Thursday, November 15, 2012

When To Teach Your Child to Read?

I've been doing phonics for 3-ish years now with our oldest child, and I was blessed to take part in helping around 30 children read when I taught kindergarten for two years. Phonics is a both challenging and fun thing to teach. There is this moment when it "clicks" for all children! And it is beautiful to witness.

Honestly, I don't think teaching your child to read at age 5 is that important. Five year-olds need to know a whole plethora of more important things... like listening, self-control, skipping, making a nice mud pie and how to love others well.

As a teacher, what is important is listening and seeing when your child show signs of readiness. If they aren't ready it will be a painful act of futility... for mother and child. I know many people have success with programs like 100 Easy Lessons (I am happy for them!) I tried that program, plus two others before we found one that worked for both Addie and I... that was actually producing the level of phonemic understanding that would benefit her and produce the ability to read, well.

Recently, I had her evaluated and found, much to my delight, she scored exactly where we were at curricularly!!! It was working! She isn't "at grade level" but she is "on level"!!! That is the main goal.

::Side Note::
If you are homeschooling, I think it is also important to remember that even public schooled children all aren't "at grade level." In my teacher instruction we were told to expect to have upwards of 4 different levels of "normal" students in our classroom... not counting children with special needs. Why do we stress when our home schooled children aren't doing 2nd grade work when they are 7? But we do.

All kids learn to read, just some have to learn slower or in a way that connects with them better!
That is ok... it is OK mom.

This year I have 2 kindergartners... one is 5 and a half and the other is almost 6. One shows signs of readiness, the other does not. That is why we are waiting until next fall to start a "formal" phonics curriculum.

What are signs of readiness?

-Phonemic awareness: they can recognize letters by name and sound.
-They are starting to group/blend sounds together on their own. "Ba" says "bah".
-Saying they want to read, pretending to read.
-Ability to comprehend and follow stories that are read aloud to them.
-Understands  the meaning of words and has a growing vocabulary.
-Ability to recognize letters and signs in their environment.
-Uses left to right process, and can track visually left to right on a page.
-They can write their first name.
-They can retell you a story fairly accurately that they have just been read.

So what are we doing to get our kids ready?

My main goals are:
1. Build up their phonemic awareness.  
By learning the letters and sounds through games, activities and reading.

2. Help them in their personal readiness level.  
By continuing to reinforce basic skills, motor skills, tracking and enjoyment of reading.

3. Improving their comprehension.  
Through listening to good literature.

At the beginning of the school year I compiled a binder that would teach them about the important parts of letters. Starting at A and going to Z we are:
-Learning the letter's name and sound... I tell them letters are like animals, they all have a name (A) and they all say a sound (Aye or Ah).
-Learning how to write the letters.
-Learning things that say the letters sounds... via "Hunt for the Sound" scavenger game (basically they have to hunt for a toy or object that begins with the letter's main sound) and through a coloring page that highlights the sound of the letter.

I am using the following printables to make up their binder:
-Mr. Printables - Handwriting pages
-Mr. Printables - Color Pages
-Letter Color Page
-And a document saying the letter sound and a place for them to draw a picture of something that starts with the letter sound... Click HERE to get a copy of this file.

Plus, we read. A lot.
Reading produces "good" readers... not kids who read fluently and perfectly... but readers who understand and comprehend what they are reading or being read! Questions about literature help this. When you read, ask questions!

We could in theory... If I didn't have other learners and another program to do... read a book that highlight the letter we are studying that week. We don't, because we are reading based on our main core curriculum.

Letter of the Week Book List
Another amazing FREE curriculum is Hubbard's Cupboard!!! Just get lost on that site for some time...

Remember in the ages 4-7 phonics it is about phonemic awareness, readiness and comprehension!
Not fluency and ability to read words smoothy... that will come (and I question if it is really THAT important altogether if you have the other abilities).

Happy Reading!!!

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