I talk with a lot of parents, and a lot of them are frightened about teaching reading. In our homeschool journey so far without a doubt teaching my boys to read has been my favorite part. It has been personally rewarding and so far both our boys LOVE to read. Raising readers was a huge priority to me. I believe that if you can read well, you can learn just about anything you decide to study. We’re still early in our education years, (our boys are 6 & 8) but here are some tips that have worked for us:
1. Read to and in front of your kids. Get them interested in great stories. We started reading to the kids as infants.
2. Talk to your kids all the time and about everything. I talked to the boys a lot and about everything long before they could speak. I believe this helped to build their vocabularies and language skills.
3. Give them access to lots of books. My husband and I love books and we have a lot of them around the house. We have tons of kids books. Our boys have always had access to lots of books and the freedom to look at them at will. The library is a great resource, so are yard sales.
4. Have bookcases full of books in the kids rooms.
5. Don’t let them see the movie until they’ve read the book.
6. Use a phonics based curriculum. I am simply not a lover of the whole language method of teaching reading, for a number of reasons. Before you jump on all the “exceptions” to phonics, read up on it. Phonics actually only has 13 legitimate exceptions. We just weren’t taught all the rules of phonics. There are 33 rules of Phonics that cover 90% of the words in the English language. I taught my kids to read using Hooked on Phonics and it was very effective for us. I also love The Logic of English curriculum and All About Reading and All About Spelling.
7. Don’t worry about reading levels or lexile scores. Let your kids pick out books that look interesting to them. If they start a book and it’s too hard or uninteresting, let them move on to another book. Obviously as the parent you will want to make sure that the content is appropriate.
8. Don’t worry about great literature in the early years. My boys have read a lot of Captian Underpants, Fangbone and Stink books. Are they great literature? No. But my boys love them and read them voluntarily and voraciously. Here’s a link to a list of books and series that my boys have loved.
9. Don’t make your kids read for 20 min a day. Reading shouldn’t be an assignment, it should be a reward. My boys get to stay up after bed time if they’d like to read in bed for a while. Also, an arbitrary 20 min. may not align with chapter breaks or the natural flow of reading.
10. Give them a reason to read. For example, we have 4 hummingbird feeders on our patio and we get a lot of hummingbirds that feed on them. I found an Arizona birds field guide for the boys and asked them if they could figure out what kinds of hummingbirds we had at our feeders. They grabbed the field guide and sat and watched the feeders for a couple of hours. They ended up identifying 3 different kinds of hummingbirds and learning lots of other facts about them from the field guide. This ended up leading to a couple of cool science experiments (does the color of the hummingbird food or the type of feeder make a difference) and some additional research on google.
11. Accept that your kids may not love the books you did as a kid. I loved the Little House on the Prairie series as a kid. The books and the TV series. My boys hated it. I tried to read them the entire series and we made it through 2 books. They were bored to tears. So we moved on.
12. Accept that your kids may love fiction, and they may not, and that’s okay. You can still read well even if you’re reading non-fiction and reading for information rather than entertainment.
13. Let peer pressure work to your advantage. I can’t tell you how many times my youngest has wanted to read a book because his older brother did. I am convinced that part of the reason my youngest loves to read is because his big brother thinks it’s cool.
14. Get your kids library cards and go to the library on a regularly scheduled day. Going regularly will save you a ton on library fines. My kids love picking out whatever books catch their fancy. I’ve taught them to use the library computer to request books be put on hold and shipped in for them (really handy if they’re reading a series) and how to self check out their own books. They both feel really competent and grown up doing this. For convenience both boys library cards are linked to mine and overdue notices come to my e-mail address.
15. Read books together aloud. It gives you a shared entertainment and literary experience. Audio books are great for this as well. We often listen to audio books in the car together.
16. Talk about what you’re reading and what they are reading around the dinner table.
17. Comic books are fine. If it gets them reading it’s a win.
18. Have a family or group book club. You don’t all have to read the same book. Have each member of the club bring their favorite book, or a book they’ve recently read, and tell the group about the book. My boys love hearing about what their friends are reading and we get some great suggestions for new books and series to check out. I’ve seen kids as young as 3 participate. There is nothing cuter than seeing a 3 year old hold up a board book and excitedly tell you why it is their favorite book.
19. Be impressed and amazed about your kids reading ability.
20. Have your kids read instructions for you. We’ve done this building Ikea furniture, reading recipes, reading driving directions and maps, signs in stores. Anything you see can work for this.