Wants to be a Reader?
All children want to become readers, eager to open wide an
important door to independent learning. Children begin to
differ, however, when it comes to the when, why, how, and what
of reading. By being aware of and honoring these differences,
parents can prepare the smoothest, most direct road to reading
proficiency and a lifelong enjoyment of the skill. For a
growing number of parents, hearing a child put together his
first print sentence is thrilling, heartwarming, and easier
than you may have imagined.
==== WHEN? ====
Your two month-old baby didn't show any signs of possessing the
preliminary skills necessary to tie his shoes, so you didn't waste
time and energy trying to teach him how. Instead, you patiently helped
the little guy gain the necessary coordination and waited until he had
a good chance to succeed before showing him how to tie. The same
common sense applies to the "when" of teaching a child how
to read, helping to develop, then watching for signs of readiness.
Anecdotal evidence from within the homeschooling community suggests
the age of readiness, coupled with the very important desire to read,
varies greatly, from three years-old to eleven years-old and beyond,
but generally occurs between four and ten years of age. Learn the
clues that children freely provide, and you'll know when your child is
getting ready to read.
Some Signs of Reading Readiness
awareness (knows the sounds that letters make)
Takes interest in the
environment's written words on street signs, cereal boxes, TV; in
mail, flyers, books, etc.
Pretends to read
Looks at pictures and
tells a story or repeats a known story in her own words
Can add the missing
word to an incomplete sentence presented orally
Uses left to-right
Can pronounce own
first and last names
Defines meaning of
==== WHY? ====
As an adult, you'd be hard pressed to spend hours learning something
with no relevance to your life simply because someone tells you that
you "must." Why should we expect a different reaction from
Many who homeschooled as children and are now adults report they
quickly learned how to read once they found good reasons to do so. For
one, interest in the Indian artifacts he kept finding in his yard led
him to want to know more. Knowing how to play a video game provided
impetus for another. Yet another was spurred on by a desire for more
stories than her parents could possibly find time to read aloud.
Helping your child find reasons to read is as important as the reading
itself, so provide daily examples of the many motivations. Reading
specialists recommend that you then talk with your child about why you
- To understand how to use your new computer (learning how-to)
- To know more about the earthquake (a way to get information and
- To discover how your friend is doing (personal communication)
- To see how the story ends (enjoyment)
==== HOW? ====
A "Reading War" has long raged between those who espouse
phonics as the only road to reading and others who champion the whole
language approach. If heeded, the results of two decades of research
on the best way to learn how to read, funded by the National
Institutes of Health, can end the war. Researchers discovered that the
three important aspects of reading - identifying letters, identifying
sounds associated with the letters, and reaching for meaning of the
written word - are each accomplished by different parts of the brain.
Here, then, is a three-part plan that incorporates this information to
guide you as you help your child learn.
- Part 1: Phonemic awareness, or learning the individual sounds that
constitute a language, for example, "buh" as the sound of
- Part 2: Phonics, or the letter-sound relationships available in the
- Part 3: Exposure to meaning of the written word through reading and
being read to
Reading experts recommend using these elements as "building
blocks," each necessary to support the next. With phonemic
awareness as the first block, a child can begin to puzzle out words in
books. Add a helpful parent or sibling by his side and he'll begin to
ask questions, reaching the "phonics phase." Now is the time
to point out important clues, such as how letter sounds blend, how an
"e" at the end of a word changes a vowel sound from short to
long, how some consonants have more than one sound. Discuss lower and
upper case letters. Point out the eighteen frequently used words best
learned by sight. And through it all keep reading to your child to
include exposure to meaning, the equally important Part 3.
10 Easy Ways to Get the Reading Ball Rolling
Read, read, read aloud to your child from books, but also mail,
instruction booklets, grocery lists, etc. (and don't stop even when
your child can read independently!)
Take turns "drawing" a letter on each other's back with
your fingers, guess what it is, tell what sound it makes
Encourage hands-on play with magnetic letters and sponge letters in
bath; sound out nonsense words your child creates with them
Trace letters with crayons or colored pencils, make letters from
different types of paper
Play word games like Hangman, Junior Scrabble, Boggle, ABC Bingo,
word searches, "What begins with 'buh?' Ends with 'guh?'"
Write a single letter on Post-It notes and have your child place
them everything beginning with that letter
Pick a "sight word of the day," the have your child call
it out each time you find it in a story
Leave interesting books around the house and car for your child to
find and pick up
Provide a quiet period when you both go off to read alone
Get cozy! Snuggle under a quilt on the couch, read at night under a
blanket with a flashlight, read in the morning in pajamas in bed
Then don't be surprised if your child learns to read, seemingly by
==== WHAT? ====
To maintain interest and encourage practice beyond any more formal
lessons you may be providing, your child needs plenty of opportunity
to read whatever captures her attention, be it comic books, Dr. Seuss,
or the newspaper's sports page. Get your child her very own library
card and visit the library weekly, allowing her to choose her own
books, supplemented by others you pick out. Make sure enough of them
are at the appropriate reading level to ensure success and reduce
frustration. Continue to read aloud the more difficult ones and
progressively stretch her vocabulary.
Sustained practice allows your child to hone her reading skills, and
your interest in what she independently reads provides encouragement.
Ask what's happening in the new story or what interesting facts she is
gleaning from a nonfiction book. Not only will this allow you to gauge
comprehension and answer questions she may have, it supplies warm
approval and opportunity to share the fruits of her new-found skill.
Online Information and Tools
for Parents and Teachers
Frequently Used Sight Words
LGL Homeschool Reading
Assessment by Let's Go Learn, Inc.
your child's reading skills by using our diagnostic web-based reading
assessment. Since Reading is made up of several different sub skills,
fully understanding your child's detailed profile is the first step to
informed instruction. Our product, developed in conjunction with U.C.
Berkeley literacy experts, provides a thorough report to guide you
through the instruction of comprehensive reading skills.
A single assessment costs $20 and will start you down the path of
targeted and informed reading instruction. For on-going testing or for
several children, multiple tests can be purchased at a reduced rate.
Click here to find out more about our product!