Learning to read, take three.

What with the whole home education thing, I’ve been very involved in the learning to read process for both of my older children. I think I’ve learnt something from that experience.

Point 1 – there is no one way that suits all children. I know about the current educational vogue for synthetic phonics, and I suppose in a way Small learnt to read using phonics, but he doesn’t sound things out and never did. He skipped that stage of Montessori in a matter of days and went from not appearing to know all the individual sounds to working through Stile trays to a quick flirtation with Oxford Reading tree and suddenly reading fluently in the space of a single term. And when I say reading fluently, I mean reading Harry Potter. By contrast we laboured on a huge variety of methods with Big from age 3 (when she asked to learn to read) to about age 6 when she finally cracked it. Not a set of years I plan to repeat to be honest, it wasn’t fun. (And if you don’t believe me, have a wander through the archives. It’s all there, in glorious black and white.)

Point 2) It ought to be fun. Reading is a fabulous tool, but it does no one much good if they don’t enjoy it. Turning kids off by trying too hard too soon to get them reading is totally counter productive. The vast majority of kids *will* get there in the end, so take it easy, and trust the process.

Point 3) I’m not sure I have one 🙂

I do have a plan though. With Smallest, we read loads. More I suspect than we did with either of the others, when reading had to be fitted in around everything else we did (like working and commuting and living and so on), and kind of was an item on a good parent checklist. So reading happened, but it wasn’t natural or spontaneous in a way I think it probably works best.

my bookThis time around, there are books everywhere (well, OK, there have always been books everywhere…) and reading goes on all the time. In the bathroom during nappy change, though I don’t let her take board books in the bath. Mean mummy 😉 Out in the garden. At the leisure centre. Wherever we are – there’s always a book or two in my bag, or she might even be carrying her own… There are also extra readers who both demonstrate the skillset in use on a near to daily basis and read to her as well.

And I’m not planning on actively teaching her to read. I’m going to follow a bit of a Montessori approach with it – I already do in fact. So when we look at alphabet style books, I trace the large letter with my finger and “This is a. a.” in much the way sandpaper letters are used. (I won’t be using sandpaper letters when we get to that stage. I might make them out of hama again. But sandpaper makes my skin crawl, so no, no sandpaper!) Sometimes she traces the letter too, sometimes she doesn’t. It’s not that important yet, and really, I wouldn’t expect her to do any of that for a good couple of years if not longer.

As she gets more interested though, I will try to find some kind of movable alphabet. I think this is a fabulous tool – children learn to ‘write’ without actually having to write. It means they learn to spell, and hear the sounds in words without having to decode the squiggly things on the page, it’s coming at reading from a whole different direction. And I know it works – I saw it in action at Montessori lots of times.

When we get past that stage, I might bring in pink materials (probably home made rather than this sort of download, I’m linking it to give you an idea. Note that really you should start with real things instead of abstracts in the form of pictures, so a very small toy cup, a toy hen, that sort of thing) mainly because they are fun. And if I go to use a reading scheme, the one I like best is Bob books. (And you can get it as an app for your iPhone! Drat, first time I’ve wanted an iPhone. Maybe not the best reason so far…)

And hopefully, that will be pretty much all we need. That, and time and patience. So, like I said, I have a plan.

This post will soon be featured in the learn to read carnival I’m ever so rapidly writing…

About Jax Blunt

I'm the original user, Jax Blunt I've been blogging for 14 years, give or take, and if you want to know me, read me :)

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  1. Good to have a plan. With your middle child – she may have wanted to read like her big brother but she may not have been ready. You can teach the letters and sounds from about age three (the same as you teach this is a table, chair, apple, etc…) as it’s just putting names to objects. Reading, however, is a physiological thing – they can’t do it until the nerve endings are fully developed. Think of trying to teach a six week old baby to clap, it cannot be done. Lucky smallest will have the benefit of all your experience.
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  2. Bath books, Jax. You need bath books 😉 We did have a few of them – strange, fat waterproof things. Sounds like a good plan.

    I was talking with someone yesterday about the whole reading thing. I now think the only magic bullet is to work out what’s right for each child. It’s not a great deal of help when people ask for advice though, which people do from time to time. I can only say what we did and I’m not sure if that’s much use really. But I’ve become very wary of the whole world of advice. I feel like I need to lean forward and say (in hushed tones), ‘trust no-one!’ Perhaps what I really should say is ‘trust yourself!’

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