Friday, February 03, 2006

How I Teach a Child to Read

When your child knows most of the sounds of the alphabet and begins to ask you what words mean then he or she is usually ready to begin reading. It is really a very simple process for most children. This method is how I have taught numerous children to read.

"Here we have the key to reading. No meaningless combinations of letters, no cla, cle, cli, clo, clu, no ath, eth, ith, oth, uth, should be presented to him. The child should be taught from the first to regard the printed word as he already regards the spoken word, as the symbol of fact or idea of full of interest." Charlotte Mason

Lesson 1:
Review the alphabet and its sounds with cards that have pictures on them. (C representing cat, etc...)

Lesson 2:
Take up two magnetic letters and make the syllable 'at'

Tell him it is the word we use when we say ' at home,' 'at school.'

Then put b to 'at'- bat; c to 'at' - cat; fat, hat, mat, sat, rat, and so on.

First, let the child say what the word becomes with each initial consonant to 'at,' in order to make hat, pat, cat.

Let the syllables all be actual words which he knows.

Set the words in a row, and let him read them off. (Notice we are teaching words immediately rather than meaningless combinations.)

Teach him the sight word 'the'

Show the sentence: The fat cat sat on the mat. Have the child read it to you. "Wow! you are reading!"

Lesson 3:
Review the fat cat sentence.

Make a new combination with the letters such as 'en.'
'How many words can you make with "en" ?'

Make a few more combinations 'op' etc...

You may choose to read a simple book at this time that has short vowel sounds. Children love it when they have read their first book.

Lesson 4:
Let the long sounds of the vowels be learned in the same way: use the same syllables as before with a final e; thus 'at' becomes 'ate,' and we get late, pate, rate, etc. The child may be told that a in 'rate' is long a; a in 'rat' is short a.

Explain the rule (but call it a TRICK)
When the ‘e’ vowel is at the end of a word, it is quiet and the vowel in the middle of the word says it’s own name.

You may choose to read a simple book at this time that has short and long vowel sounds.

Lesson 5:

At this point, I stop phonic lessons and only teach an occasional phonic 'trick' when we come across it while I listen to my child read aloud from simple readers. I do this for only about two weeks and switch over to living books as soon as possible.

When two vowels go walking the first one does the talking and the second one is quiet.

'gh' is quiet in the middle of a word

I also explain, when we come across sight words, that they are 'rule breakers.' Those pesky critters are always breaking the rule and sound the way they please.

This combination of phonetics and sight words will be the key to success in learning to read.

After successfully reading to mom and dad several readers, introduce a sticker chart. When your child reads 40 living books aloud, she takes the family to a special place (carnival, zoo, etc...)

Transitional easy readers for beginning readers:
Little Bear series
Frog and Toad series
Little Jewel series
Billy and Blaze series

NOTE: This method is not exactly how CM taught reading. Her method intrigues me and I will probably try it with my last child. You can read about it in Vol 1 of her educational series.


  1. previous commentor3.1.07

    Posted by loricarr
    I am currently teaching my 4 year old how to read. We are going very slow. He knows all of his letter and we are working on learning all of the sounds. You make it sound so easy! I am diffently going to try the lessons you suggest!. Thank you so much for posting. I have loved looking through your blog.

  2. Linda!
    This is EXACTLY what I've been pondering on my blog. Thank you for sharing what you do. I'm printing this out to study it!


  3. This is a timely topic for me as well. Peregrine has known his letter sounds for a while, and has recently been putting them together and is quite excited about it. I've been wondering if I should try to use a program to formally teach reading, but my instinct is not to. I also don't want to push him, as he's not quite 4 1/2, but he seems ready. Yesterday he took his little sketch book outside when we were going to plant peas. He informed me that he's written the word 'peas' and sure enough, there it was: PEEZZ!
    I'm going to try some of your ideas, and would also like to read what CM has to say about it.

  4. Linda,

    Thank you for blogging your plans and experiences. We are setting out on a homeschool journey with our boys and Charlotte Mason, and your blog is most informative and inspirational.

    My question:

    Would you please give some examples of the first living books that your children read?

    Also, my son (age 5) CAN read quite well. He's essentially completed your first four lessons. But there are many occasions on which he WILL not (he says he can't). So far, I haven't really pushed it - if he says he can't, we skip it for the day because he is young. I can't exactly force him to read anyway. What would you do in this situation?

  5. Hello Thoughtful Mom,

    After the fourth lesson, my beginning reader will read from some little books I have that are similar to Bob books, but I like them better (they are out of print and more 'living') BUT, and I mean a big BUT... we spend as little time on these books as possible. There are way too many BOB books available in my opinion. They quickly become boring to young children. I skip many of those readers and just have my child read from some of them until he is a little bit more fluent then we immediately go into the book series listed in this post and then other really simple living picture books such as Eric Carle's or Dr. Seuss. I look for pages with very few words on them so that it is not overwhelming. Often we choose books from our preschool shelf. From off the top of my head here are some that I recommend:

    Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
    Guess how much I loveYou? by Sam McBratney
    The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
    Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess
    The Greedy Python by Eric Carle
    The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
    Play with Me by Marie Ets
    Harold and the Purple Crayon
    The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper
    The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle
    Richard Scarry’s First Word Book
    The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
    Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? by Bill Martin Jr.
    Good Night, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

    If my child was balking at reading, I would ask myself the following questions:
    Is he a bit young to be doing this? Should I hold off? Sometimes just a few months makes a huge difference.
    Am I making it too schoolish? It should be like a fun game. You could buddy read and make sure you lavish the praise on him after any little success.
    Are the lessons too long? Just 10 minutes a day is plenty.
    Or is this a habit training matter? Do I need to push him a tiny bit out of his comfort zone so that he will gradually become accustomed to stretching himself daily?

    Since I don't know your situation personally, I can't pinpoint the question and answer. You are the best qualified to do that. Pray for wisdom particularly for this area and I am sure you will know just what to do for your dear son.

    I do hope that helps a little.


  6. An update:

    Thanks for the response - we have many of the books you listed, and he has most of them memorized, but I did take a copy of Little Bear and we buddy-read it - at first one page a night - then two, then three, then four (since it's a good long book broken into four stories). That was the break-through he needed to get past thinking that he couldn't read anything but Bob-type books. Now he's almost done reading The Cat and the Hat to me (2-3 pages a day) and his reading is improving rapidly. I have a copy of The Little Engine that Could that he hasn't heard often, so I think that will be his next book to read to me.

    Thank you for the advice. :) It appears that he just needed reading material that is more interesting - but he thought he couldn't do it.

    I'm off to post another question on your Year One post

  7. Hi
    I wonder if you might be able to help me with teaching a child to read. My son was home with me until 5and a half, we read aloud every day together (or I did I mean) he adores books and we've so many special memories:)
    Then he did one term of school and we knew we should be homeschooling and that was what was right for our son and our family. Years ago, I stumbled across Charlotte Mason and it resonated with me but the Shakespeare and other more experienced homeschoolers didn't rate it too well, and I wasn't confident. When we began homeschooling a year ago - we started off with Sonlight.
    The books we have really enjoyed. However, we bought the reading curriculum and maybe I'm just not at all intelligent but it made no sense to me! I have not used it. At school, they were reading the usual awful first readers - they were cringey - but my son was beginning to read a tiny little but I felt he just memorised what the teacher had told him.
    Then, I swung a little toward the idea he wasn't ready for it yet. Then I tried "teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons" the I became pregnant with our third child and had severe morning sickness and we really jut kept up our Read alouds and devotions, habit training and art etc. at school, the teacher addressed me a number of times regarding her worry that my son wasn't able to climb or swing like the others his age and to be honest that first year at home he has grown in confidence and is climbing, cycling, swimming, swinging and generally more co-ordinate. This to me is progress.
    Then I heard about sing spell read and write. So I've spent some $$ on that.
    EVERYONE puts so much emphasis on reading and my son is still not and I'm beginning to get a complex that I CAN'T teach him!!!
    I wish I'd found your treasure trove before now :}
    But will we ever get past this? I feel homeschoolingus great But I'm failing and its affecting other areas than just reading, yet I see that this method of homeschooling is perfect for us. Am I inconsistent? Can you offer advice or is your consistency something public school teachers (formerly) just Learn I'm feeling quite demoralised at our lack of progress in reading that even when I read this helpful article my mid is saying - "I Cannot do this!!!"