Thursday, October 17, 2013

How I Taught My Daughter To Read/ Teaching Reading Advice

Just after Lyla turned two, I finally bought her the Teach Your Baby To Read program. We received the program. It looked great. We tried it out, and my DD hated it. It was boring as all get out. It felt like flash cards on video. We plowed through it a couple of times, and she was starting to memorize words, but we didn't do it often because it was just so tedious. If you choose to do this program I suggest starting at a younger age. If your child has played video games or enjoys watching and can learn from Sesame Street, then this program will probably be a snore fest.

Not doing anything, I noticed that Lyla had picked up a couple of sight words. Her first was lock. She saw this word everyday on our car door. She asked me what l-o-c-k spelled, and from there, her next word was toy which she learned from Toy Story. This was not unique to her. Others in her 3 y.o. class (I have always requested that she be put in a class slightly older until public school) were doing the same.

For about 6 months, we really didn't do anything. What happened next? My job let me go. Enrollment was low. The school had to make adjustments. They decided to get rid of the music department all together at the school (as well as security guards, guidance counselors, and academic coaches). So here I was back to staying at home which gave me time to do some research.

Out of Sight (Words)

I searched the internet for the best ways to teach reading. I was heavily influenced by youtube vids. I decided that we weren't going to do site words at all. I began searching for the perfect program. Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons kept coming up. We tried. Lyla didn't like. Five lessons is about all we could make it through. Actually we could have done more. I was a bit inconsistent, and my DD was happy to miss those reading lessons.

Although we only got through 5% of the book, I learned a lot. I had been trained on teaching phonemic awareness, but this program found a way to focus on phonics (blending of phonemes into words when reading) and phonemic awareness (ability to hear phonemes or the smallest units of sound represented by letters within a word) without having to segment the sounds at all. Our next venture led us to Teach Your Child to Read in Just 10 Minutes a Day." This stuck for a while. The book offers fun ideas for teaching reading, but I didn't build the wood toy that it suggested, nor did I tape letters to any blocks. I simply typed out words and letters and laminated them. Like most other phonics programs, you start out with a letter, learn it's sound, recognize the sound in words you here and then learn more letters. Once you have two letters you can start blending. This book starts with u then it adds p. The first word to learn is up. From there they add a c and then an a and the subsequent words that can be made from these letters. From doing these I learned that Lyla was already decoding words. I think that those five lessons from Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons really worked. We just needed practice reading CVC (consanat-vowel-consonant) words. We progressed but we kinda got hung up on what I call n-controlled vowels. For example, to my ears it's kinda confusing to teach ing to me the i sounds like a long e. The same is true for -ink or -ank. We hadn't learned any words with long vowel sounds. This was a bit confusing. How many people say a short a sound in bank? It's doable, but there is a bit of grey area there. Our relationship with this Kindle download ended abruptly.

What Stuck

What did we try next? Finally we did The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons. WARNING: You will not be able to sit down 20 times and teach your child to read. It takes more consistency. If you work hard, you can do a lesson a week. If you want a more fluent reader then take longer on the lessons and make sure your child repeats each page. Have your child work on each page until he can read it smoothly. Then move on. We didn't do that, and although my daughter can just about read anything, we're working to increase her fluency and speed. She can read a 5th grade book, but would she read it as fast (frequency) or as smoothly as a fifth grader? She does great, but there is always room for improvement.

It's All About the Process

While the process started at 3, we really didn't pick up a book (aside from decodable books) for her to read on her own until a month before kindergarten. She was 5 1/2. This is the normal time for most kids to read. However at this time she could pick up a 2nd grade book and read it, not as fluently or as fast as a second grader would read, but she could read these books and gather meaning from them. The month before school. We read like crazy.

Wait! Where's The Rewind Button?

If I could find that rewind button and do it all over again I would have started with Teach Your Child to Read in Just Ten Minutes A Day or any phonics based reading program (you can design your own) at 2 1/2. No pressure- this would just be done in a fun, leisurely way, maybe a letter a week type situation. Then, at three I would make sure she could decode. The previous book should have given her decoding skills, but if she couldn't decode, we would spend our time learning. At this point I would introduce decodable readers (we made some of ours). If she decodes well at three, then I would introduce The Reading Lesson at three. If not, I would wait until she's 3 1/2. If the child is nowhere near decoding,then I would start with a few lessons in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lesson and then continue to The Reading Lesson.

Back In Sight?

I personally don't think sight words are harmful. It's just better to learn to decode first. With that being said, I would try my hardest to teach my child to read before she starts kindergarten. Sight words would add to her reading, rather than take away. For kids with great memories, sight words may come easy. I personally (I am only a mother, not a reading specialist) would neither encourage, nor dissuade sight word practices. Let the child do what comes naturally to them in this regard. If your young child teaches himself to read by memorizing what words look like, I would immediately begin teaching letter sounds. I worked at a daycare where a genius four year old boy could read. I sat him down and asked him to read for me. I was blown away. His fluency was so much better than that of my daughter. Depending on what kind of reading he did at home, he probably could read harder books than she could, but he wasn't accurate in his reading. He would say what he thought some of the words and phrases were, rather than reading what was on the page. It wasn't a bad thing. I was thoroughly impressed. I am sure that as he embraces phonics in school, he will do well, but for some kids this is not an easy fix.

My Unsolicited, Yet Earnest Advice

My advice to parents who have a kindergartner who will be introduced to sight words? Let the school worry about sight words. You run a phonics program at home. If you have to help your child with sight words for school, do so, but try to relate it to phonics as much as possible. When your child starts school, the teacher does an assessment. I probably did too much, but everyday I would ask my child did the teacher call you up to her desk today? Did you read for her, today? Did anyone take you out of class, today? First grade is a bit different, but in kindergarten gather as much information as you can about assessments from your child. Ask your teacher what reading level your child is on. Ask to see how this was determined and what measures were used. Familiarize/ research the form of reading assessment and how a child is moved along from level to level. Ask your child's teacher for reading level information about your child. More than likely, they will not offer you this info. You have to ask. You don't want to be too pushy. As a teacher, I have seen how a parent's pushiness can affect how people treat the child. You always want to remain in good standing with the teacher (a lesson I am still learning), but let that teacher know that you know.

Once you have been given a reading level for your child, get books on an easier level (if applicable), on level, and on the next level. Can your child read books on the easier level? You want to give your child random books on random subjects. If your child can't pick up a random book at an easier level and read it, your child is probably not reading, but practicing memorization. Run you phonics program. If your child can read the easier level, keep giving them books to read. Use the easier and on level books to build fluency. Find a book your child likes and let them read it over and over and over again. Also make sure to model good reading to your child. Your child is on his way, but still run your own phonic and/or word study program at home.

If you're homeschooling, read up on Fontas and Pinnell or any trusted system for determining reading levels.

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