How We Taught Our Child to Read

Our son, Little V, is homeschooled since birth; we are his first teachers. He started reading when he was 3 years old. In this blog post, I'll share with you how we taught our child to read.

How to teach reading

Note: This article will be released in parts. I will update this article as soon as I upload videos related to this topic.

Now I have a little disclaimer. We are not experts on child education, I don't even have any experience teaching kids prior to my own(except for a 1-time outreach program). I'm just a regular homeschool mom whose kid learned how to read under my wing. The things I'll share are from our own experiences. This may or may not work for you since all families are different, and each child is unique.

Tip 1: Develop Your Child's Auditory and Visual Perception and Discrimination

Before you can even begin teaching the alphabet and the sounds each letter makes, it's important to develop first your child's auditory and visual perception and discrimination. And you do this starting with a newborn.

Auditory and visual perception and discrimination is the ability of the person to identify and distinguish particular details of sounds and images in the environment. This skill is a precursor to reading.

How to do we develop this skill?
- baby: expose your baby to different sounds in the environment by having a constant verbal communication with him. In short, talk to your baby. Describe the painting on the wall, call his name while you're on the other room, explain every action you will do together like changing nappies, the meal you are preparing for him, etc. You can also use rattles, musical instruments, and songs. Show him books and read to him.

Toddler: Sing nursery rhymes, describe the environment, imitate sounds of animals, play musical instruments, conduct read-alouds

Preschooler: play puzzles, answer worksheets (Where's Waldo?, What's the difference between two pictures, look for items)

Tip #2: Develop your child's love for reading

Love for reading does not start when a child learns to read. For me it starts on the first book you opened and read to him. Like any other skill you learn, you need to have an interest first in that skill. We as parents must help in developing our child's interest, and eventually love, for reading. So how do we develop this?

- Read to your child everyday. There are a lot of studies out there that proves the benefits of reading to your child. I particularly prefer reading to them during day time than before sleeping at night just because inaantok na ako at minamadali ko pagbabasa kapag gabi. Haha! You can check my tips on choosing a storybook here.

- Be a role model. Kids love to imitate. Children who see their parents read books, newspapers, magazines, etc. become readers, too. Kids get curious and they, too, want to be able to read like Papa and Mama.

I didn't see my parents read books a lot but we grew up seeing them reading the newspaper. All of us their children now all grown-up are book readers.

- Prepare the environment.
One of the principles of Montessori is preparing the environment for the child that would facilitate and maximize independent learning and exploration. A child is free to choose his own activity, in this case, what books to read. That saying, make sure that his books are readily available. Placing books in bookshelves at their eye-level is a great example. Some put them in baskets or crates and place these on the floor. Or others would pre-select a few pieces for the week and place them on the kid's desk. Whatever works for your family.

Tip #3 Practice phonological and phonemic awareness

Now that you have helped your child be aware of the different sounds around his environment, it's now time for us to develop his phonological and phonemic awareness. This means we focus on developing the skill of the child on identifying and manipulating sounds WITHOUT the texts or letters yet.

But first, let's define some terms.

Phonological awareness is the ability of a person to identify and work with sounds in the language. Such as these are words, syllables, and rhymes.

Phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language. Phonemes combine to make words. Now phonemic awareness is the skill to identify the specific sounds in words. Note that the English language has more than 40 phonemes; and for this article we will just focus on the basic sounds since we target to teach toddlers and preschoolers.

How do we develop phonological awareness?
  • Clap game where you and your child clap for each word in a sentence
  • Read books with rhymes and emphasize words that rhyme. Books by Dr. Seuss' are great materials for this activity
  • Sing nursery rhymes
  • play games with your kid like clapping for each syllable you identify in a word.
  • Play the "finish the sentence" game. For example, you and your kid makes stories and you ask your child to finish the sentence. Example, you say: The dog went to ___. And then your child will complete the sentece. He might say "the kitchen" or as silly as "poop."
  • You can also say three to four words and ask your child to identify which words rhyme. There are a lot of free printables online to practice these.

It is important to develop this skill as it helps the child manipulate sounds in the language and as a precursor to reading phonetically.

How do we develop phonemic awareness?

Before we can teach the child to associate a letter to a particular sound, it's important to help them identify and play with the sounds in a word.

To do this, you need to:

1. Sound word discrimination.
Be able to tell which words sound the same or different. Tell your child a few words and let him identify which ones are the same and or different. 

Example: car - far - car (far is different; car is the same)

2. Segmentation
Be able to segment or stretch the sounds of a word.

For example, the word DOG. You may stretch it and say "duh - oh - g."

Or the word SLEEP. Stretch it as "Sss - l - ee - p."

3. Isolation
After segmenting a word, you can play a game and ask your child to isolate a phoneme. You may ask, "what is the beginning sound of the word dog?" And the answer is "duh."

Or ask the middle or the ending sound.

A great way to practice is through games. Print pictures (pictures only) of things that would help your child identify the beginning sound of a word. You can start with things your child likes for example: cars, banana, apple, doll, egg

Every time you show the picture, segment the sounds in the word.

I have acquired the habit of segmenting words to my son all the time which helped him in isolating sounds.

In our experience, we started with a LOT of exercises on identifying beginning sounds before we introduced isolating middle and ending sounds.

4. Blending
While segmenting is stretching the sounds in a word, blending is a skill on cementing phonemes to create a word. A great game on this is by saying the phonemes of a particular word and ask your child to identify what word it is.

Example: "Vito, I have a word. I will say each sound of the word and you need to identify what word it is. First word is: Buh-e-duh."

Then he will answer that the word is "bed."

Tip#4 Introduce Phonics

Now that we have established and developed phonological and phonemic awareness, we can introduce phonics to our child.

Phonics is the text associated to the phoneme. The English language does not have a one-to-one sound correspondence. A particular letter or group of letters can have more than one sound.

Example, the letter C. It can sound as "kuh" or as "ss."

Or the letters TH. It can sound hard like in the word "These" or soft in the word "Thanks."

We followed the curriculum of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write and introduced phonics using short vowel sounds.

When your child has mastered the sounds of the letters, it is time to practice reading through blending.

To be continued....