and Mother Goose. They’ll love helping you read!
Ok, if you’ve endured the e-mail this far, then I’ll end with this: we try to expose our kids to good writing; quality stories, interesting characters, and beautiful language. I have heard many times from various teachers and parents some variation of this claim, “it doesn’t matter what they’re reading, as long as they’re reading.” But I don’t know any way for our kids to learn about and learn to appreciate good literature if they are not regularly exposed to it by parents who also appreciate it; nor how they can develop a mature, extensive vocabulary without being exposed to a variety of words in appropriate context.
I hope this is useful…
Love to all,
What others have to say about bringing up enthusiastic readers: