Older Preschoolers: On the Brink of Reading
a bit of a do-it-yourselfer, and my daughter is entering kindergarten in the
fall. I'm not leaving it to the school to teach her how to read. I want to do
it! I wasn't an education major, however, so I don't really know how to teach.
And I don't want formal, highly detailed curriculum that I have to follow. I'd
rather "free-style" this process. But I don't have a lot of time! Is there
anything available to the highly-motivated parent who wants to teach her own
child to read?
Good for you! And yes, there are many well-designed
programs for teaching reading at home. The basic idea is to deliver the skills
of reading to your child in proper sequence, from the easy and familiar to the
difficult and uncommon, so that the skills are cumulative and build on each
things first, though: is your daughter on the brink of reading? Does she want
to know how? Has she expressed this to you? Is she always after you to read to
her? Does she love to hold books and be read to? If so, and if she's trying to
read on her own, she's ready, and you should go for it. But if she's hanging
back, that's perfectly normal for her age, and it is not wise to push it or
force reading instruction on her. You can do far more damage than you would
ever expect. Children's readiness for various phases of intellectual and
academic progress are individual and should neither be rushed nor skipped. So
let her set the pace, and relax until she signals you that she's ready.
A good phonics systems focuses on
the alphabetic code of our language. It doesn't get bogged down in all the
"bells and whistles" that so often distract teachers and pupils in the
classroom from the real purpose, which is learning to "crack the code" of the
English language. Therefore, it can be delivered very inexpensively, yet it
works extremely well. Phonics is the ultimate in cost-efficiency!
Here are five outstanding programs that you might consider.
The cost is low, and in the case of the last one on this list, the lessons are
downloadable and free of charge.
From the same source from which you obtain the book of
lessons, you may want to purchase "decodable" books if available. They have
words and sentences which contain the letter combinations you've just taught in
each lesson. They make it easy for the child to practice decoding new
phonograms (the letter symbols for the different sounds in English) right after
they're learned. These decodables are inexpensive.
But you'll be OK without them, if you keep lots of quality
children's books around, either from the public library or borrowed from
friends, to read with your child and prime that decoding pump. Plan on spending
around a half-hour a day on reading for the next several weeks, and see if you
don't find tremendous fulfillment and success.
Here are five phonics systems that work really well and are
easy to use:
Phonics. The manual is The Writing Road
to Reading by Romalda Bishop Spalding, who taught thousands of children to
read. That includes many kids from very low-income areas of Harlem in New York
City - presumably "tough to teach." And yet Mrs. Spalding said she could count
on the fingers of one hand the number of children who couldn't "crack the code"
of our English language system using her system of decoding. That certainly
rebuts those who say that dyslexia and reading dysfunction is inevitable in
many children. No, it's NOT, if they're taught right, and Mrs. Spalding proves
it. This may be the best system of all, but you may find the manual a little
hard to use. The concepts in it are excellent, though. You can make a set of
phonogram cards yourself, using the templates in this book, or order a set of
cards separately from the website. See:
Alpha-Phonics. This was
developed by longtime education leader Samuel Blumenfeld and is very popular
among homeschoolers. See:
and Turbo Reader. These two books
are excellent for at-home use with a preschooler and a child in the early
primary years, not to mention a great start for someone whose first language is
not English. They come from conservative grassroots leader Phyllis Schlafly, an
attorney, who taught her own children to read many years ago with this simple
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy
Lessons. This book, by Siegfried Engelmann with Phyllis Haddox and Elaine
Bruner, is based on the method called "direct instruction," and comes
out of Oregon. One of the best things here is that you are given the proper
words to say when the child makes an error in pronunciation or decoding so that
you don't add to the child's stress or make the reading mistake even worse.
Unfortunately, that happens all too often in school-based remediation sessions.
www.startreading.com, learn more about
direct instruction on www.adihome.org,
and see supplemental materials on www.adihome.org/store/products/detail/teach-your-child-to-read-in-100-easy-lessons.html
By Step Phonics. A longtime teacher in England put this traditional
phonics instruction program together. There are occasional British spellings
("programme" for "program") but it shouldn't be a problem for Americans. She
offers a set of DVD's and storybooks that can be used in conjunction with brief
lessons that are downloadable, free, from her website. See: