Tuesday, August 21, 2012

T.I.P.sters: Teaching Kids to Read

Last summer, I shared my tips for a reluctant reader.  Of my three school-aged children, two of them didn't begin to read fluently until around age 8.  Both could read easy words by age 4 or 5, but it took a lot of practice to pull it all together and have it 'click' enough to read anything they wanted.  We took it at a slow and gentle pace, while continuing to encourage comprehension and build vocabulary by listening to higher-level literature being read aloud.

I've taken two different approaches to teaching reading.  I began  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with Gavin in kindergarten.  After about 15-20 lessons, he had had enough.  He was confused by the method of symbols and decided reading was too tedious.  His frustration became my frustration.

We gave phonics a break, then gave the Explode the Code series of workbooks a try.  Gavin enjoyed the short lessons, the funny pictures, and the slow pace.  (He did not like figuring out which word went in the blank!)  We plugged away for a few years, slowly learning the phonics rules.  By the time he finished Book 5 (out of 8), he was proficient enough to discontinue the series.  He was "reading" long before this point, but this was when he became able to read with confidence.

Maddie began longing to read at age 4.  I decided to try Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessonsagain and she took to the series with much more enthusiasm than Gavin did.  By the time we finished the book, she was reading easy-to-read books.  Then she stalled.  While she could "read,"  she had a difficult time progressing.  She began the Explode the Code series of workbooks that had worked so well for Gavin, but after day and day of tears, we put those aside.

Last year, in the summer before she started second grade and Owen started kindergarten, we began Alpha-Phonics: A Primer For Beginning Readers by Samuel L. Blumenfeld.  We did 2-3 lessons a week and by the end of the school year, both of them were reading well.  

While I liked both programs, Alpha-Phonics more closely fit our style.  Each lesson began with a simple word list, consisting of various words using similar sounds.  Part two of the lesson was reading sentences using various words from the list. Simple, but still fun.

Finding easy readers was another story.  Because they are used to listening to more advanced stories, the stuff of easy readers was often boring to them, but since we love Cynthia Rylant, we gave her Puppy Mudge Ready-to-Read series a try and were happy with the quality.  Though still using very basic vocabulary, no one complained because the stories were engaging.  My new readers quickly moved onto Rylant's other books which are Level 2.  While Owen likes to read the Henry and Mudge series, Maddie prefers the Mr. Putter and Tabby series.

Were your kids "early" or "late" readers?  What are your learning to read tricks?


  1. I may need to look into Alpha-Phonics. Right now Emahry is enjoying the Bob Books series.

  2. Thank you for this post. After having 2 that basically taught themselves to read I am faced with a struggling one. It's good to be reminded that it's okay if they are "late" readers.

    I bought explode the code for this year with her and I plan on using some simple leveled readers with her. I think explode the code will fit her well. I also found a site called Reading Eggs with leveled activities, giving her a way to practice without me by her side. They offer a 2 week free trial before you have to put down any money, so we'll see how it goes.

  3. I might have to look into Alpha Phonics too. My oldest is just starting Kindergarten, but I tried Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons with her about a year ago. She hated it after the first few lessons. I didn't want this to become a daily battle and she was only 4, so I put the book away. Maybe I just need to try a different approach.

  4. My first was an early reader. I started him with "100 easy lessons" at the beginning of last year, just a few months after he turned 4. I'm not always a pusher of early academics, but he was ready! At least he seemed ready to inexperienced me. Thankfully I was right. Though the actual teaching experience was not all roses, he learned quickly. After about 70ish lessons we stopped and just read books. He is now (at 5 and a half) reading around a fourth grade level.

    Not to sound too uppity, I know this is just my boy. My little girl who is four and a half isn't quite ready for official lessons and doesn't know her letters and sounds yet. She shows interest in learning, but has no memory for it. I won't be disappointed if she takes her time and is a "late" reader. We're working more on character than anything.

  5. We tried Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons but both my child and I found it to be cumbersome. We have used The Reading Lesson and love it. I also use Explode the Code for reinforcement. Erin was reading fluently at the end of first/beginning of 2nd grade. Maygen is just now entering first grade and can read very basic early readers. She still sounds out most words. Reading hasn't clicked just yet. Ada who is just starting K is still struggling to recognize all her letters so we've put phonics instruction on hold for now.


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