Homeschool Reading That's Easy, Effective and Economical!

Reading is probably the most highly concentrated topic of a child's education, but teaching it to your child doesn't have to be some great mystery. Learn all about how to follow an easy, effective and economical plan with your kids right at home!  

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I'm up on my soapbox again today over at Pam Barnhill's site, discussing Reading Readiness and why it's so important not to push things and to follow your child's leading in this area.

But at some point, your child will be ready to read and you'll probably be looking for ways to do this in the easiest, most effective, and most economical manner.

So I'm here to share all my insider tips with you - not that these ideas are the only way to go about things, but after teaching hundreds of kids to read in the classroom, I do feel like keeping things simple and frugal are the best suggestions for a homeschooling family to follow.

First of all, I feel the most important thing to focus on is to promote a love of reading in your child. If you've just brought home that new bundle of joy, then it's not too early to begin these steps, but if even you've got an older child, don't be afraid to jump right in and share the love of books with them, starting now:

1. First, read to your child. All the time - even as a baby - read whatever you want, along with a few sturdy board books.  It's something you can do during all that boring baby time (You know, before they start to smile and make you realize they really do love you?) and better than vegging out in front of the tv or hanging out with your phone in your hand.

2. Treat books as toys. Play with them, talk about them, read them. If you have more books than toys, they'll be what are played with often. Will some books be gummed to death and ripped and bent and broken? You bet. But isn't that a small price to pay to see a love of reading born? Not entirely comfortable reading aloud yet? Check out this post on Herding Cats to turn yourself into a pro in no time!

3.  Introduce the alphabet.

     a.  Sing a version of the alphabet song similar to this one from the start (like while changing that newborn's diaper), along with my vowel song.

My Vowel Song (sung to tune of Frere Jacques - only sing part in bold type)
A says a-a (short a sound, like in apple)
E says e-e (short e sound, like in elephant)
I says i, i-i-i (short i sound, like in igloo)
O says o-o (short o sound, like in octopus)
U says u-u (short u sound, like in umbrella)
I know my vowels. A-E-I-O-U. (say the long sounds/letter names for this)

     b. Post these phonics cards around (they're what I used when I sang my alphabet song to Gv, similar to the Starfall song above, but with the words that matched these cards) - or stick them in a cheap album for your child to flip through for fun and to get familiar with. Feel free to play a memory-matching game with them, but by all means, don't turn them into flash cards or drill your child with them! 

     c. Watch the videos and fun songs from my Best Alphabet Videos Post.

     d. Invest in a good alphabet puzzle and set of magnet letters to play with

     e. Pick up a few alphabet books (See a list of our favorites on this Latticed Learning Resource post.)

     f. Do a few letter crafts or activities for fun and only if your child enjoys that type of thing (There are a zillion ideas out there for these, just Google "letter of the day activities" and you should find all you need.)

Now, pretty much all those things are fine to do without your child's interest (at least through the first alphabet item), but everything after that point definitely is something you want to do only when your child shows an interest.

How will you know they have an interest?  They'll say, "I want to read!" or "Let me read you this book" (and then proceed to "read" you some story).  They'll sit around and not just flip through the pages of a book devouring the pictures, but will begin to narrate a story that actually could make sense.

They'll be able to sit and listen to you read books and read books and read'll even be able to start a read-aloud (like from one of these anthologies or even one of these classics) and have them follow it and answer questions.

4. Now you can slowly start to introduce sight words and matching readers. I know people get firmly entrenched in one camp or another with reading (whole-language or phonics), but I feel it's silly to choose and better to get the best of both worlds. 

Beginning with an introduction to sight words means your child will immediately feel the rush of reading something all on their own, which is great for their motivation. Plus, once children can read the first 100 words (as compiled by Fry), they can read 50% of any book!

     a. First, download your list of Fry's First 100 Words here.

You can use this sheet to highlight the words your child knows, for your records.

     b. Take the first five words and write them on separate index cards, in different-colored bold marker. Show them to your child, read them, use them in a sentence, then post them up on a wall or somewhere they'll be seen fairly often. As with the phonics cards, these are not to be used as flash cards, but just to add to your "print-rich environment." You might find, however, that your child makes up his or her own games to play with these cards, like asking you to make another set to play memory with, asking you to hide the words for her to find around the house, or making the words to match the cards out of magnet letters or wooden blocks.

We write our words in rainbow colors, of course!

     c. Print out some matching sight-word readers for free from one of these sites:

                    * Measured Mom (See "sight word readers" and do not get bogged down in all the adorableness she has to offer on her site. Our goal is to keep things simple and while all of her amazing activities are wonderful for eating up time in a classroom, we're not interested in doing more than is necessary with our kids here at home!)

I print the books out at a reduced size so that I use less ink and paper.

                    * Reading A-Z (This site is not free, however you can try a free trial month and print out a limited number of books for free - and repeat the process until you run out of new email addresses)

You can print these in color or black and white. Sometimes my students enjoyed taking them home to color, as well as read.

          d. Repeat this process every couple of weeks or so, depending on how quickly he learns the new words. Feel free to begin taking down an old word or two and replacing them with new ones every week, but definitely don't do more than a new set a week!

5. After a few months of sight word work, begin to introduce some basic phonics.

          a. Start with word families and then expand from there over time. Do not rush the pace of this, unless your child is begging for new books each week. 

           b. My favorite free resource for this is Progressive Phonics.

Take your time going through these books. It's better to re-read the same story a few times in a row before moving on, to help with fluency.

           c. If you are looking for additional books to print for your child to practice reading (only if they show an interest!), then you can find others at these sites:

                             * Measured Mom (See "phonics books")

You can easily see which skills are being targeted by each book.

                             * This Reading Mama (Word family readers)

Cute graphics make these books more appealing.

                              * Reading A-Z (Decodable books)

You do not need to print out all the lessons and books for each level. Focus on only the main word family books and nothing else.

6. Before long, you'll find that you've got a reader on your hands! Take plenty of trips to the library to find simple books she can read on her own or with your help. Reading A-Z also has a great selection of leveled readers you can print - covering both fiction and non-fiction, in case you need something to tide you over until the next library visit.

Besides general leveled readers in both fiction and nonfiction, this site has several cute series to print, too - like these, called "The Monsters."

7.  Throughout this whole process, keep reading to your child.  I mean it.  Like until they're out of the house and off and married, if they'll let you. If you haven't read it already, be sure to check out The Read-Aloud Handbook, which really helps you understand what a difference this can make.  Besides, it's a great tradition to enjoy as a family -- A Family of Readers!

Want more great resources to help your little one learn to read at home? Check on my posts on The Ultimate Guide to Doing Preschool at Home (Everything you need to get started!) and Top Learning Tools: Reading Resource Edition.

Do you have a little one who has yet to enter the reading years, or have you been there, done that and got the tshirt to prove it? I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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