Teaching a child to read in the early years is not as daunting as it at first seems. There are so many different methods out there and honestly, a child that does not have any developmental issues will learn using any of them – just pick one and go for it! Some will need a little more time with the same materials but will get there in the end and others may need you to find them something that addresses their particular needs. Of course, reading excellent literature to children on a daily basis is so important for their development in this area.
The methods I use work for me and have adapted easily for the little ones in my house who needed a little more time. I have already discussed how to lay the foundations for teaching reading in teaching children to read – where to begin so I’ll leave that for now.
Moving on from ear training, a good phonics programme is a must, some sight word practise is helpful and a good quality set of early readers is useful.
I use Letterland for phonics. It was developed to help children who were struggling and was so successful it came into mainstream education. Initially I introduce 1 new letter a day using the abc book, with both its alphabet name and sound, and we spend 5 minutes reading the little story and finding a bunch of items starting with that sound. On the following day we review the sounds and letter names previous learnt before introducing a new letter. At the end of 26 days, with daily reviews of sounds already covered, our 3 year olds will usually know around 20 of the 26 sounds, many of the letter names and be able to work out the rest of the sounds using the Letterland character’s names to prompt them. Not bad for 10 minutes a day.
The 4 and 5 year olds go on to initial sounds experiences, alphabet activities and 3 letter words. (Put “preschool” in the search bar to find my many posts for preschool activities that include alphabet charts, spinny spellers, Duplo 3 letter words, Montessori trays etc.) Our focus this year is now sight words and more advanced digraphs – the sounds that letters make when they get together. Letterland has the cleverest stories to explain these changes.
For example, “H” is Hairy Hat Man who hates noise and whispers his soft “h” sound and the letter “S” is Sammy Snake who hisses his “s” sound. When Sammy stands behind Harry in words his hissing is so loud that Harry turns and says “sh” which is why you can hear a “sh” sound when you see “sh” in words such as shop and ship. Easy isn’t it! Once the children have heard these stories they rarely forget them and they provide very easy prompts when working on decoding words for reading. Even my older children can sometimes be prompted in their reading or spelling of a difficult word with the reminder of one of the more advanced Letterland stories.
For beginner readers who find reading akin to pulling teeth, putting the readers aside and focussing on building a bank of sight words may be helpful. I type out all the words necessary to read their first Bob Book and we use those for sight word games, flash card drills and other simple activities until they are known by sight. That way, when the child attempts to read the actual book, they are able to breeze through and wonderingly say at the end “I read it!” rather than feel like pulling out their hair (or is that just me?) as they laboriously sound out 1 word after another.
In the sight word mastery file above, the words are moved from pocket to pocket as the child reads them successfully. If they forget the word it goes back to pocket 1 and starts again. That way, by the time words make it into the review envelope they have been read correctly 6 days in a row and are probably quite well known by then – enough to be recognised in the book later.
The Montessori pink series starts with simple phonetic words that are matched to pictures. It is an independent activity that requires no supervision other than me listening to the words being read once they have matched all the pictures. In graded sets that get gradually harder, these are free to print out and there are heaps of free resources for them on the web.
There are so many more ideas for teaching reading but these are a few that we have used repeatedly over the years during a short period of one-on-one time with each child, coupled with a little independent work on a daily basis. One they have that lightbulb moment they will be off and running and you will need to restrain yourself from telling them to put that book down and go out and play!