My oldest is who I am needing advice for. He has pretty much taught himself to read. He can pretty much sound out everything and he seems to know the phonics rules by osmosis. It is so cool, it’s what I had always hoped for! The thing he struggles with is sight words and endings. He is just ready to bust out and start reading on his own and he really wants to read through the Bob Books quickly. Should I just allow him to go at his own pace and just guide him as he needs it? Did you formally sit your son down and teach him all the rules, or did he just kind of absorb them, too? I learned how to read just like my son is (albeit I was closer to the age your son began reading) and I just naturally knew the rules, too. I read a lot so I picked them up as I read through books. Thanks for your time and energy in answering my thousands of questions!
Well, this sounds like wonderful news! Many, many children learn to read intuitively. My oldest definitely did, though I also taught him. But I taught him in the beginning. I certainly didn’t teach him everything he knows.
I have a few thoughts for you on this.
First, the folks at Bob Books are aware of this happening sometimes, and so they have two sight reading sets for lots of sight words practice: Sight Words: Kindergarten as well as Sight Words: First Grade. My sets of these are in the mail, so I can’t give an opinion yet, but my guess is that they’d be a lot of fun for children needing extra sight word practice.
Second, it is imperative that children be given the best possible books. Children who don’t learn to read intuitively (or poetically, as it is sometimes called) are usually reading low quality books. When children love a book and get sucked into its plot, they share a mind with the author, to some extent, and they learn many words because they anticipate the words as they come. In the flow of a story, the best authors use words which are perfectly fitting and the children feel it and learn to read those words because they know them, that they are the perfect words to use. It’s a beautiful thing, really, when a child brains clicks on and he begins to experience intuitive learning.
It’s also a lot of fun for the teacher. But I digress.
Anyhow, when this happens, I would leap with the child, rather than holding him back. So, read one or two Bob Books each day. Have him read it aloud, and you sit next to him and check his reading. If he reads it perfectly, that’s it. No need for a lesson and no need to repeat the book a second time. Do this with each book, until you find the place where he needs help.
If he flies through all of the Bob Books, then try something new. I am a big fan of Frog and Toad books for the next level of reading. They are some of the only easy readers which qualify as living books.
I adore Arnold Lobel’s art.
Anyhow, just keep on. At some point, he will begin grabbing books and reading them without you, and that’s just fine. But once each day, sit down and have him read aloud. This is an early form of rhetoric training. By reading aloud, you will observe more than mere phonetic ability. You will be able to check his reading rhythm and cadence, his pronunciation–basically whether he is pleasant to listen to when he reads aloud. Being able to read well out loud is foundational for a literary culture.
Many books are written to be shared rather than read in private. If your family is trying to build a literary legacy that is handed down through the generations, you need to make sure you practice daily (ten to fifteen minutes would be about normal, but make sure he gets to finish the thought he started–never do awkward breaks unless there is an emergency).
I made the mistake of not doing this for a time, and I regret it as my oldest picked up some bad habits. This year, we are reinstituting reading aloud, not for the purpose of learning to read, but for the purpose of learning to read aloud.
In addition to all of this, keep in mind that reading and spelling are distinct skills. When I thought I was about done with phonics lessons, I turned it around and began using Sequential Spelling, which uses word patterns in spelling. This is another way to check a child’s phonics when they are past the phonics binder stage.
Lastly, I plan on going through Charlotte Mason’s first volume and changing my methods a tiny bit in the coming months. For now, it might help to know that, in regard to sight words, she had the child study the word. He was to close his eyes and see it in his mind, open them and make sure he got it right, and so on. When he thought he had it perfectly in his mind, he was to look at the picture in his mind and spell it aloud. You might only do this with one word per day, and not even every day, but it will increase his sight reading ability and spelling ability at the same time, and in a way that drilling sight words never can.
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