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Printed Words

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!”
— A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943

As our school year drew to a close, my Cailey still had not fully mastered reading.  And she most certainly had not developed a love of the written word.

She steadfastly stated that she couldn’t read.  But I knew that she could indeed read a lot more words than she was giving herself credit for.

And we kept plugging away.  I, by reading books aloud to her, and she, by diligently working through each lesson of “Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.”

About 3 weeks ago, she announced that she wanted to read her “The Little Mermaid” book aloud to us.  This was the same bedraggled book that I bought at a garage sale nearly 20 years ago, when I was portraying Ariel at children’s parties in Los Angeles.  (And btw, long red luxurious hair only served to make me look more pasty.)

I was floored.  She never wanted to read aloud.  She plopped herself down on the couch, and began with page 1.  And continued, reading aloud as though she had been reading forever.  Even the big 4 dollar words.

Since I’m not really one to get emotional…(right…have you met me?) I kept my tears to myself until later.  For the next few nights, she continued reading “The Little Mermaid” until she finished.  I even caught her sitting quietly during the day reading through it.  I was so proud of her.

It baffles me how a child learns to read.  And I’m even more baffled now that I’ve successfully taught two of my children.  I don’t remember ever not being able to read.  It just seemed like one day, somewhere between spit balls and eating the finger paint, it just clicked with me.  And I’ve had a deep and abiding love of books ever since.

Emme learned with ABeka in Kindergarten, and caught on very quickly.  Today she devours books by the armload.  After plowing through all of the American Girl books, she has started on a new series, “Magic Attic Club”.

And NO, it’s not that kind of magic.

Cailey, like most things in life, preferred to take the long winding road to reading.  And I’ve been around enough homeschooled children and their moms to know that each child learns at their own pace.  Some are reading at 4.  Others at 10.  I have a very strongly held belief that it is important not to pressure or push a child into reading.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Just read aloud to them, and present them with books that will spark their interest.  With Cailey, I have been picking up all sorts of books about mermaids, make-believe fairies, and of course the requisite princesses.

Coincidentally, Mom’s Homeroom launched a new episode on the topic of Reading this week.  Go check it out here.

And I’ve had a few of you ask me how to get to the message boards (where I lurk as moderator and sandbox monitor) to share questions or parenting concerns.

I want to give you step by step instructions.  If you are new to message boards, it all looks very foreign the first time you visit.  It certainly did with me.

The first thing you see when you visit the site is the episode.  Then, at the top click on “Community.”  That takes you to a list of topics.  At the bottom of the screen click on “View All Discussions.”  That takes you right to the boards.  You can sign in at the bottom.  All you need is your e-mail address (which is never shaders don’t even get to see it) and a “handle.”  Or what you want to be called.

Off topic.  Did y’all ever have a CB radio in the 70’s and 80’s?  I had one in my truck.  My handle was Sugarfoot.  Good buddy.

Anyhoo.  Focus.

You can start a new discussion, or jump in on one that’s already established.  We have a really great one on children’s book lists.  You can see it here.

I love reading.  And I’m especially fond of the library.  I’d go more often if I could just keep Jensen from disrobing at the circulation desk.  I’m sure the other library patrons would appreciate it as well.

Now a quiz. For you homeschooling moms, what curriculum have you found to be most effective for teaching reading? I’m still happy with “Ordinary Parents Guide” and will probably use it with Jensen next year.  I also use the magnetic board and letters.  Plus lots and lots of reading aloud.

And now, because I’m 7, here is a short list of book titles, not to be missed.

Adding Up by Juan & Juan
The Chocolate Bar by Ken I Havesum
Telephone Problems by Ron Number
Aching Joints by Arthur Itis
I’m Not a Mutant by Abner Mallety
The Bedpan Patrol by B.M. Nightly
Drink this Before the X-Ray by Barry Um
and finally,
I Read You Like a Book by Claire Voyant

Happy reading!


22 Responses to Printed Words

  • Even *I* cried when my kids read aloud for the first time. It’s just magical.

    We had CBs in the 70s/80s. My mom’s handle was “Rolling Pin” (??) so mine was “Lil’ Rolling Pin.”

    And that strikes me as really funny 30 years later. Just how someday “stretch mark mama” will probably seem high-lare-ee-us to MY kids.

    Curriculum. I got about halfway through the “teach your child to read in 100 lessons” book. It’s not bad. But you are right in that reading aloud to them is one of the best things you can do to help THEM learn to read.

    I reviewed some books a while back that greatly help with the process–y’all can check that out here:


  • I loved teaching my children to read! We used AlphaPhonics with all four of them, and I’ve read aloud to them nearly every day since they were born.

    In our family each child earns his very own grown-up Bible when he completes the phonics program. One of my precious memories is listening to my youngest son read the Bible aloud during family worship for the first time. It was beautiful.

  • We went through three reading programs with the son before he learned to read. It’s still my theory that he dragged his feet in that area because he LOVED having us read to him.

    Anyway, I went back to college when the daughter was 3. She announced at age 4 she wanted to learn to read. I had no time. Hubby did but was nervous about teaching her. A friend recommended a book I would have never bought otherwise. Because the name? It is hoakie: “How to teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons” . But by golly, it works GREAT! And the hubby has many fond memories of teaching his daughter to read.

    My CB handle was Little Bits.

  • I made up my own “curriculum” when teaching my oldest to read. I used AlphaPhonics with good success with my second daughter. I’ll be trying it soon with my third, who seems a little more hard-headed/stubborn than the other two, so we’ll see how it goes.

  • Okay, clearly I am 7 too, because I almost wet myself reading your book list. It suddenly reminded me of the “Ho, Ho, Ho” Santa and the helicopter story, which I will NOT go into, but you should perhaps share with your readers some day. Or not.

  • With my just now graduated son, I used ABeka reading and language arts program, cuz I was scared to death of teaching my kid anything but felt it was what God wanted for us! I’ll never remember sitting there on the couch listening to him read those little ABeka readers! OMG I was so proud!
    With my little soon to be kindergartener I just rebought the phonics flash cards from ABeka, and I also bought the Hooked on Phonics program, so I’m going to go with both of these to teach him to read….God Willing!!!!

    I LOVE all Dr. Suess books (for beginning readers) and I think they are a great way to encourage reading, and they are SOOOO FUN!!

  • I very distinctly remember the moment about 26 years ago when I learned to read.

    I was in kindergarten, homeschooled, and I do not know what curriculum my parents were using then. I had a small paperback book with rows of pictures. Under the pictures were words like hat, wet, bug, etc. I “read” that book for ages and I always got everything correct except for the word “wet.”

    (In reality, I was not reading, I was simply looking at the pictures and saying what they were. The “wet” picture was water pouring from a bathtub faucet so I always guessed “water” or “faucet” or “pipe” and I was so frustrated that I wasn’t getting it right.

    One day, I sat snuggled against my dad’s side, tucked under his arm while he held the book. I did my usual guessing, and when I came to “wet” I hesistated. I knew it wasn’t water, but I couldn’t remember what it was. My dad patiently used his index finger to reveal the letters one at a time to me while I sounded them out. We sounded them over and over and over and over together. I was saying the word correctly, but not comprehending that it was a word.

    Suddenly, it clicked!

    “WET!” I yelled out. “WET! IT’S WET, DADDY!” And I realized what reading was. I snatched the book from his hands and turned back to the first page to READ FOR REAL all of the words.

    A whole new world opened. And I don’t think I’ve been without a book in my hands since. (Well, except for maybe now when I need both hands to type.) 😛

  • DeeDee ~ I’m so very thankful for this post! I have an 8yo who is a struggling reader (his 7yo brother has passed him by, and his older sister was waaaayyyy beyond him at his age (which was just 14 mos. ago!). I’m happy to hear you say that everyone is different and to just give them space. I have at times been so discouraged by it all and have been seeking in all sorts of dark corners for things that could be wrong with him. (My latest quest pertains to vision therapy, which some friends convinced me he needed because it did wonders for their kids (it’s very pricey)–know anything about it like its effectiveness or validity?) So, anyway, thank you! It’s encouraging to hear.

    My HS reading picks: I taught DD9 with Abeka, although it didn’t take much teaching on my part–I taught her the letter sounds and off she went. I have tried a billion things with DS8, and DS7 has kinda tagged along: “Ordinary Parent’s Guide…”, BOB Books, Abeka, Frank Shaffer books. DS8 is finally catching on (fingers crossed), so I’m using HOP Master Reader to hopefully (fingers crossed again) improve fluency.

  • we’re using ordinary parents guide with our twins. It worked great for them to learn the basic sounds, but once we started putting sounds together, I had one guy take off more than another. I have had to supplement with the Kumon writeable flash cards. It seems that my visual learner actually needed to WRITE the letters in order to understand how they strung together. But even he is getting the hang of it.

    One day when I was really frustrated, I called my dad and asked him to tell me how I learned to read because, like you, I couldn’t remember ever NOT reading. He said that he wasn’t sure, but he did remember that until I could read, I would “read” him all my books and the stories I made up were sometimes better than the actual book.

    So yesterday, my non-reading twin “read” me five of his favorite books. I emailed my dad and then I cried.

    And I totally cried when the first twin read, too. It rocks.

  • I teach in public school now, but I’ve taught K and 1st in private schools. I liked Bob Jones K Reading (you go through the alphabet 3 times, basically: learn to write the letters, learn what sounds they make and learn to read words/word familes with the letters). All my K’ers left reading. I also like Abeka because of the SOLID phonics background through the charts that you built on through second grade. (In public school we use whole language, but I use the Abeka charts for phonics cohesiveness in my class since the phonics at my school is so all-over-the-place.)

  • I’m an older homeschooler and I’ve used Alpha Phonics and 100 Easy Lessons. However I do recommend Ordinary Parents and for those who have a child with Dyslexia I recommend A Workbook for Dyslexics by Cheryl Orlassino

  • I have used so many different things. We are very eclectic over here. But I will say the ones that rise to the top would be Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD and Bob Books.

    We also use the Go for the code series.

  • I like Alpha Phonics combined with Pathway Readers.

  • *Squeal* I LOVE your book lists. Got me hooked on your blog and I made someone spray their drink when I shared the last list. Love it!

    I would think a mermaid is suppose to be pasty as she’s under the sea, um, a lot. Just saying.

    I haven’t used a program. Just taught them the sounds of the letters and then made them sound out the words. Maybe this is why I have that nasty eye tick?

  • We used 100 Easy Lessons with all three of our kids, although 1/3 of the way through the book the lessons are not “easy”. We’d have to split a lesson into a couple days or there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth (from kid or me, depending on the day). I don’t think we ever finished it completely with each child, but it gave them enough to get going into other books. One of the beauties of home schooling is that you can let each child go at his own pace instead of pushing them to keep up and in turn they hate it.

  • Phonics Pathways is what we’ve used. Our first child took off reading really well. Our second child we started expecting similar results but nope! I would practically beat my head against the wall b/c this child wasn’t getting it! But finally it clicked (is now reading this over my shoulder!) Actually reading better than the oldest at the same age.

    I don’t remember learning to read either, but talking to a friend in college she said we learned a mix of whole word and phonics. My husband thinks phonics is the best way! I agree with the commenter above that Dr. Seuss books are wonderful too!! 🙂

  • Hey sweet DeeDee~
    I tried How To Teach Your Child To Read in 20 Easy Lessons, but that did NOT work for us. Then I got a series of readers at Barnes and Noble called “Now I’m Reading”. They are kind of like the Bob Books, except therer are colored pictures, better stories, lots of repitition, and stickers to put in the books for good reading. This plus Explode The Code is how we did it.
    Coincedentally, I also wrote about reading on my blog this week. Look at the one called “A Little Bribery Always Works” to find out my trick for getting boys to read!

  • My just-turned 5-year-old started reading last week. I have not done any “formal” instruction with him, as we’ll technically start Kindergarten in the fall. He learned to read by playing with the Leapster Fridge Phonics set and the Leapster Word Whammer. I, too, nearly cried with joy when he picked up a book last week, sounded out each letter, and then put the sounds together to make the word. He does it with every word, so I wondered if he was saying the sound but missing the meaning. So, I asked him comprehension questions and he could answer each one.

    I kind of feel cheated that I didn’t get to teach him and share in that journey, but it’s easy to get over when I realize I’ve got a Pre-K student who has essentially taught himself how to read!

  • Since I teach Pre Kindergarten, I get to teach 15 lovely children to read every year. It’s one of my greatest joys to see them “get it.” An awesome moment indeed! I love to read, and 2 of my 3 daughters love to read also.
    I teach with the A Beka curriculum which in all truth I hate. For the phonics, it’s awesome, for everything else…not so much. I have to add soooo much to it to make it hands-on and fun. I mean, sheesh, the flashcards are the exact same as when I was in Kindergarten!! They seriously need to update.

  • I have used A Beka for two so far and they have become avid readers. Their phonics is great for teaching reading. The 4 year old, soon to be 5 is already picking up some reading and special sounds due to sitting and watching his siblings dvds with them. We like the dvd program by A Beka. The oldest learned the traditional way using A Beka. We started using the dvds when the oldest was in 2nd grade.

  • I’ve used 100 Easy Lessons and Bob Books, with different results for my two girls. Teaching reading is so difficult, and I’ve learned that you just have to be patient and wait for that moment it all clicks.

  • I am a kindergarten teacher who will be home schooling two of my 5 children this year. I taught school for 14 years taking time off to have children or just as a needed break. Although I have taught many children to read the two children I will be home schooling this year do not read well. We have tried to follow the curriculum that the school has presented, but they do not understand phonics rules and therefore do not read as well as my older children. The older children all went to Christian ABEKA schools. One of the younger children has been in public school because she was born with several medical problems and has a learning disability.

    At 10 almost 11 she is not reading as well as her 7 year old sister. I am going back to basics with both girls and I will teach them ABEKA! I have been reading daily to them. Right now I am reading “Little Women” and “Tumtum & Nutmeg”. My daughter is dying to watch the “Little Women” video, but I am making her wait until we finish the book. I think it is very important for a child to imagine the characters and scenes as well as be able to comprehend what someone else is reading. We are having a great time together. We also have joined the summer library program. I believe that if a child has a good experience rather than be presented with reading as a chore it makes all the difference in the world!