When it comes time to teach reading, you probably have questions. Where do you begin? What curriculum do you use? When do you start? There are a lot of voices out there, and often the ones that are the loudest are the voices of the system. The system that says you need to move quickly, on their timeline, and in their way. But there are a lot of mistakes you might be making if you do it that way!
If you aren’t familiar with my story, it’s important for you to know that I used to be a kindergarten teacher, and I’m now a homeschool mom of five – currently from high school all the way down to kindergarten. This means that I’ve taught a lot of kids how to read. And I’ve made some mistakes in the process!
But many of the mistakes I’ve made – and possibly the mistakes you’re making – are because of the system mindset. The system that tells us to push kids to begin learning to read as soon as they turn four – and push them to do it quickly.
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Mistakes you’re making when you teach reading:
Starting too early
The school system tells us that kids should be reading by or before kindergarten. But the reality is that most kids are not ready at 4 or 5 years old. Many aren’t ready until seven or even eight! As a kindergarten teacher, I saw many kids who were pushed to read by the end of kindergarten, but they were definitely not developmentally ready.
There are no legitimate studies that show that kids who read earlier are at any academic advantage than those kids who start later. My own family is the perfect example.
With my five kids, I’ve seen them start reading anywhere from three to eight years old! And my kids who read early don’t read any more or at a higher level than my kids who started later. In fact, my child who began reading the latest is my most avid reader!
Doing workbooks and flashcards
I get it, the open and go aspect of workbooks and flashcards is easy. For you. But it really doesn’t benefit your child as much as you think it does. Rote memorization of words and sounds, practicing pages and pages of letters, drill and kill flashcards – it’s not developmentally appropriate. And instead of giving your child the best start, it’s actually killing their desire to learn how to read.
The occasional worksheet isn’t the problem. It’s when you rely on workbooks, instead of giving your kids hands-on, play-based learning experiences.
Making phonics boring
Most reading programs are just plain boring. You can teach phonics through play – and you should.
Kids’ brains are engaged when they play. And when they are engaged – with their brains and their bodies – they are more interested. And when they are interested and connected, they learn things faster and easier than if they were just ticking through a worksheet. Play helps kids form new pathways in their brains much better than worksheets or flashcards.
Hands-on, play-based reading instruction is truly the most effective way to teach reading. You can see a walk through of some of our materials in this post about how we teach kindergarten.
Teaching reading and letters isolated from life and play
Most reading programs teach letters and sounds in isolation – not as a part of kids’ everyday life and activities. But reading is part of every aspect of our lives – we need reading to cook, to go to the grocery store, to read a map or street signs, to pay bills, to work. And the work of children is play.
So instead of trying to make them work the way we want them to work – through workbooks and flashcards – we should teach them the way they work and learn best.
This is exactly how I taught my kids to learn how to read – through play and everyday life – and why I created Play Your Way to Reading – a play-based reading program that helps you teach your kids how to read without boring worksheets or drill and kill flashcards.
Play Your Way to Reading will help you teach your child to read in the ways that work WITH their natural development – instead of against it.
Pushing your child to go too quickly
Just because your child knew all their letters by four years old, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be reading by five. Let your child go at their own unique pace.
In public schools, they push kids to all be reading confidently and fluently by the end of first grade. But the truth is, there are many kids that just need more time. They need to move at a slower pace.
If you’re pushing your child to get through a lesson that is obviously a struggle or to read a book that is clearly too challenging, instead of giving them time to develop, you’re not helping them love learning more. Most of the time, you’re actually helping them hate it more.
So step back. Slow down. Let your child set the pace.
Now if you’ve been doing any of these things wrong – don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s the way that the school system has taught us is the normal way to teach kids how to read! It’s probably how YOU were taught how to read. Ditching the system mindset is hard. I know! I’ve had to do it too. But I promise, it’s worth it.