I was combing through my Instagram Feed one day and a mom was celebrating her daughter learning to read independently. She talked about how they didn’t use a formal curriculum but that day her youngest daughter “just started reading” and in fact both of her girls “taught themselves to read”.
I was very happy for her daughters to be independently reading, however, I felt like this was an inaccurate statement and didn’t want parents supporting learning at home to get the wrong impression or get discouraged. I also wanted to write a blog post in support of parents & teachers who are noticing “something’s missing” in their reading program but not quite sure what it is.
So What makes a good reading program?
Great question! A good reading program simplifies the process of learning to read AND includes the 9 components needed to develop great foundational reading skills.
There are 9 components to a great reading program:
- Vocabulary (age 1 & up- you really work on this from birth as you talk & sing to your baby)
- Phonics & Decoding (Age 3 & up letter/ sound correlation)
- Phonemic Awareness (Age 4 & up hear, match, segment & blending sounds.)
- Fluency (age 3 read the pictures, decode letters, & what makes sense)
- Text Comprehension (Age 2 & up Questions & discussions about the story)
- Written Expression (Age 3 pre-writing & fine motor activities. This skill is dependent on all of the other factors on this list)
- Spelling and handwriting (Age 5, respectively when your child is asking you “how do you spell…” This skill is dependent on phonics, phonemic awareness, fine motor skills & stamina)
- Child led learning (checking in with your child and making sure your child’s developmental levels and feedback is what is being used to guide instruction.)
- Facilitate enjoyment of reading (to the best of your ability)
The Real Deal
Some kids are as easy to teach as the kids in the Instagram story. You model the correct reading behaviors, set aside some consistent time to practice & one day they just start reading seemingly all by themselves.
But for most kids it’s not that easy and there is nothing wrong with that.
Teaching reading is more than just reading a ton of books… (don’t stop reading a ton of books)!
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Learning to read is a process, for everyone.
Everyone reads through basically the same steps but the timeline of the process is different. Kids are exposed to reading by being read to, seeing letters & words in their natural environment & gradually become developmentally ready to be independent readers in their own time.
I like to use a learning to swim analogy with respect to learning to read. It takes years to learn how to be an independent swimmer.
There are many corner stone pieces that need to be put into place.
- Putting your face in the water,
- not getting water up your nose,
- kicking your legs,
- arm circles
All of these cornerstone skills are required before a child can be an independent swimmer and putting that all together to actually move from one place to the next is the next step which also takes time to develop. Reading works the same way.
Based on my 13 years in public education most kids are independent readers (or learn to be) by 2nd Grade (age 7-8). Meaning they see themselves as a reader and will pick up books and read them on their own. Keep in mind this is for the majority of kids, some kids learn to see themselves as a reader earlier & some later. My personal opinion is that each child is ready in their own time and shouldn’t be pressured by what “other” kids are doing or state standards.
It is not beneficial to push a child into reading (or writing) because it it doesn’t work. It’s imperative to respect the process of learning to read, developing confidence and independence. With that said some kids will never love reading and that’s ok, it doesn’t ever have to be their favorite, but they still need to learn to read. Some kids have other things going on need extra (outside professional) help like a reading specialist or other support or services (from you local school district).
More helpful tips for helping kids learn to read:
- Choose the best books for beginning readers that help make it feel easier to read (these books contain sight words & words you can decode/ sound out)
- Consistently making time for reading (that is natural & enjoyable) & process what you’re reading (thinking, drawing, writing & or talking about it)
- Use mixed age reading buddies (make sure each reader is valued & respected at their own level)
- If you’re not sure what to
There are seven components to a good reading program so if you’re teaching reading at home be sure to double check to make sure your program is supporting all of the reading components. If it is not feel free to make adjustments to your program to balance out your child’s needs!