Teaching Children to Read

One thing in particular that I would love to hear any thoughts on is children reading.  My 6 year old daughter can't read yet, although she does know all her letters & can write them all.  She can spell & write her name, but that is about it.  She does recognize a few words though too.  In the Christian group I get a lot of pressure to use phonics, & that that is the only way to learn.  In the Unschool group most everyone says she'll learn when she's ready, don't worry about it, but yet most of their kids learned to read early, so I still feel pressure to hurry up & get her reading.
Most of the time I really don't think about it, & know that every child is different & that when she is ready she will learn, but sometimes though I begin to panic & have doubts that maybe this isn't working & that maybe she SHOULD be in school.  I know many homeschoolers have moments like that, so I try not to dwell on it, but I'd be interested in hearing what any of you feel about this.


I had to reply to this, it sounds just like my statements on here last year.  I was so frustrated with my daughter's not reading.  I think I tried everything but she just didn't seem to remember and we got no where.  She was 6 and couldn't remember c a t spelled cat.  Well, I don't have any real answers, just that now she will be 7 in July and suddenly she has taken off.  Where we struggled with phonics before she just reads it right off now.  She is still slow with sentences but now I KNOW that will come.  She seems suddenly to remember all the sounds, blends, rules as if she always knew them.  I hope this encourages you.  I can remember being where you are so short a time ago.
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Let me tell you how my daughter came to read...
First off, she's my second child and my oldest was one that learned to read VERY easily.  Just showed him a little phonics and he was off and running.  So I thought I had it all figured out <G>.  Well, when Ellen was barely 2 we could put a list of words on the fridge with those magnetic letters and she could pick out her name.  She LOVED to copy words and letters.  Often wrote them backwards.  Loved to write something down and then turn the page over and trace over the outline backwards.  Drove me CRAZY.
I started using the same phonics program with her that I used with my oldest and she HATED it.  Nothing clicked.  We'd battle over it for a little while and then I'd put it away or try something else.  Finally I just quit working on phonics at all.  When I quit 'working' with Ellen and just read to her and answered her questions, it finally gelled and she was reading.  This was at about late 7, early 8.  I think for the most part, she learned to read by sight reading.  Now she's 13 and reads EVERYTHING.  She checked out the Hunchback Of Notre Dame recently but said it was too boring <G>.  She regularly comes home from the library with a foot high stack of books.
As far as phonics go... I do think phonics are important, but kids do not necessarily have to know phonics to learn to read.  They are a tool that at some point everyone should be familiar with, but for some kids they get in the way of learning to read... phonics confuses them.  At some point it is helpful to learn the phonics rules so you can decode bigger, unfamiliar words, but you don't necessarily have to learn all those rules to start to read.
I want my children to LOVE reading, and so far they do. If stressing phonics gets in the way of that desire to read, then it's a problem.
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I'm of the same opinion of phonics and reading as Marci because of my boys.
The oldest learned quite easily, with Ruth Beechick 3R's type of phonics introduction.  And we didn't even get to the more difficult 'sounds and blends' because he just took off and whenever he had a question, he would ask.
Then child number two came along and God showed me who was really in control!  (And it wasn't me!)  He is now 9 1/2 and at a 2nd grade reading level.  I just praise God that his attitude hasn't soured on reading.  We tried the phonics program that the youngest boy used, but he couldn't remember the sounds the following day, and he had to decode, and decode and decode the same words over and over.  It was quite tiring.  We still have some programs around and reading books, but he likes to check out a ton of 'adult level' animal books from the library and read just a sentence or caption to me for his reading.  He wants to read and has progressed very slowly each year and he hasn't shown signs of self contempt (like a 'I'm just stupid' statement), so we just go with the flow.  I do read a lot to the boys and their attention spans and imaginations are incredible.
At six years old, I wouldn't be worrying, but I wouldn't do nothing either.  Reading to her and answering questions that come up is a good approach IMHO.
April in FL
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You are so right that each will learn when they are ready.  My favorite example in our family is Nathan who did not read anything until he was 8 (he had a hard time writing even his name too!)  The "teacher" in me continued to introduce reading sight words and phonics at regular intervals but I could tell he just was not ready.  I have also read a lot to our kids - at least an hour every day and sometimes more than that since the time they are nursing babies.  Nathan turned 8 in April and I had already enrolled him in a Christian first grade class for the following fall (my friend taught the class using the Slingerland method for reading and I thought maybe that would click)  Well, that spring and summer reading "just happened" for Nathan and he read over 80 books out loud to me that summer.  (I remember the amount because we had enrolled in a summer reading program at the library.)  When he went to the first grade class, they tested him to know what reading group he should be in and he tested at 5th  grade level!  Wow, were we all surprised!  So relax and read a lot and let her take the lead.  You will know when she is ready.  Our Ben just turned 8 and he reads very easy books still but I am not concerned - I think he will take off soon as he keeps checking out nature books and asking me to read those to him.  I check out story books in the children's section and he heads for the adult non-fiction section (children's non-fiction is mixed in with the adult stuff) when we go to the library - I get a kick out of that.
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I will address your question about reading since that is MY "obsession" as well.  You're on the right track and you'll get a lot of great answers, advice, encouragement and affirmation from everyone on this list.  I too have all the same thoughts and feelings as you do about this particular subject and all I can tell you is to have faith and continue to ask, seek and knock because then you will find either the answers, or the peace that you need.
My kids are 7&8...both boys, and neither are what I would consider READERS although there is continuous progress from one year to the next.  The older one CAN sound out and spell smaller words but has little desire to do so.  (I've had some "spelling bees" lately just to see how much they know since we aren't going through any particular phonics program either.)  They both did quite well!  The 6 yr. old had a lot of trouble discerning between the VOWELS.  He also attempted, on his own, to "transcribe" a song he had made up and had dictated to me, in his own handwriting... which he'd NEVER had the desire to do before.  In fact, it was just recently that he started to hold his PENCIL right , even though he's done a lot of drawing and stuff!  But as for READING, they have no desire to pick up a book and READ it!  They LOVE being read to though, and we do A LOT of that.  Most of what they're interested in would be way above their reading level anyway.  (The 6 yr. old loves HISTORY and the 7 yr. old loves SCIENCE.)
So what I do is "everything I can to ENCOURAGE them but not FORCE them into reading and writing."  I never make it TOO EASY on them by TELLING them how to spell certain words or read words that they ask about.  I say, "How do you think you spell it?"  And, "What do you think that says?"
We also play games and computer programs and let them try on their own before TELLING them what things say.  MILK EVERY OPPORTUNITY FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH!!!  Hope that helps a bit.
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I haven't jumped into this discussion on late readers, because I really can't remember how late Levi was.  I remember that Arwen was a quick study and was up late hours reading when she was in 2nd grade, devouring books at a record rate (that has only accelerated).  Levi was slower, but it was mainly a matter of finding his niche.  Once he found books that sparked his interest... And what sparked his interest was an antique reader of mine about Mrs. Peter Rabbit by someone named Thornton.  It has characters like Brer Fox and Brer Owl.  Levi then found a local library that still has the series (Lake Oswego library) and he steadily checked them all out.  They were chapter books, illustrated, and captured his mind.  I think he was in the middle of or the end of third grade, it was much later than his sister.  After Peter Rabbit, he discovered animal stories (Big Red, Black Stallion)... Then we read aloud Lord of the Rings, which is a difficult book, but by the end of fifth grade, he was hooked and has now read more Tolkien and Tolkien-related books than I have.  He's deep into Star Wars now and any good war book.  I love to read aloud to my kids, even now when they are older.  Not that I have any solutions, just my experience with two different learners.
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We started hs three years ago.  My oldest was going into 5th and Jonathan had just finished Kindergarten.  The baby was 1.  The only books Michael (my oldest) liked were R.L.Stine and Goosebumps.  Now he is reading Welcome to Personal Computers, HTML 4, Creating Web Pages, Manuals, and The Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe (again, it's one of his favs).  He also is trying to tackle Great Expectations.  So as far as he's concerned, I don't worry any more.
Jonathan I used to fret over (to myself).  He knew all his letters but hadn't a clue as to their sounds after "K".  Last year (hs yr #2) at Christmas time he (age 8) could "read" The Berenstain "B" Book.  He had it memorized actually.  He was proud of his accomplishment.  This year he is really reading!  Commander Toad and Nate the Great are favs.  What did I do?  I give God the credit because I feel I didn't "do" a thing.  I've read to the boys from early on.  I helped Jonathan sound out words and have given him some musical phonics CDs he uses himself.  Also when he says he doesn't know a word I tell him!  By doing this he is enjoying the reading.  That, to me, is much more important than what reading level he is on or how fast he reads or whatever the school system is doing.  He is a busy boy and has learned on his own may things this year and in his lifetime.
My goal is to encourage them to educate themselves.  Their talents, their goals, and their God given bents, if you will.  That is how I have interpreted the verse that says to train, teach, encourage them when you get up, etc. in the way "he" should go.  God made us all very differently.  He wired us to work independently for "His" purpose.  He will provide the way for them to fulfill that.
Well there's my lecture on relaxing on the reading.  It will come.  Some sooner than others but it will.  God is good!
Barb E.
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I think if you keep reading out loud a lot and introducing word attack skills, whether they seem to learn it or not, eventually you will notice an interest on the child's part to read for himself.  (There are a few out there that don't.  Out of 8 kids in our family, one is NOT a reader at 13 - well he can read but does not pick up books and read for his own pleasure.)  Nathan is a classic example of this.  I would get out the easy readers about every 6 months or so and try to interest him and no go until he was 8.  Then he took off like a shot.  All those years of looking at signs along the road, playing rhyming games, and other things like that which encourage reading, it all finally clicked with him.  Abby struggled with reading at age 6, back when I thought it best if kids could read by then, and little Beth at age 4 sat in on Abby's lesson time and learned to read "all by herself" just by listening to Abby and I.  Now that was easy!  (Beth wanted to go to public school kindergarten, and I let her for the second half of the year and she got in trouble for reading out loud to the other kids - teacher: "We don't want the children reading out loud yet; that comes in first grade!"  Well, of course little Beth stayed home the next year and forever!
So keep playing games, reading out loud, and paying attention to interest level and encourage reading as much as possible.  I read the posts about rewards and I tend to agree with Jo that is better they want to read without "bribery", but I too have signed kids up for reading programs and I guess it didn't harm them - they did get some reading done.
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The fact that she is not reading on her own is not uncommon, when she is not pressured to "perform" as in school.   Where in the world did the idea that learning to read early meant you were "smarter" or better?
If you haven't read Ruth Beechick's "A Home Start in Reading" you must read it -- and you will see it is not regrettable but beneficial for her reading comprehension when she does "take off".   She isn't spending her time learning rules that she will learn when she begins to read.  The traditional "way" requires her to have info that she won't use for a time and that tends to weigh her down.  She may read with the traditional "way" but does she understand what she reads the way the ones who are given time to ease into it??   (btw -- Ruth Beechick has a series of these books -- called the 3Rs -- let me know if you need to know who or where to get them -- small inexpensive -- paperbacks)
My own son Damian is 9 and didn't start to "read" on his own - for his own enjoyment until just before he turned 9.  Now he is reading quite a bit, which thrills my heart.  As for the writing, times tables and such, he has only now this year really wanted to write more and more.  He loves the Disney's Doug books and Doug keeps a journal, which has now inspired him to keep his own journal.  What an opportunity for grammar, spelling and writing skills.  I initially got a set for free from a book club I joined, and once I realized he loved them, I went ahead and purchased the rest of the series from Barnes and Nobles.  Well worth the cost!! (relatively inexpensive too)
I still read to him and we enjoy that a lot -- his vocabulary is HUGE and so is able to understand books well above his grade average.
So don't worry they will "take off" soon.  Buckle up and get ready to go!!
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