never read anything on teaching children to read, so I'm sure I took
hard route. I'm not sure now that I want to go back and read about the
correct way to do it--I might just kick myself for how much time I
If you're getting ready to teach your youngun to read, I hope my
is helpful to you. The process I describe below is not a quick and easy
one. Until someone invents learning-enhancing wetware (and I'm not sure
I would trust it if they did), there won't be an easy way to do it.
When I decided
my son, I thought that teaching him to read would be easy. But
it finally came time to do it, I couldn't even figure out how to begin.
I would say, "A
sounds like ay" and my son would give me a blank look.
So I tried a
approach. "Cat starts with C." Another blank look.
that I was skipping something. It took thousands of years for the human
race to move from pictograms to a phonetic alphabet, and I was trying
get my son to do it in a single step. The key was to find a letter that
looked like the sound it represented. I picked out two letters, B
and S. B looks a bit like a bumble bee, and S
a bit like a snake. Once we got past the initial hurtle of letter
sound, the process became almost as easy as I always thought it should
My son is
still only reading
simple words, but now that he understands the concept, we are moving
more quickly than he ever could in a classroom environment.
summary of the
steps I've used so far and the steps I plan to use over the next few
This is the point
at right now. I suspect from here on reading and writing practice and
drills will be our staple. Eventually I may investigate methods for
scanning and speed reading to small children, but for now, just the
- Pick a
like it sounds. S is pretty obvious to most toddlers: it looks
a snake which makes the sound sssssss. Show your child a card
the letter S and a picture of a snake in a pose that emphasizes
the resemblance between the two. Then tell the child that whenever he
this letter, he should make a sssssss noise just like a snake.
about his progress!
Have him go wake up mom to tell her what S sounds like.
- Once your
child has the S
down, move onto another letter. If you can find one that looks like it
sounds all the better, but it's not a huge leap for the child to
that a Z makes a zzzzzzz sound just like the S
a sssssss sound. Once you've got two letters, the rest should
- Jump up
down and clap!
Have him call his aunt and tell her what Z sounds like.
- Have your
the alphabet, using the alphabet song and pictures of objects which
with the most common sound for each letter. In other words, don't pick
an object that starts with the ä sound, like ark, for A.
Pick apple or ant or axe. Don't pick cent. Pick cat or comb or
"Hooray!" and call
grandma so he can sing the alphabet song for her.
- Once your
child knows the
sounds of enough letters, have him start reading a few three-letter
Cat and dog are obvious choices. Cat is a better choice because of how
many other words sound just like it. Do a few words yourself to show
what you're looking for. Write C-A-T in big, bold letters, then
each letter individually several times. Once you've pronounced each one
and your child understands what you did, pronounce them all together,
distinctively, several times, slowly shortening the gap between them
you are no longer pronouncing letters, but saying the word. Your
should sound something like this:
realizes what you
are doing, get him to read the same word, then another word with only a
single letter changed. Don't use a lot of different sounding words, and
stay away from diphthongs. Try cap or rat.
- Do a jig
and give him a big
the general concept of reading, get him to reverse the process. Give
a word and have him tell you how to spell it. Make sure you only pick
words that are spelled exactly as they sound: cat, hat,
rat, mug, rug, hug.
wake up mom
- Now it's
to move up
to four letter words with adjacent consonants. (No! Not those four
words!) This is a pretty easy step as long as you pick simple words
are spelled the way they sound: snag, trap, snip.
- Have a
to present your child with a colorful certificate. Make sure it looks
The grander the better. Use ribbons and foil seals and whatever else he
might think is cool.
- Using a
of the alphabet,
point at a letter and have your child make the appropriate sound. One
at a time, introduce alternate pronunciations, so that when you point
your child says ay, a, ah. The same day that
a new sound for a letter, have your child practice reading and spelling
words that use that sound: cot, hot, dog, log.
You are awesome!
got a real bone to pick with that William of Normandy. Letter
will mostly just have to be memorized. I started with th since
so common. You can't hardly get through a single sentence without it.
two vowels together, like oy and au, are called a
What do you call two consonants that make a single sound?)
P.S. I tend
with the convention of using the masculine as a generic pronoun. It's
and everyone knows what I mean. English is complicated enough without
always changing the rules.