When Lilly decided she was ready to start reading, I quickly realized that all the times I had heard that “all kids learn differently” was more true than ever. By the time Toby was 4 years old he had started sounding out words and quickly picked up on anything in print. He has a memory like a steel trap. He sees something or is told something one time and it sticks. He can usually remember how to pronounce and spell a word easily.
I realize now that the way I learned how to teach while in college to become a teacher was very different from the way kids really learn and should be taught. One curriculum does NOT fit all. Some students are visual learners, some are auditory, some pick things up right away, others need more time to absorb the information. That does not mean that any one of them should be thought of as slow or special needs, just because they don’t do things at the same rate as most of the other kids. Every child is different and deserves to be taught in a way that works for them.
Lilly’s journey into reading has been much different than Toby’s. After he figured out that each letter has it’s own sound and that when put together they make words, he was off and running with very little guidance from me. He would sit and practice reading his BOB books and then we’d go through The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. We really didn’t spend much time at all on learning sight words, he just picked them up and kept advancing in his reading. Today I still look at him in awe as he sits and reads (often by his own choice) and laugh at how scared I was to teach him to read. In reality, I really had hardly anything to do with it. He was ready, I provided the materials and guided him along. Today he is 7 years old and reading fluently at a 5-6th grade reading level the last time I checked. His comprehension is great and he has moved from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” as he is constantly hungry for knowledge.
Lilly on the other hand, is a very tactile learner. She needs to see things many times, touch things, smell them, move them, listen to them, move them, maybe even taste them, before a concept sticks in her mind. We have had to approach learning to read(and most other things) very differently for her.
Here are some of the things that I have found to work really well with her:
This word family game has done wonders for her and we practice making words with it daily. I made it when Toby was learning to read but he never really used it much because it wasn’t as necessary for his style of learning. He just didn’t need it. Lilly on the other hand needs things like this to practice with. It’s hands-on, bright and easy to use.
I found this free sight word caterpillar printable that has helped so much with Lilly’s sight words. I realized after she had seen the word “the” many, many times and was still trying to sound it out that we were going to have to find a new approach and really spend time memorizing those sight words. Now, she traces the word, cuts it out, glues it onto the caterpillar poster and then loves using her “magic wand” to practice her words every day. She is picking them up SO quickly now!
I found some sight word color-by-number flash cards in the You Can Read section from 1+1+1 and the coloring, cutting and practicing is another very tactile activity that Lilly is loving.
We have several puzzles and games that I have picked up over the years at garage, book and curriculum sales. She typically plays a reading/word related game or puzzle every day that we do lessons. This is a great way for Toby to help her too. She is very encouraged by him reading to her and supporting her.
Really the only books that we are using so far for her have been the BOB Books. They are short and simple books that are building her confidence with sounding out words. She still loves to read the same ones over and over and I am great with that. She is becoming more and more confident with the printed word and we are slowing introducing more without her even realizing it.
I think the most important thing I have learned about teaching our kids to read has been to wait until they are ready. Some kids are ready to take it on at 4, some kids may not truly pick it up until 8 or 9. After testing the waters a few times earlier with Lilly and then backing off again until this past few months I could see the progress that she had made after just giving her TIME. Time to mature, time to figure a few other things out, time to just not think about reading, time to decide that she was ready. Now, she is taking off on her own more and more all of the time. I am just providing what she needs to do it. She will take it from there.