When my oldest was a kindergartener, I wrote some super short stories to help her learn to read. I then used them to teach all my other kids to read, along with a variety of other phonics books. Variety is the spice of life, so it is good to give your emerging readers a mixture of books with which they can learn to read.
When I was a child, my mother used to say, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” I find myself saying the same thing to my kids whenever boredom leads to trouble. Not that I’m against boredom. A certain amount is healthy — it allows children to use their imaginations and creativity in a free and leisurely manner. Excessive boredom, however, makes children want to eat when they’re not hungry and waste time on video games (which we don’t do here). It also incites kids to pester their siblings because they have nothing else to do.
The warm, care-free days of summer are a wonderful gift. But children still need structure. They still need to use their time constructively. Besides play-dates, swimming, biking, and sports, here are some things we are doing to make the most of our summer days.
There is no question that one of the single most important skills to teach our kids is to read. I would argue that it is not only our job to teach them HOW to read, but more importantly to LOVE to read. The amount kids read has a direct relationship to better scores on standardized tests and an easier time with grammar, spelling, and writing. As we approach the summer months, how can we motivate them to spend part of their days reading and not lose all of those skills we have worked so hard on during the school year?
Around this time of year as I think about Christmas shopping, I know I have to tackle the toy closet in order to make room for more stuff. However, one look at our toy storage, which is a dangerous undertaking, makes me want to revolt against plastic toys, toys that need batteries, toys with a million little pieces, and toys in general. The thought of having to buy even more toys makes me feel like this:
One of the luxuries of a childhood summer is having the time to get lost in a book. You know a book is really engrossing when a boy doesn’t come for lunch because he just can’t stop reading. Here is a list of chapter books that All-Star and Feisty couldn’t put down:
I can never seem to find enough good books for my children. My daughter can devour an entire chapter book in a day or two. My sons can, too, but they tend to be more picky. Or perhaps there just isn’t a whole lot of wholesome quality literature written for boys between the ages of 8 and 12. Unfortunately, many books written nowadays just don’t make the cut. I want my kids to read books that will inspire and ennoble them, books that show them what it is to be heroic, courageous, and generous, books that help them develop a moral compass while appealing to their imagination. Books that preach without preaching.
So here is where I go when I’m treasure seeking:
Once your child is ready and willing (at least most of the time!) to learn how to read, the third key to the door of literacy is easy to obtain.
Back in the days when I was a piano teacher, I had to teach children as young as five to read music. For most children, learning to read music is even more challenging than learning to read words. A single note has pitch, duration, volume, and articulation. When you give a child a string of notes to read in the treble clef and a completely different set of notes to read in the bass clef, you are asking the child to process several things at once. A lot of mental exertion is needed, so much so that the only way to learn the music is by repetition, repetition, repetition.
Key Number Two: Willingness.
When Feisty was just about five, he was ready to learn reading. My precocious whipper-snapper had shown all the signs of readiness. But he was far from willing. He had done all the readiness activities happily enough. To him, it had all been a game. However, when we started with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, he balked. Perhaps the book looked too much like an adult’s book, with all those little letters for the parents to read. Perhaps all those oral exercises were too boring. I’m not sure. (By the way, I know many people who swear by this book. It really does work if you can get your child to co-operate.) But when Feisty decides he doesn’t want to do something, you’d better give up… unless you’re as headstrong as he is.
When I first began homeschooling, I read a book that said, “Teaching your child to read is easy.” And it was… for my first child and for my second. You see, there are two conditions that need to be fulfilled in order for a child to learn to read with ease: Readiness and Willingness. For the most part, my first two children were ready and willing when I decided it was time to begin reading lessons. They learned to read quickly and easily.
But then my third and fourth children came along. All of a sudden, teaching reading became really challenging.