Teaching homeschool reading

Teaching your child to read

Teaching reading does not require any special expertise (other than the ability to read) or fancy educational props. What it does require is patience and consistency.

The most important thing you can do to set the stage for teaching your child how to read is to spend lots of time reading to your child. No age is too young to begin enjoying books together, and we recommend reading at least one to three children's books to your child each day during the preschool and kindergarten years.

Starting at age three, you can teach your child to recognize letters. Our children learned their letters from Dr. Seuss's ABC, which they loved so much that we ended up reading it to them dozens of times.

Children as young as four or five are fully capable of learning to read, as long as you keep lessons brief. We recommend starting with five- to ten-minute sessions and gradually increasing as your child's attention span matures.

Our kindergarten curriculum uses The Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading as a lesson plan for teaching your child to read. This book uses a straightforward phonics-based approach to teaching reading. (We believe a solid grounding in phonics better equips children to sound out new words and understand the mechanics of writing than sight words-based systems.) Each lesson introduces a new phonics rule and provides several examples. To complete a lessson you simply explain the rule using the prompts suggested in the book, and have your child practice reading the examples. We recommend completing one lesson of The Ordinary Parent's Guide To Teaching Reading per day.

At a separate time each day, have your child practice reading a real book out loud to you. We suggest starting with Bob Books, one of the few entirely phonics-based beginning readers. Early Bob Books use only a few letters and words each, so you can begin right away. The Bob Books stories are entertaining, and reading actual books provides a sense of accomplishment. One new Bob Book per day is a reasonable amount of practice for most five-year-olds.

Note that you do not need to teach your child to write in conjunction with reading. Writing is a separate skill which is often easier to learn in first grade when children's fine motor skills and concentration have had more time to develop. That said, if your child wants to write, feel free to demonstrate how to form letters and let him or her practice for fun.

A book for every level

The kindergarten curriculum progresses through the Bob Books series in order of increasing difficulty. Once you complete the Bob Books series, you can move on to other easy books such as Hop on Pop and Go, Dog, Go! You can then transition to easy readers.

Today's easy readers display a reading level (one through four) on the cover. Aim to start at level one or two, and allow your child to progress to higher levels naturally as he or she gains confidence. Most libraries have a wide selection of easy readers and your child should fine plenty to suit his or her interest. Have your child spend ten to twenty minutes reading aloud to you from one of these each day, helping him or her sound out more challenging words as necessary.

Once your child can manage easy readers comfortably, you may allow him or her to read independently. By the end of first grade, your child should spend at least thirty minutes per day in independent reading.

After easy readers, most children naturally progress to short chapter books. There is no need to rush this transition. As long as your child is reading something, he or she is getting valuable practice.

Your child will probably gravitate to comics and simple series books in the early years. This is fine, and will help the him or her see reading as a source of enjoyment rather than difficulty.

At the same time, you should provide listening exposure to more challenging literature such as that included in the Literature portion of the curriculum. By middle school, your child should be reading most of the curriculum literature independently in addition to freely chosen books.

Time for reading

Ensure that your child spends at minimum half an hour (in early elementary grades) to a full hour (by middle school) reading a mix of assigned and freely chosen books each day, through the end of twelfth grade.

Though it can be tempting to reduce reading time in favor of other academic work and extracurricular activities, reading is the foundation of education and should not be neglected. Reading extensively provides essential skills in communicating via the written word, and exposure to progressively more challenging works will leave your student well equipped for advanced studies in his or her chosen field. Beyond that, reading great literature educates character and uplifts our goals and ideas - intangible benefits that cannot be gained from completing worksheets and mastering technical skills.