Every day for the first two months or so, she would come home impatient that she had not learned to read yet. In her kindergarten class they worked on the alphabet and the sounds of the letters so that everyone in the class could first master these. They also worked on learning to write--a lot. Each day they would busily trace letters on worksheets and copy words from book titles. But these activities did not seem to be propelling my daughter toward her goal of learning to read words. These were pre-literacy tasks for the children who still needed them. Meanwhile, we tried to encourage my daughter to be patient. The reading would come.
After the first quarter we started hearing a bit about sight words. Finally! Perhaps during these weeks of waiting, I could have taught my daughter to read. But I felt I lacked the know-how and that she might be bored if she were suddenly able to read while the many in the class lagged behind. So we let it be. Oh, we still read together every day, just like we were told we should and wanted to do anyway. My daughter was constantly writing words, asking us to spell them. But at six years old, she was still on the cusp of reading, not quite there yet.
Neither my husband nor I quite remember how we learned to read. My husband is a doctoral student in the field of education, and he has said that from everything he has read, literacy is still, in some ways, a "black box." No one knows exactly how that threshold of being able to read is crossed. But after observing the process my daughter went through, he and I are in agreement about some of the practices that might slow down the learning-to-read process.
1. The emphasis on writing. Based on our experience and knowledge of language education, writing is the most difficult of the four skills to master. The receptive skills (listening and reading) are easier than productive skills (speaking and writing). So we think that just like children understand what they hear before they are able to speak, they can be taught to read before they need to write.
2. The approach of sounding it out. Slowly sounding out the letters is not always the most effective or efficient way to tackle new words. If children are used to hearing the word, when they try to read it, they can use a variety of clues to say or even guess the word without focusing on each and every letter.
So there. This is my emerging philosophy of how reading should be taught. I have much to learn still, and I would love to know what more experienced parents and teachers have to say on the matter. Perhaps I'll do things a little differently with my second and third child as my knowledge and confidence grow. Or maybe now that my oldest knows how to read, she'll be able to teach her siblings. I wouldn't be surprised if she did.
Have you taught a child or children to read? What do you think is the best way for a child to learn how?
This post is linked to the Moms' 30 Minute Blog Challenge at Steady Mom.