Overview: Not all children learn to read in the same way or at the same age. Learn how to make teaching your child to read more enjoyable and less stressful.
If you are a beginning homeschool parent, you are probably eager to get started. You see how much your children enjoy learning and savor watching the light bulb moments as your kids grasp new concepts. If you are homeschooling your kids from the very beginning, however, there is one common fear which grips many of our hearts:
“Will I be able to teach my child to read?”
I have to admit – I also struggled with these fears. We began homeschooling my oldest son when he was 2 years old! We were living in a large city at the time and my husband and I knew there was no way we would feel comfortable sending our children to the public school there. We decided to try teaching our son preschool level material to basically dip our toes in the waters of homeschooling. We didn’t want to commit to something we weren’t sure we could successfully accomplish.
The preschool years were filled with many happy memories. We had so much fun with all of the hands-on activities. Schoolwork was fun for him! My son enthusiastically clung to learning and teaching was a joy. We felt confident moving forward and committing to homeschooling our son through the school-aged years.
As our oldest son entered his kindergarten and first-grade years, however, school started to change. In addition to hands-on activities, there was an increasing number of papers to fill out. And we also started the process of teaching our son to read. I remember how terrified I was that I would “mess him up” by not teaching him correctly.
I asked many veteran homeschool moms the question, “What if he never learns to read?” I remember them all smiling at me and telling me that he would learn. But that was still my biggest fear. I know how important reading is to everything else in our child’s education and I didn’t want to blow it.
Fortunately, reading came very naturally to our first son. We went through various phonics programs and within a short period of time, he was reading and reading well. He sped through the different levels of reading books and by the time he was in 2nd grade, he was reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Phew, I had done it. I had taught my son to read. My confidence soared!
Will He Also Learn to Read?
When our second son got to the age where we were teaching him to read, however, he didn’t take to reading anywhere near as well as our first son had. In fact, he really seemed to struggle with reading. We used some of the same phonics programs with him – and branched off to try different programs as well – but he just wasn’t progressing at the rate I thought he should. I used to listen to him read aloud Amelia Bedelia and Mr. Putter and Tabby level books for what seemed like forever. This son had a hard time keeping his place in the book, so I would use my finger to point to each word until he was able to sound it out properly.
I remember going to the library and searching frantically through the shelves for MORE books which were at the level my son could handle. It was a very frustrating time. I racked my brain trying to figure out why this son was struggling so hard when my first son had breezed through the entire process.
Reading continued to be a struggle for him until he got about halfway through his third-grade year. He was having a difficult time transitioning from Henry and Mudge type readers to chapter books such as The Magic Treehouse series. Then, all of a sudden, something clicked inside his brain. After having resisted reading any type of chapter book for several weeks, he suddenly flew through the Magic Treehouse books.
We haven’t looked back since. In the second half of his third-grade year, he read more than 120 books on his own. These were various books such as biographies from the Childhood of Famous Americans series all the way up to Young Adult books like the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was such a giant leap forward for him, after having struggled for so long, that I still shake my head in amazement when I think about it.
Here are some lessons I learned from going through all of this:
1 – Kids learn at different paces.
Just because they grow up in the same home and have the same parents, they are not the same. They will learn at different rates. Don’t push your children. When they are ready, they will leap forward and surprise you with how quickly they catch up.
2 – Kids learn in different ways.
Relax and continue to try different methods with each child until you find one which works for them. Just because something worked for their older siblings doesn’t mean it will work for them. Sell the old stuff on eBay and move on. By the way, some children will require outside help due to having dyslexia or other learning difficulties. If you’ve tried lots of different methods and your child is still struggling, don’t hesitate to get them the help that they need.
3 – Don’t panic.
The more pressure you put on your child to perform, the longer the process may take. Try to be calm and patient and the process will be more enjoyable for both you and your child.
4 – Don’t move forward too quickly.
Sometimes you need to stay at the same level or even move backward a little in order to build up your child’s confidence. If you find your child is struggling, go back to books which he can easily read. Let him stay there for a while before you try pressing ahead again. That may be just what your child needs in order to move forward later.
They will learn to read. People used to teach their children to read by using the only book they had in the house – a King James Bible. With all of the various phonics programs on the market today, there is something out there that will work for your child!
Resources for Learning to Read
If your child is ready to start learning to read or has been struggling to learn, there are all sorts of resources you can use. Some of my favorite resources for teaching kids how to read come from Usborne Books and More.
My First Reading Library – This comprehensive first reading library includes 50 books to guide your child through the first stages of reading and includes access to online resources. The first 22 books are taken from Usborne Very First Reading series. With these, your child takes the first steps in reading with your help, following the phonics methods used in schools. The next 12 books are taken from Usborne First Reading Level One. These delightful and very short stories are for children to try reading themselves. 16 further books are taken from Usborne First Reading Level Two. These slightly longer stories will build stamina and reading confidence. Includes QR Codes.
My First Phonics Library – For beginner readers, these phonics-based books have text which is cleverly blended with a funny story. This set also includes a phonics guide for parents. Includes the paperback edition of the following titles: Ape’s Great Escape, Bee Makes Tea, Bug in a Rug, Chimp with a Limp, Cow Takes a Bow, Croc Gets a Shock, Crow in the Snow, Flamingo Plays Bingo, Giraffe in the Bath, Goat in a Boat, Hyena Ballerina, Kangaroo at the Zoo, Lizard in a Blizzard, Llamas in Pajamas, Mole in a Hole, Raccoon on the Moon, Seal at the Wheel, Snail Brings the Mail, Spider in a Glider, and Underpants for Ants.
Ted and Friends with CD – Collections of funny stories from your favorite Phonics Readers, each told with rhythmic text and phonic repetition. Created in consultation with a language expert, the stories have been specially written to help your child learn to read. The stories not only take into account recent research on the most effective ways of teaching reading but are also great fun. There’s also a listen-along CD that brings the stories to life through charming readings. This exciting edition contains twelve titles from the popular Phonics Readers series. Included titles are: Fat Cat on a Mat, Ted in a Red Bed, Big Pig on a Dig, Hen’s Pens, Fox on a Box, Frog on a Log, Ted’s Shed, Sam Sheep Can’t Sleep, Shark in the Park, Toad Makes a Road, Goose on the Loose, and Mouse Moves House.
Cow Takes a Bow and Other Tales – A collection of six funny stories, each told with rhythmic text and phonic repetition specially designed to develop essential language and early reading skills. Suitable for reading aloud or beginner readers. Guidance notes at the back explain how parents can help their children get the most out of this book. This book includes the following phonics stories as well as an introduction to phonics and a few pages of puzzles: Cow takes a bow, Snail brings the mail, Bee makes tea, Underpants for ants, Croc gets a shock, and Crow in the snow.
Raccoon on the Moon and Other Tales – A collection of six funny stories, each told with rhythmic text and phonic repetition specially designed to develop essential language and early reading skills. Suitable for reading aloud or beginner readers. Guidance notes at the back explain how parents can help their children get the most out of this book. The six stories are Llamas in Pajamas, Goat in a Boat, Raccoon on the Moon, Bug in a Rug, Kangaroo at the Zoo, and Mole in a Hole.
Giraffe in the Bath and Other Tales – A collection of fun, phonics stories for young readers. Stories included: Giraffe in the Bath, Chimp with a Limp, Spider in a Glider, Hyena Ballerina, Seal at the Wheel, Ape’s Great Escape. Series: Phonics Readers Story Books Collections of funny stories from your favorite Phonics Readers, each told with rhythmic text and phonic repetition.
Poppy and Sam: A Complete Book of Farmyard Tales – A book reading memories are made of. This will be a favorite from 18 months to first grade. Dual-level text – read only the top line and the story still makes sense. Perfect for wiggly little ones who aren’t always in the mood for long stories. Add the bottom line for more detail. Beginning readers can read the top line, and a helper can read the bottom. And there’s a little yellow duck hiding on every page! This delightful book contains 20 of the popular Farmyard Tales stories. Young children will love Stephen Cartwright’s charming illustrations of life on Apple Tree Farm, and the gently amusing stories of Mrs. Boot, the farmer, her children Poppy and Sam, and their animals, Rusty the dog, Curly the pig, and Woolly the sheep.
If you have any questions about helping your child learn to read, please ask. There are plenty of veteran homeschool parents out there who would love to answer your questions. Don’t ever feel like you are the only one facing a certain situation. Don’t be embarrassed. We need to be honest with each other and help each other out when things don’t seem to be going as they should.
Fast forward to today, when my son is about to enter 5th grade and he is a voracious reader. All that time that I worried about his reading skills, I was putting myself and my son under unnecessary stress. Your child will learn to read, compute math problems, spell or whatever other skill with which your child may struggle. Take a deep breath and press on. Someday you will be amazed at your child’s progress as well.
Question: Did any of your children struggle with learning how to read? Do you have any tips you could share with other parents? Please leave a comment below.