I am detouring from posting my Teachable Moment columns for a quick trip into some ideas for teaching the alphabet and beginning reading strategies I used. This is at the request of one of my young mother friends.
First of all, I started teaching the sounds of the alphabet as soon as my children were communicating verbally fairly well. Nothing major, just things like ball....ba ba ball or cat....ca ca cat. I did this for as many as I could think of and I did it throughout the day, not just some scheduled time of the day. It just came naturally to do that with them.Of course, mama and dada are givens! As the kids grew to the preschooler stage, we did fun things like not only drawing the letters, but making alphabet cookies or even sandpaper alphabet letters and taking the child's finger and writing the letter on top of the sandpaper. For kinesthetic learners, this is very helpful. Your more auditory children will pick up the sounds easily with their ears, visual can write, draw, color, paint etc.and have the alphabet down easily. Some kids need to get all their senses involved and the sandpaper letters, also allowing them to draw in the sand and especially eating the alphabet letters can really involve a young learner. The bath crayons might be another idea. This is not one that we tried, but as the product came onto the market, I realized that would have been a good one to utilize too.
From that point, several things can be done. Not only did we read a tremendous amount, I had the kids start telling me their stories (dictating to me) and I would write the story down for them. Then they could do their own illustrations. At some point along the way as we would read, I would start letting the child read the letter a every time we came to it Then an and then we worked up to the. I would follow the words along on the page with my finger, sometimes holding the child's finger. Yes, it slowed the story down immensely to stop and have the child say these words, but they were reading with Mommy at that point. Then you just keep adding simple words in. As they already learned an and knew the sounds of consonants, can, man, Dan, etc. just flowed.
I did not discover the BOB books until our fourth child Matthew, but I highly recommend them. Our 2 1/2 year old granddaughter already has a preschooler set. These follow along the same lines of what I was describing in the previous paragraph. They start with the consonant sounds and then go from there. I went ahead and allowed Matthew to scribble in them. Had I had a line of children coming behind me, I probably wouldn't have been so easygoing about that. However, the sense of ownership can be vital to children.
Our library at that time required the children to be able to write their names to obtain their own library card. As soon as they could do that, and they were very motivated, they had their own cards and would check out their own books. This was a tremendously exciting thing for our children! Confession: maybe not so exciting to me. I had to become very organized to keep up with all their books until they had that responsibility down. I still wince when I hear one of them had to pay fines at the library even as grownups! I tend to be way overresponsible about library books! It thrills me that our little granddaughter already loves to go to the library. And don't forget sharing time! If at all possible, utilize this free service for your kids!
As things flowed along, the kids began to be able to write their own stories. This is where you can work in spelling. During these years, their journals (where they wrote their stories or events of the day) also became their spelling program. I would have them read to me and then I would circle their misspelled words and they would work on them until they mastered them. Fast forward to today: as I read their blogs or FB posts, sometimes I just have to point out they are having a lot of typos. This is a downfall of being a homeschool mom. You take it so personally when they are adults and still have a misspelled word. I don't know that other parents feel a zing in their heart in that situation. No being able to blame a public school then!
I am not a fan of the reading programs public schools use where they require a book to be read and then the child has a report and all these questions to answer. I think that so strips away the joy of reading that great damage is done during that time. We did utilize the Book-It program from Pizza Hut! That again was fun and rewarding when they hit a set number of books. We had many verbal discussions of their books and they could write about them in their journals, but there was never force or grading on this.
I also kept a family book going during this time where I would read out loud to the kids. We had the advantage of traveling around seeing respiratory clients and I would read while Mark drove. We read a variety of books during these years. When they were younger, they loved BoxCar Children. As they grew older, we utilized historical fiction. We were able to work through the majority of The Work and The Glory books by Gerald Lund. I would read with great expression and adopt "accents". When they were younger, they loved this. Flashlights were important while traveling at night so that everyone could keep reading.
I learned to stop reading at dramatic moments. It became a game for the children to try to find where I had put the book so they could read ahead of everyone else. I made a big deal out of telling them not to read ahead and then fussing at them a little when it became evident they knew the outcome.
I also loved Reader's Digest growing up, so we kept a subscription to that going. I was always hunting it down because certain children would grab it straight from the mailbox! The vocabulary word test was another good thing to utilize that was low pressure but yet inducive to them learning new words.
Also encouraging reading a book before seeing the movie is a natural reward. I still do that for myself. We share good books with each other all the time now and enjoy discussing them. I was almost always willing to read their books. Jared did challenge me with the Resident Evil books....he was really into those at one point.
It's probably not necessary to point out that strong readers are also usually very strong writers. There is just a natural connection. Our children did not have a hard time going into college and writing impromptu essays. They did it all the time growing up.
Encouraging reading and writing and making a big deal of it will pay off in the end. It is healthy for the brain. It is enjoyable. Kids can entertain themselves in situations that might be boring. I never wanted them distracted with movies while traveling. I highly encourage all parents to be involved with your children and take responsibility for creating a rich learning environment.