Reading is one of my greatest pleasures, so I was pretty serious about my children learning how to read at an early age. My stepson Ryan was in a Montessori school when my husband and I started dating, so he was an early reader in their program, but my middle son Matt was reading well by age 5 and my youngest son Blake was reading by about age 4.
So I thought I’d share some of the techniques that helped me teach them. These are somewhat unorthodox methods, I’ll grant you, but I know of hundreds of children who have learned by these methods and enjoy reading very much.
It’s really quite easy for you teach your child to read in a fun and painless way. Surprisingly this will even work with very young children and will help get them interested enough to sit still for a story at least for a few minutes. All you need to do is to make sure that the print is large enough for them to see the letters very clearly – at least a half inch to an inch high. Otherwise you can choose any book that you think would appeal to them.
When you sit down to read your story, determine ahead of time several words you want your child to “read”. Names of characters or other words that are repeated frequently in the story work best. It doesn’t matter if it is a short word or a long one, in fact a longer word is easier to recognize because it is a more unique pattern. I always cringe when I see people teaching kids to read with words like hat, sat, bat, etc. Those words are terribly hard to differentiate because they are so short and so similar. Try elephant or refrigerator, or zebra. Now those are distinctive words. I know they will need to learn how to sound words out as they get older, but when they are very young, learning words by sight is very quick and easy and will fire up their enthusiasm for reading.
With Blake, I started with Peter from Peter and the Wolf and gradually moved on to the other names in the book. Then we did Peter Pan and he was instantly able to recognize the name Peter from the first book and then Wendy and so on. And he LOVED it.
The first time you come to the designated word in the story, point to it and say the word clearly. Then each time you come to that word, simply pause, point to the word and look at your child expectantly. You may have to prompt them a couple of times, but they’ll catch on very quickly and they’ll learn to recognize “their” words. At the end of the story, praise them and give them a big hug, then put the book away.
The next day, they will likely BEG to read the same book. Let them read the same words and add two or three new ones. By the time they get tired of the book, they will have learned at least 8 to 10 new words and will be able to recognize them in other books as well.
Word of warning – even if they beg, don’t repeat a book more than 3 times. Kids need to see new material frequently to keep their attention engaged. And don’t “test” them or make them show off. Just believe that they know it and they will demonstrate it to you in time. Let them surprise you.
Kids learn shockingly fast and will be happiest with fresh material every 2 or 3 days. Keep this up and before you know it, your child will be reading confidently and easily and will LOVE it.
Here is a brilliant trick I used to get my middle son Matt to read. When he was 7 or 8, Matt could read quite well, but he wasn’t particularly interested in books. So I went to the library one day and picked out a few books I thought he would enjoy (I think they were R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps books). Then I casually dumped them next to him in the backseat of the car and said the magic words “Don’t touch those, they’re your brother’s”. Problem solved! He nearly ripped the covers off them, he read them so fast!
I think he ended up reading nearly every Goosebumps book the library had on the shelves and by the time he hit High School, his scores were in the top 3 to 5 percent in the nation on his reading comprehension. Blake has been reading at a college level since about 7th grade.
I have great respect for teachers and I know that they do their best, but with overcrowded classrooms and ridiculous mandates from the government, there is a certain percentage of kids in every class who just don’t “catch on” to the whole reading thing. I wasn’t about to leave anything to chance. And, at least in our case it seems to have worked out pretty well.
If you want more information on this method, there is a book you can find at any library or bookstore, in virtually any language or country in the world. It’s called Teach Your Baby to Read by Glenn and Janet Doman. They are based at the Philadelphia Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential – IAHP.org and there are many resources and materials available there. I’ve been there and it’s a pretty amazing place filled with dedicated and imaginative folks who have dedicated their whole lives to teaching children.