I’m going to be very real with you. For the first years of our home schooling journey, this question rang like a bell in my head. Every day it whirled around, feeling confusion, and frustration. I doubted my ability to teach my children to read and this belief effect my ability to find the answers.
A friend of mine suggested I get a book by Daniel Pennac, “The rights of the reader.” I had never read a book like this before. Daniel explained how reading has transformed over the years. We’ve turned it into a chore, taking almost all the joy out of reading. He talks about the rights of a reader, to read when they are ready, the right to not read, the right to not finish a book, the right to read a book over and over again, the right to read anything you desire, the right to read anywhere, the right to read out loud, and the right to read quietly.
This book opened up a window in my mind. It was the first step in beginning to transform my ideas of what reading is and how it has to look. It also began to clear up the insecurities I had, when it came to my ability to teach reading to our kids.
There was one tip he gave and it made so much sense to me. “Read to your kids, read to your kids, read to your kids,” say it over and over again like a mantra. This is the best way to not only teach your kids to read, but most importantly to help them open up and love reading. I took his advice.
It’s hard to say when reading started happening for each of our kids. It happened in steps, one thing building on the next, until suddenly they were reading. Sometimes I wonder if all that work I put in really caused the reading to happen, or if they picked it up on their own. I’m sure it must be a combination of the two.
This may shock some of you, but our oldest daughter didn’t read fluently until age 11. When she was 4, we were told that she had challenges learning, and had speech delay, but I didn't give that diagnoses much attention. To some people this may seam far too old. But I’ve heard countless stories such as this. She just wasn’t ready to read yet and after trying many methods to get her to read, and after two Tudors, I had to surrender to the fact that she had her own timing. Now she reads more than anyone in the house and I see that all my endless worrying was pointless, a very valuable lesson.
At the beginning of this summer our three kids decided they wanted to all sleep in the living room. It was a kind of slumber party among the three of them. I loved it because each night we all laid on the couch and took turns reading. There were moments when each of them were reading to me, with all of them surrounding me on the couch, that felt magical. Hearing them all read to me was music to my ears.
Our kids are 7, 12, and 15 currently. It goes to show you that no matter how old someone is, everyone loves to cuddle up with a good book, or have a story read to them before bed time.
So how do you teach a child to read? Well, there are many methods. I personally love the phonics method. But the best advice I could give is to read to your kids. Snuggle up with them and let them pick what ever book they want, even if it’s a comic book, a children book, a chapter book, or all of the above. I always say, “It doesn’t matter what they are reading, as long as they are reading.”
Siri Shakti Ardebili