The Gentle Ways of Reading

I’m teaching my child to read. She’s the fourth one I’ve taught.

I remember stressing about this very idea with my eldest. Fretting. Having her sit close by and plod through mat, sat, cat until we were cross-eyed.

When we were both frustrated, I decided to put the drill work aside. Instead, she sat close by and we just read books. We fell in love with the simple stories of Dick and Jane.

The stories I remember reading and being enchanted by. We read from a family copy from the 1950s. Before the paperback Dick and Jane adventures starting showing up fresh and new in the book stores.

My aunt, a school teacher for the hearing impaired, gave me a book we’ve all laughed with, Hey! I’m Reading. It’s a how-to-read book for beginners by Betty Miles. I love that it starts with “Some Things You Already Know About Reading.”

It takes a long time to get ready to read. It takes years! You’ve been getting ready all your life, without even thinking about it, just by growing up. You already know a lot about reading right now…

And we’d go to the library. She would pick out books. Mama, can I just read what I want? she would ask. Yes. Just read to enjoy. And then I’d read to her, moving my finger below each word.

We did some phonics work with Alphaphonics. Less than five minutes a day. Then moved on to Spelling Workout, combining the skills of reading, spelling and then writing. By this time her brother was learning to read from Dick and Jane too. He saw the freedom she had in reading what she wanted to. He also laughed at Hey! I’m Reading.

But, I found, this boy is an auditory learner. He wanted to hear me read a few certain books over and over again. Especially Audubon First Field Guides

Nana was enlisted. She read on tape Insects, Birds, Mammals. He sat and listened during afternoon quiet time. Turning the pages and following along. I’m certain that’s how he became fluent.

Nana also made homemade books. Nana and the girls made a beach Learn to Read book. Nana drew the pictures and authored the story. Seven-year-old colored the illustrations. It’s a simple story. Pages made from printer paper. The point is the subjects are familiar. This girl loves everything about the beach so ‘reading ‘ about it is fun.

I get my pail.

Let’s make a castle.

Time for a swim!

I like the little pools.

We go to the house.

The End.

(one line of the story on each page).

A personalized book to remember our vacation time. About half an hour to make. The promise of couch reading time ahead.

I’d often ask our older two to read to the new baby. Mother Goose is not only good for the littlest ones, the rhyming is perfect reading practice. Plus just fun.

When it was time for third child to read, she wasn’t much interested in Dick and Jane. She loved Biscuit. She would go to bed with the Biscuit Storybook Collection.

But here’s the beauty – her brother and sister would still sit and read to her like they did when she was a baby. Teach her all they’d learned. Read from Hey! I’m Reading with a little spark in their eyes. They remembered what fun it was to have the reading light switch on in their heads. They’d read to her while I was busy with the new baby.

New baby is now almost five years old. We’ve made the same sort of steps for her. Once again, I’ve pulled out Hey! I’m Reading, Dick and Jane and all the others we’ve collected. I’ve also made a little reading basket for the end of the couch. Because that’s the best spot. It’s where I am when she plops down and wants to listen.

And I’ve added some just for fun.

Youngest boy is on his way to learning to read. He has a library of beloved books from his four siblings. And what a privilege to look forward to teaching another child to read.

I urge you not to fret as I first did. To just read. Instill that love of reading. Then gently encourage. Pile up on books from the library.

Read, read, read. Enjoy and have fun.

Resources we use:

  • Hey! I’m Reading
  • Dick and Jane
  • Biscuit
  • Dr Suess, Cat in the Hat type books

Then, read some more!

These are the reading resources we enjoy. What are your favorites?

Tricia homeschools five children from preschool to middle school, mixing up a classical and Charlotte Mason style. You can find her facing that daily dose of chaos at Hodgepodge. She also contributes a mixture of writing for Habits for a Happy Home, The Curriculum Choice and $5 Dinners.

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