As you know, I homeschool my children and find that one of the more tedious aspects is teaching my child to read! However, once my child learns to read well it is a lot easier to homeschool because he/she becomes fairly independent and it is less time-consuming for me.
I saw myself faced with this dilemma when my 7-year-old daughter needed to learn to read. I knew I had to take the bull by the horn, bite the bullet and…(well I think you get my drift)…I found out exactly how to do it Alhamdulillah!
I first did some research on the different styles of teaching my child to read and learned what methods worked and what methods didn’t work for us. I had to scout around for the most effective books to use and then I noticed the progress in my child’s reading. I feel I have finally narrowed it down to an art and had to share my find with those who were still battling with the how-tos.
I’m confident that my steps are effective InshAllah, but please do take into account that each child is different, and what works for some might not work for all. So here are the 10 steps that helped me teach my own child to read:
1. Start with dua and teach the alphabet
I always start a difficult task with a dua by stating my intention to Allah SWT, and then I ask Him to help make the task easy for my child and I. The beginning step in teaching my child to read, was to teach her to memorize the alphabet. I used songs and constant repetition until she knew the alphabet well.
2. Teach the names of letters by sight and not place
I used flashcards to reinforce my child to learn a letter’s name, and I mixed up the cards so that she could recognize a letter by sight and not by place. I used flashcards with only letters printed on it, and not with pictures. I have read that it is better this way, because children tend to associate the letter with the picture, so when the picture is absent, a child does not know the letter.
3. Teach the phonetic sounds and blends
I purchased a primer to help me teach my child the rules of phonics. Some nice primers are Phonic Pathways (the one I am using), Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy lessons or The Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading. You don’t need a primer, if you know the sounds, blends and rules of phonics, or if you want to search online for this information and avoid purchasing the book.
4. Teach using easy readers
Once my child knows all the letter sounds and her blends are mastered, or I have finished the primer, I allow my child to start reading her first book. We use the Bob Books series, which has 5 sets and about 8 to 10 books in each set. My child feels a sense of accomplishment when she has completed reading a book on her own.
5. Teach sight words in relation to a book
As my child comes across sight words (words which do not follow phonetic rules) in her easy reader, I teach her to say the word and I tell her the meaning. She has to memorize the sight word by looking at it and saying it numerous times. I also let her write out the sight word a few times after we are done with the reader. I notice that this has helped her remember the sight word faster. I have read that sight words should not be taught on its own, but rather in relation to a book to gain understanding and progression. My child moves only to the next reader when she can read all the words in the present reader.
6. Teach consistently and within ability
I teach my child to read for a few minutes each day and I follow the steps of reading consistently, even when it becomes boring and tedious for me. It’s a patient journey. I stop when I see my child getting tired or frustrated and I never push or force her to read or finish a book to please me. If I push her, I’m afraid that she will dread reading next time and that is not a feeling I want to promote.
7. Start using levelled readers
After my child knows her letters, sounds, and blends, has read all the easy reader sets well, and knows all the sight words in the easy readers, I start my child on levelled readers. My child begins level 1 and reads as many books in this level as necessary, before she moves onto level 2, 3 and 4. I have noticed that by level 4, my child is ready for regular books. At this point, I promote daily reading for fluency and then she is ready to learn vocabulary, narration and dictation.
8. Introduce phonic workbooks
When my child is learning to read and she is also ready to write, I introduce phonic workbooks such as the Explode the Code series. I notice that these workbooks are beneficial to my child, as it repeats the phonetic sounds and is a nice reinforcement to the words she is learning to recognize.
9. Read to your kids everyday
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reading to your children everyday. It teaches them to appreciate books, to gain a love of books, and helps their minds to think and imagine. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have time to read to your children daily, there are ways to substitute this when you’re too busy or if you don’t enjoy reading aloud (like me). I do admit that I cheat and play audio books for my kids most times, and for short stories I record my voice and only have to read a book aloud once. Sometimes my children listen only to the audio of a book, and other times, they listen and follow along in the book while looking at the illustrations.
10. Limit your kids media
Don’t expect your children to learn to read fast or well or to even love books if you don’t limit their media usage. Try really hard not to allow them to do any media until they have completed their reading lessons and they have read a few books each day. Younger kids are able to look at pictures in a book for a long span of time. Only allow limited media each day and if possible, not every day.
I have also found that reading programs online, such as Starfall have never helped my children to learn to read. Somehow they get too distracted by the songs and flashy animations to really grasp the rules, and this is coming from a mommy who really liked Starfall and hoped it was an easy way to teach my child to read!
I pray InshAllah that my child’s reading journey helps mommies find that teaching a child to read does not need to be daunting or difficult, it is actually quite simple. I do admit it is a teensy bit tedious, but you got to do what you got to do!