Learning to Read!

For a while I have thought that I would probably not “teach” Evangeline how to read.  “I’ll just let it happen,”  I said to myself.  “We read books all the time.  She’ll make the connections on her own!  And when she really wants to, she’ll figure it out and ask for help if she needs it.”  Sure there are lots of other people who have done it that way, and who have been successful.  But let’s face it.  I am not equipped to sit back and just wait for her to learn it herself.  I simply don’t have the patience.

I see it in her!  I know she’s ready!  And at the ripe old age of four, if she doesn’t learn now she never will!  Right?  Well ok… not really.  It’s not a race, and we’re not in a hurry, but she seems interested and I think it will be fun!  So we started today.  I was initially going to start with just teaching her letters and their sounds, we did that in the fall and she knew all of them.  (Has since forgotten most of it…)  But not then or now has she ever been super interested in learning what a bunch of random letters say.

What she does like, however is learning what the words in her stories are.  So we are going to go with that.  I know there are lots of great reading programs with helpful steps and progressions, but I enjoy reinventing the wheel sometimes, and I still can’t bring myself to pay for a program to teach her something she’ll learn on her own anyway.  So what’s a good way to gently speed up the process while keeping her interest?  Here’s what I started trying today…

Word of the Day

Every evening before bed I will ask Evie to pick out a book she wants to read in the morning for her reading lesson.  That way I know it will be something she likes and it gives her a fun anticipation for our time together.  After the kids are in bed I will look through the book and pick a word that appears relatively frequently in the text and make it our “Word of the Day”.  I generate a handwriting worksheet for that word and make a flash card for it.  Today’s word was “Mossy” from her favorite book of the same title.

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I can just hear you saying HOLD UP!!  Handwriting!?!  At four!? Waaaaay to young.  And I would probably agree with you if it wasn’t Evangeline we were talking about.  She has always been more interested in writing words than reading them herself, and she has been copying letter shapes since she was one and a half (legibly copying them…)  Getting to write the letters and words keeps her interested in actually learning about them, how they sound, and what they mean.

I might never teach another child to read this way, but I think that this is what’s going to work well for her.  And Day 1 certainly went smashingly!  I chose the book this time, and the word, because she already knew how to read the word “Mossy” and I thought it would be easy to start with something she already knew.  We read the book, then did the worksheet.

(In the future, I will tell her the word of the day before we read our story, so she can look for the word and help me read it as we go through the pages.)  For every letter on the worksheet we talked about what the letter is, she knew all of them of course.  And then we talked about the sounds they made (she didn’t know all of those).

Once we learned the sound of the new letter on the line, we sounded the letters out together.  “…….M says mmmm and O says ahhhhhhh, in this word.  Put them together and that says?? Right!  Mahhhhh.  Ok, what’s the next letter?  Right, it’s an s!  What sound does the letter s make?……”  We did that through each line, and by the end she knew all the sounds for all four letters and she could sound out the word and recognize it.

Next I presented her with her very own “Reading Box” and as a celebration for learning a new word we put her Mossy flashcard in the box!  She can keep it with her and look at her words anytime she likes.  Not only did we have fun with the exercise, but the benefits of it have been following us throughout the rest of our day too.  Later on she asked to read “Cat in the Hat”, and after I finished reading one page she stopped me and pointed to the word “Mess”.  She said “Mommy, that word looks like Mossy.”  (Notice she knew it wasn’t quite the same word!)

I responded, “Yes!  It does, doesn’t it?  Except which letter is different in this word?”  She said that the “e” was different, and I enthusiastically agreed :)  I then told her that “e” can make an “ehhhhhh” sound or an “eeeeee” sound and in this word it makes the “ehhhhhhh” sound.  Next I prompted her to sound out the word using the new letter.  Which she did with minimal assistance!  She figured out what the word was and I was (of course) just totally giddy about that.

Later on in the day I showed her some moss on a tree, as I wasn’t sure if she had ever really looked at moss before knowingly.  And we talked more about the word “mossy” and how we can use it in sentences.  She so enjoyed seeing real moss that she went around the yard looking for it and showing me more mossy patches!  It was great fun and, dare I say, nature study?!  So all in all it has been a fabulous start and I’m really excited to see where she is at a week from now!  I know I’m not a certified teacher, and I’ll admit, teaching reading isn’t something I have greatly educated myself on.  I know a little about teaching reading and a lot about my sweet girl.  And I think that will be enough for us to figure this out together!

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