Monday, October 11, 2010

Teaching Farm Boy to Read

I am not really into the whole "teach your baby to read" thing. If that's what boils your potato, go ahead, but it isn't me. I would rather just read them lots and lots of books than mess around with flash cards! I was quite content to leave it until my children were at least seven before starting to teach then how to read.

My children, however, had other ideas.

At age 3 and a half, Princess Doc started asking me to teach her to read. Daily. For weeks on end. So I did and she is currently (at age 6) working toward her aim of reading 100 books in 50 days to raise money for a chosen charity (more on that in a later post). She read 15 books this afternoon.

Thinking she was a bit of a freak, in the nicest possible way, I cautioned Papa Bear and various other friends and relatives not to compare the younger ones to her freaky deaky reading brilliance and let them learn in their own time - even if it wasn't until they were over the age of 7.

Sure enough, Farm Boy turned 3 and a half and what did he start doing?

Asking me to teach him to read.


For months.

So I thought we'd document how we are going about teaching Farm Boy to read.

The kicker with Farm Boy is that he did not yet know all of his letters when he wanted to start reading. I could have insisted that he learn letters first, but his passion was reading WORDS thank-you - specifically, reading the orange Fitzroy readers he saw his sister start reading. To me, insisting he learn ALL his letters was a little like telling someone that they must sing every note pitch perfect before learning to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep. Talk about killing the joy!

So we learned letters on the fly while reading words.

I read the reader to him, sounding out the letters. Then we read it together. After this, we got out some little cards with letters on them that are a part of a spelling game we have (scrabble tiles would work too) and made a couple of the words that are in the readers using the cards. We would name the letter, say the sound that it made then put it down in the pile. Then we would select letters from the pile to make words like "cat" and "hat".

All up this entire process would take about ten minutes a day.

I also made sure we caught Sesame Street each morning and added lots of alphabet books to our read aloud times.

When Farm Boy started to get more confident with this, I added a double page spread of the alphabet in lower case and a double page spread of the alphabet in upper case to his Chair Time Book (yet another post to be written there, suffice to say it is a display book that we look through each day as we snuggle in my Snuggle Spot) and he would sing the alphabet through as he pointed to the letters. I would then ask him to find three or four specific letters on the pages. Because Farm Boy seems to be predominantly a kinesthetic learner I would grab his hand and draw a giant letter in the air as I asked him something like "Can you find a wibble wobble W that says 'wuh'?" I'd also get him to make the sound too so the physical movement of 'writing' the letter in the air, the physical movement of making the sound and the movement of pointing to the letter on the page all engaged his brain in what was happening. Pretty soon, he was pointing out letters on signs, newspapers, shop fronts and magazines with great excitement.

I try to make sure he experiences some type of success every time we read together and praise up everything he achieves. This time is very positive, with lots of cuddles and kisses and positive touch. Touch is an incredibly positive teaching tool. There are about a bazillion studies on the positive effects of touch on the brain which I won't go into now. Suffice to say, positive touch releases lots of happy juice into the brain and a happy brain is a learning brain. I wouldn't really have minded if he had decided to drop reading, but he hasn't and is making slow but good progress. He was very proud the day he could sit and read that little reader to Papa Bear perfectly and excited to start the next one!

Next time, I will tell you how we progressed on to the next reader, words and my personal feelings on the links between reading and writing.


  1. This sounds great- likewise our 3yo doesn't know many letters, but she can recognise her name and even writes 'mum' more or less legibly. Great fun!

  2. Good grief and good grief again!
    You finally get all "regular" with your posting an I miss it! I guess I'm not following this blog or something, but I miss you and it's fantabulous to see pictures of your amazing crew:-)

    I love you friend!


  3. Oh I miss you too! Posting on here is SO on my to do list - right after I paint the boy's room.

  4. And five hundred million other things I guess!