If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a mom and a child psychologist, it’s that no two children are alike, even especially when they are from the same family! And learning how to read is no exception. Each of my three oldest children has taken to reading in a different way. Here I’m going to tell you about some of the tools we’ve used in our home and ones that I’ve found to work with my clients.
I’ll start by stating that we have no shortage of books in our house. We have every sort that might capture the attention of the emerging reader, they are readily available, and we’ve read to them from birth. We also have many of the electronic gadgets that are widely available that promote reading and have loved them. Our favorites over the past few years have been the Leapster, the V.Reader, and the Tag Junior (for our toddler).
Despite our best efforts at home, my oldest child was struggling with some of the basic concepts of reading when he was in kindergarten. I decided that if he was going to be a successful reader, then I was going to have to tackle his reading problems at home head on. I did my research and with the advice of fellow researchers and colleagues found the program Teach Your Children to Read Well.
Teach Your Children to Read Well requires the parent to complete reading instruction lessons with their child. Each lesson builds upon the previous lesson, and the lessons have scripts that the parent easily follows as they instruct their child. The lessons are like following a recipe, you just follow along with what to do and say by reading the script in front of you. You don’t have to have any special training to use this program, and it’s incredibly user friendly.
The program has been proven to be quite effective in producing exceptional readers, utilizing the techniques of direct instruction, precision teaching, and behavior management. If you choose to purchase the books for this program, you can access a pre-test online to determine which level best fits your child. We did the thirty sessions of the first level and found that to be sufficient to develop the reading skills we needed in kindergarten and first grade.
Now, at the age of thirteen, my son is one of the most avid readers I know. He is constantly reading, not because he’s required to, but because he wants to. Right now, he’s on the last few chapters of Lonesome Dove, his uncle’s favorite book. Without the skills he learned from this program, and support at home and at school, I know he would not be the successful and confident reader that he is today.
Another reading program that follows similar methods is Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It also has scripted lessons for parents to follow and all the materials needed are contained in the book. It requires about twenty minutes a day for 100 days. I do own this book and have recommended it to clients for years with good success.
While I was working with my son on his daily reading instruction, my oldest daughter (who is two years younger than my son) was listening intently in the background. By the time she got through preschool she knew how to read. It came naturally to her, and she didn’t really have to exert any effort to learn to read. Whew.
Along comes my third child, and even though she’s in kindergarten and been exposed to every type of reading material imaginable, she is struggling to become a competent reader. Her problem is that she relies too much on context clues and pictures, and she usually guesses the word she’s reading based on the first letter only. That’s a hard habit to break.
As a five year old, my son was easy to sit with every day and work with on his reading lessons at the kitchen table. My kindergarten daughter, on the other hand, would not do so well! She needs constant entertainment and excitement, even in learning. And, if she’s not getting her way, she has a tendency to go boneless. If you don’t know what that means, then you need to go read Knuffle Bunny. Now! Anyway, she has a flair for the dramatics and I can picture how the lessons would go, NOT WELL!
For her, we’ve started using Headsprout, an online reading program that teaches basic reading skills and comprehension. I had purchased the program for my older daughter for fun when she was about four, because she loved playing reading games on the computer. Now I’ve purchased it again for my kindergartener (thankfully the company offers a discount for multiple users in a family), and she’s really enjoying it.
She loves that it is on the computer and fast paced, and the cartoon characters keep her laughing! So far, she hasn’t even gone boneless when using it. In fact, she keeps asking when she can log on for her next lesson! Each lesson is about 15-20 minutes and if you are interested, you can try the first three lessons online for free. So far, I’ve been very pleased with her progress, but am most excited about her new found enthusiasm for learning.
When our fourth child gets to reading age, I’ll be sure to update you on her skills. But right now we’re still focused on getting her potty trained!