Saturday, May 15, 2010

What I have learned about reading so far

My path to reading. My dos and don'ts and my resources that I have used.

Step 1: So when should you start to teach your child how to read? The day that your child is born is the day that you start but you might not even realize it. Luckily, I have a mom that drilled in my to your baby even though you sound retarded. Tell him everything you do. Now we're going to change your diaper. Now let's eat your peas. Yep. When I had just one kid, I felt stupid a lot of the time. I filled in the gaps singing made up songs by my mom. It helped. Now I have a 5 year old that does all the talking for me. Isn't that teaching your kid how to talk? Yes. It is but it is also the foundation of reading and vocabulary..provided that you are using real words and not goo goo gah gah (which incidentally also makes one look silly). So talking is step 1 towards reading.

Step 2 is actually reading books to your child. This can start as early as you want to but by age 1, be bringing out those books. Short board books at that age. Things to touch and feel are good. I didn't do a stellar job of this with Andrew. When he turned 3, we read a lot. When he was 2, I think it was more hit or miss. Peter is 2 and we read all the books that I can possibly stand in a day. Hey, I'm not perfect. I still need to work with Joshua more. We have a lot of board books that I need to pull out. Books are lying around our house but I need to make a conscious effort of actually reading them. I also have Andrew read to Peter which is fun.

Step 3 - Teach your child to read. You can start teaching your kids to read as early as 3 or 4. Basic letter sounds and recognition and then working on phonics. I think that taught Andrew most of his letters and phonics. I am doing that already with Peter but when he turns 3, we are going to start on the letter of the week concept. I am reading a book by William Bennett called The Educated Child and it says that most Kindergarten teachers do not expect their entering students to know the alphabet. And they expect to have to teach them how to read. That's up to you if you decide to go that route but as the parent who knows your child best, you can foster that individualized reading attention before they go to school and while they are in school and give them a love for reading that they will have for life.

The Dos and Don'ts I have learned

1. Both quality and quantity matter and patience is required. Schedule reading time during a non rushed time. I had to learn a lot of patience during this process that I did not start with. Andrew would be reading a book and he would want to comment about everything and I felt like he was so not on track and not focused. Wake up call! This is a 5 year old. He is curious and imaginative and wants to make the story his own. I didn't get that at first. It seemed like a chore and sometimes both of us struggled through it. Now I like to read a lot. I do Peter first thing in the morning and I grab about 10 books. Sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes I have to read them twice. Sometimes he gets on a kick for one book and know that I will have to read it several times in a day. After all preschoolers like repetition. Andrew is usually in the evening after the others go to bed so I have the one on one time with him. This may result in a later bedtime but I am okay with that. I try to get 15-20 minutes with Peter each day and Andrew is anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour but not all at one time. Average is 20 min to 30 on one book.

2. About quality - Not all books were created equal. I am reading a great book right now called The Read Aloud Handbook. Got it at the library. I skipped to the back to check out his collection of read aloud books that he suggests. It's a great collection of books that I know but many we don't have. I need to buy the book so I can use it as a reference book to guide me in my selections.

3. Don't read books that are boring. Not when they are little. There are too many great books to waste your time on a book that doesn't interest you or your child. Andrew is obsessed with space and as a family, we try to go camping so I try to get books on his level that are about these things. I also can tell fairly quickly if Andrew is disinterested in a book either because it is boring or because it is above his current level if after reading two pages, he asks if this could be his last page. We have moved on to Frog and Toad books and he loves them and will read 15-20 pages at a time. That is much different than 2.

4. Just because the book is easy enough for Andrew to read doesn't mean that he should have to read it. A recent book was a little hard for him. I could tell he wasn't into it so after he wanted to be done, I told him that I was going to keep reading the book to Peter and we finished off the book. We finished which is sometimes important to Andrew and I didn't have to make him do it the next day. If we are on good books, he will ask to read. If we are on bad books, he will never ask and will complain when I suggest it. But I can always read it to him and he is usually content with that.

5. Andrew likes to be read to. A new concept that I learned. I had been focusing all my time on him reading aloud to me. He enjoys reading himself but sometimes he just wants to curl in my lap and hear a story. I recently checked out a chapter book that he could almost read but not quite. Chris didn't want me to frustrate him by even trying so I made it our read aloud book. We read a chapter a night and I designate a word for him to read so when I get to that word, I point to it and he reads it. He loves this and will point out if we accidentally say his word. Reading aloud also helps with teaching reading comprehension. At the end of the read aloud, I am much more likely to get responses about what actually happened in the story. We are working on that when he reads but that's a harder process. I am really excited about getting some more chapter books to read to him. He likes mysteries but I am thinking I want some action packed boy themed book. I wonder if he would be too young for Treasure Island? It's been a long time since I have read that one so I don't remember.

6. Acting out stories. I can't say that we have acted out any of the stories from Frog and Toad but Andrew got a real kick out of it the day that we read his Bible story and then did a play of David and Goliath. We got costumes and I numbered each one of Andrew's lines (he was David of course) and I called out the number when it was his turn to say it. Reading aloud and then also a lesson in inflection and learning how to say things with drama. Reading aloud also stimulates the knowledge of how to say things when there is a question mark or exclamation mark.

7. Turn off the TV...Okay this is really just a joke between me and my husband that I will share. I told him that whenever I start to read one of these crazy educational books, ALL of them in the first chapter say to turn off the TV...exactly what are they trying to say here? I don't get it. Ok yeah yeah yeah..I get it but I don't do it. We already don't have TV with like stations and stuff but I let my kids watch videos from the library and Hulu. Good thing about the videos from the library is that they are "educational". Hee hee. Hey, there could be worse things. But since I have a whole post about reading, I had to include that because apparently you can't talk about reading without mentioning getting rid of the idiot tube.

What I did that I would do again in starting the process....

I started with phonics a week before Andrew turned 5. I had several different phonics programs that people recommended. I decided to go with Hooked On Phonics. Remember the 80s commercial - Hooked on Phonics worked for me! Well it's still around and it's pretty good. I also had Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons and Explore the Code. 100 easy lessons was too boring for me. All text. No color. No fun. Explore the Code had too much writing for me. I wanted to concentrate on reading first and writing later. Hooked on Phonics was the best for me. I think if we get into GCA, we might be doing Phonics Pathways. I never looked at that one.

We then moved to sight words. Chris found them on Word document and I cut them out and drilled Andrew. We did a little at a time and he didn't mind them. I never could get to 100% and I eventually gave up. It was then that I realized that he knew all the sight words but just flipping through note cards, he would miss one or two each time. But in the context of a book, he would read "there" and "could" right every time. So I know my little brother in school had to have them memorized and he would be quizzed on them for speed. I realized that that was a school "box" and I didn't need to have Andrew do that. The more we practice reading, the more those words will come naturally to him and he will learn them. It's much more interesting to practice reading then it is to drill flash cards. Trying to use that principle with math too so we play games like math bingo and he has a addition puzzle he does.

One of the speed bumps I ran into was with phonics curriculum. I liked Hooked on Phonics so I moved to 1st Grade and it was on consonant beginnings like scr, th, sp, ch. Well he has all those down. He could read his entire HOP work book and all the practice books. What I really need right now is a phonics curriculum that teaches more of the rules. We know the silent e on the end rule. And we know that when two vowels go a walking the first one does the talking. But we learned those both from videos that we got from the library. There are others that I need to teach but I don't really know them off the top of my head. So for right now, I have just hung up the phonics hat and I am trying to just teach rules as I go. But I know that he is learning a lot of whole words and we try to sound them out phonetically but I wish I could tell him more times why it sounds like that. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's not. But I still maintain that a lot of practice will help with that. And I am re-checking out those videos from the library too.

Resources I have used

1. Library - I bring a couple of bags and we fill them up each week. I get read alouds, books he can read and then we go over to non fiction and get books on topics like countries, space, airplanes, the food pyramid, animals..whatever we want. One time Andrew wanted to read an Eyewitness book called Oil. It was one of the most boring books I have ever read but he seemed to like it and had I kept going and not returned it (shhh!), he probably could tell you a thing or two about oil.

2. Five in a Row (FIAR) - $5 work book I got off Ebay. The concept is that you take one of their books they have listed and you read it five days in a row. The workbook outlines different things you can talk about on each of the days. Among the topics are social studies, art, geography, math, history, literature devices. If you google the book and FIAR, you also get a slew of blogs and web pages about additional projects and lapbooks that you can do for your week. I probably will blog about a couple of them. But for example, when we read Madeline, we talked about France and colored the flag and did a coloring sheet of the eiffel tower. We watched a You Tube video with the fireworks at the Eiffel. We did a human body project and did human body worksheets. We talked about symmetry. Lots of art with Paris scenes to talk about. Vocab words like solemn...You catch my drift. It's a fun way to expand the story.

3. I already mentioned the Read Aloud Handbook. Going to use that a reference tool. I also got some ideas from the Well Trained Mind. I also googled "I can read books" and then went to Amazon and used their Click Inside feature. By reading the first couple of pages, I could tell whether it was too young, just right or too old for Andrew. I then made a list for my trip to the library and discovered it was much easier to find books when you knew what you were going for and had written down the call number.

I don't think blog posts are supposed to be this long. :) Apparently I am on a roll with what I have to say.


  1. You are on a roll. We are big readers but a lot of times we "read" the books as more of a question and answer time. Let's coutn the clouds. What color is the bird? Can you point to the cow? What does the cow say?

    We also keep books in the car for them to read on their own plus whenever we end up somewhere with wait time, we have books to read.

    Can you tell us how you take 3 kids to the library and not have them pull a zillion books off the shelf and make tons of noise? Also, when I have gone to the library I have had a lot of trouble keeping up with the books I checked out. Any advice?

  2. We are also big on sound effects and props while we are reading books. For example, every time we read Sleeping Beauty, Catherine has to get her magic wand because that is what the fairy godmothers use. I have been eager to start chapter books at night with Catherine and love the idea of having her read specific words.

  3. Victoria,
    We have a library bag, and in theory, the books go in the bag unless they are being read. In practice, it doesn't quite work that way, but we have a stack in M's room (in or on the bag) and another in K's ... outside his door actually. We've never lost a book, although with the small paperbacks there have been a couple of close calls.

    I don't know how to keep them from grabbing books off the shelves ~ K does this a little bit, usually I just go ahead and check out anything he pulls out (he's good at only pulling out one at a time) unless I really don't like it, then I'll try to put it back (easy if they are actually in correct alpha order, but they aren't always at our library).

    That's my 2 cents worth! Amanda

  4. Didn't think about the fact that my name is Amanda too and it might get confusing. I'm sure you figured it out from my comment, but this is "the other Amanda". ;-)

  5. WHEW! - That's lots of stuff. I really like that you have them acting out stories; it increases creativity. Thanks for the invite - it will be fun to follow along...

  6. Long post but wow...very informative. Thank you for sharing your action plans, successes and resources. Nothing like getting advice from someone who is just ahead of me. Thank you!!!