Learning how to read is possibly the first essential skill in education, but how to teach it?
How do you teach reading?
There are programs, and curriculum galore available. There is just using phonics or alphabet flashcards. There are interactive apps for mobile devices and websites. There is the option to just read to them and point things out here and there. And there are also educational DVDs. Which direction to go? This doesn’t even touch on the use of workbooks and printable worksheets too!
AppleBlossom is my oldest, and at six she is a really good reader and enjoys it. She CAN read good chapter books such as Prince Caspian, Pages of History, The Red Pyramid, Fancy Nancy Chapter Books, and Harry Potter. But she still wants pictures, so she goes back for things like the Magic Tree House, The Black Princess, and picture books. I’m trying to win her a good combination and make the picture book ones an exercise in reading aloud with her little siblings.
How did AppleBlossom learn to read?
When AppleBlossom was 18 months old or thereabouts we started reading lots of books aloud and she really benefited from the one-on-one with mama and storytime. She loved to snuggle up with a good read aloud and her mama. She also got to watch LeapFrog Letter Factory which at the time was on Netflix, but is no longer (however other newer LeapFrog short movies are). We have it and a few others pre-2012 on DVD. Through a fun combination of Letter Factory, the original and “fridge phonics”, she got down her letter names and their main sounds easily.
Over the next four years there was a mixture of phonetic programs we used and enjoyed in parts including Logic of English Foundations, Memoria Press’ First Start Reading, and Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, and Bob Books. We also used Handwriting Without Tears My First School Book. We tried Explode the Code Book 1 but I couldn’t get her to do it on a routine basis as she fought it too much. I cannot place exactly when, but we went from a true struggle to thinking she’d never get it, to now nearly nothing is challenging enough. She is passionate about reading and learning to love to find a story. Now we’re just starting to really work on comprehension, which I suppose will be a life long study from here on out.
Now, how will the Princess learn to read?
The Princess hasn’t had nearly the access to LeapFrog as her sister did and has no interest in school workbooks in the same manner. I haven’t personally had the quantity of snuggle reading with her, but she has never been the sit-still-and-listen type. She’d rather be twirling, curtsying, and/or playing with her little princess dolls (6″ Disney princesses the size of Strawberry Shortcake dolls). She was the baby that would nurse and then want to be put in her own crib, she’d balk if you tried to snuggle wit her. She never was a snuggler until after she weaned completely and then became a snuggle-bunny, when she can sit still…
Overall at ‘this’ point, AppleBlossom was a beginning reader. The Princess is more along the lines of where AppleBlossom was in preschool, and the Princess is just now starting in Junior Kindergarten stuff. (I know, I know, you shouldn’t compare…) In general the Princess has picked up colors, shapes, numbers, and most letter names – now that we’re making it a forced try it is interesting to see how much more difficult it is with her and I definitely feel lost… but I don’t want to give up quite yet.
With the Princess we’ve tried Foundations but she doesn’t retain it and loses patience with the handwriting. She’s not interested in the games and we’re skipping more than what we’re doing. We’ve tried FSR but she wasn’t ready for the handwriting and cried and balked at everything (we’ve taken a step back to just the Alphabet Books, but even still she refuses to do much of anything outside of tracing). She read her first Bob Book with a few efforts and does well with OPGTR in the moment, but just doesn’t retain it. Now we’ve just started Fun-Time! Phonics, a brand new product from the Critical Thinking Co. and I’m eager to see how this might work out with her. We’re also doing Reading Kingdom which is an online app, a new way for me to approach this. We tried HWT and besides spilling a drink all over it, she just wants to scribble on the pages. We tried ETC this week and it’s been awesome for her, go figure – because I was just expecting it to be a scribbling book since we owned it from her sister.
What’s the plan?
AppleBlossom is working at a second grade level across the curriculum, outside of being a little behind with her cursive on that level. In regards to reading, I’m have her reading to her hear’ts content with an addition of “school reading” when they are topics that she is less likely to be enthusiastic about, however once I’ve forced the issue she has gotten involved and is wanting to pursue series that I have encouraged. This year she is finishing what is left of our progress through More StoryTime Treasures and working through Memoria Press Second Grade Literature and Veritas Press Second Grade Literature using the comprehension guides. We’re also pursuing Spelling this year with a plethora of things and I’ve yet to decide on what I like best. We’re using Horizons’ Spelling & Vocabulary and thus far it seems to be going well. I like it as a whole. We also enjoy Reading Lessons Through Literature as a spelling program, but often forget to do it, or my device is lacking in battery power… We really want Phonetic Zoo, but it’s just not in the budget. One can hope though.
OrangeBlossom is eager to work through Reading Kingdom so I plan to keep that up with her as long as she’ll let us. We’re also doing okay if, frustratingly with Fun-Time! Phonics – so far I’m not having fun, but she is, and I just haven’t figured out her learning styles quite yet. I’m hope that she’ll want to keep going with learning how to write, even if I haven’t yet figured out what is the best way with her.