How I Taught My Child to Read
Our oldest child went to public school for kindergarten and first grade, and that’s where he learned to read. The school’s reading instruction was focused almost entirely on memorizing sight words. He memorized hundreds of sight words and seemed to be able to read pretty well for a young child. But with virtually no knowledge of phonics, he struggled to sound out new words. Today he still has quite a bit of difficulty spelling, and I believe the lack of phonics instruction when he was learning to read contributed to this.
We withdrew him from school after first grade and began homeschooling that fall when he was in second grade, and his younger sister was a kindergartener. When it came time to teach her how to read, I knew I wanted to focus on phonics, not sight word memorization. We also needed something affordable, simple, and easy to teach. After a lot of research, I came across The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons and decided to give it a try.
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How We Used the Book
The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons begins with teaching letter sounds and progresses into sounding out words, reading sentences, and finally reading longer passages. We spent about 15 to 20 minutes a day working on the lessons in this book. On average, the lessons each took about one week to complete. The first few lessons took less than a week, while the lessons towards the end of the book took longer.
Each lesson begins with clear, easy to follow instructions for the parent. The lessons focus on sound blending and learning to sound out words. The unique typography and font style the book uses helps children identify and separate the letters they already know. These bars, dots, and special graphics are there as guides and are used to help the child blend the sounds into words. Through repetition, your child will also learn to recognize key words.
I loved the simplicity and effectiveness of this book. As a new homeschooler, the thought of the more complicated reading programs overwhelmed me. They often have numerous components to keep up with and labor-intensive lesson plans. The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons was open-and-go, with zero preparation required.
More Reading Practice
After completing The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons, I simply had our daughter practice reading out loud every day from beginning phonics readers. We started with simple ones and gradually increased the difficulty level. I was very fortunate to find this 1979 set of 55 Abeka Reading for Fun kindergarten readers at a local used book sale for only $3! Our set actually had 60-something books, as the lady selling it had added some little Abeka Pre-k readers to the box. We thoroughly enjoyed these books, and that price can’t be beat! The current edition of these readers sells for over $65. For some additional practice, we used the free Learn to Read lessons at Starfall.com. Our daughter had a lot of fun with these games, stories, and interactive lessons.
What About Sight Words?
I never had our daughter drill sight words. Yet, by the end of kindergarten, she was reading very well. Still, I wondered if all the sight word proponents were right. What if I’d done something wrong by not having her memorize sight words? After all, adults don’t sound out every word. We know most of the words we read by memory.
So, I decided I should quiz her on sight words. I went to K12 Reader and printed out the list of 1,000 Fry Sight Words. These are the sight words used in many schools, including the one our son had attended. I then asked our daughter to read the lists. She flew through the first two hundred words, only missing a few. She didn’t have to sound them out either. She knew them from memory, even though she’d never seen a single sight word flashcard. I never quizzed her on the rest of the words.
I was a little surprised that she did so well, but I really shouldn’t have been. Fry Sight Words are the most commonly used words in the English language, listed in order of frequency. So, the first couple hundred words are ones that she had read all the time in her readers. With regular reading practice, most children will pick up the first Fry Sight Words through natural repetition, no flashcards necessary.
Other Options for Reading
If this simple approach to teaching reading is appealing to you, but The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons doesn’t seem to be a good fit, you may want to consider Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons or The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. These are also easy to use open-and-go programs. I have several friends who have had success with both of these books. And if you need free options, we list several on our reading curriculum page.
When you’re looking for beginning readers for your child to practice with, you may not luck out and find 60-something books for a few dollars, like we did, but there are many places to find affordable readers for your child. This post lists many places to look for reasonably priced, used books. For free options, try your public library. Or, if you don’t mind ebooks, download some of these free classic readers. For a child who is just beginning to read, you’ll want to download the primer level books.