Over the past several weeks I have received several questions asking how I teach reading and what I require as far as reading. So, like a good little homeschool Mommi and blogger…I decided to write a post about it!
NOTE: I am not a professional teacher or reading expert. These are only techniques we use in our house. I am by no means saying this is the only way to teach reading or to encourage faster reading. There are many techniques out there that may work better for your family.
When we began our homeschooling journey over 4 years ago, teaching my child to read was the biggest source of my anxiety!! I mean, if your child can’t read, or can’t read well, they are really working at a disadvantage. And I was absolutely terrified that I wouldn’t be able to teach Mister Bull to read. We started out with some simple phonics reviews, as he had learned his letters and sounds in preschool. I soon realized that he was well past the point of where I was teaching.
So, we started with sight words and putting sounds together. Much to my surprise, he picked it up fairly quickly. By the end of September he read his first full sentence without help!! By October he was reading Level One readers on his own!!! I was so proud!! In fact, I remember crying when he read his first sentence.
From then on, he read everything he could! He would read the signs as we were stopped at red lights or sitting in traffic. He would read the words on commercials as they flashed across the screen. He even begged to get our mail so he could read the outside of our letters as he walked back into the house. He was becoming quite the reader!
So when we started our First Grade readers, I had to decide how much he would read. Would he just read one short story a day or two or three? Would he read for a set amount of time each day? Or would we do something totally different? I decided it was time to bring in the principal’s opinion. So the Hubster and I sat down and talked about it. I already knew that I read faster (much faster) than he did, but what I didn’t know was why. As we talked it became clear why he read slower. He was only ever given a time limit to read, never a set number of pages. So that set the precedent for our reading program. We don’t do a set time limit on reading (i.e. 20 minutes a day), instead we do a set number of pages per day. Let me explain more.
Why we don’t do time limits:
* First of all, I am probably going to get a lot of haters for this, but that’s why it’s my opinion! I disagree with setting time limits. Every single child – and person for that matter – reads at a different speed. And yes, that is okay. However, if the goal is foster better reading skills then we need to encourage that. And the only way to do that is by making them read a set number of pages, regardless of how long it takes them. The more they read those set numbers of pages, the more their reading will improve and as a result the faster they will get. NOTE: I am not trying to teach them to be speed-readers, just better more fluent readers.
* We started out with time limits. I started him with 15 minutes a day once he was reading fluently. Most of the time he read aloud to me as I nursed the baby or did the dishes. However, this quickly proved to be a HUGE problem. Mister Bull would watch the clock – LITERALLY!!! He would pause his reading and say, “I only have 5 more minutes of reading and then I’m done. Right Mom?” The time limit was clearly not going to work with him.
* As I mentioned before, setting a time limit does not allow children to grow and strengthen their reading abilities. In fact, in many cases, it hinders them. I know this from experience. I have family members with dyslexia and asking them to read for only 20 minutes a day would simply not help them get better. They read slower than I do, but they can improve!! If they are only told to read 20 minutes per day, they may only read 12 pages, while I could read 30-35 pages. See the problem? However, I don’t believe all hope is lost and that all people with dyslexia (or any other learning disability) have to be slow readers!!! If they are told to read 20 pages a day versus 20 minutes a day, over time they will get faster and will begin to improve. The more they read, the more proficient they will become. In fact, the Hubster’s reading has drastically improved over the last several years as he’s begun reading more throughout the day.
What we do instead:
* Mister Bull (our only reader at this point) has a set number of pages he needs to read daily. He is not a fan of reading, mostly because he’s the type of kid that wants to know the ending first! He’s more interested in how things work than the process – at least at this point. I’m hoping this changes as we get more into Science and as he matures. Below is the basic chart we have followed up to this point.
**When he was still learning to read and still sounding out most words, we did 15 read-aloud pages per day.
**When he became more fluent in his reading, I allowed him to read alone in his room (although I would peek in periodically and ask him to read some to me, just to check in). At this point he was asked to read 20 pages per day. This lasted through 1st grade.
**In 2nd grade I increased his daily reading to 30 pages per day.
**This year, in 3rd grade, his daily reading is 40 pages per day.
Although these are the required number of pages for his daily reading, I do encourage him to read more!!! When I have the time, I love reading! I can get sucked into a good book in no time! In fact, I read the Twilight series in less than 4 days!!! (To be fair, I was on bed rest with our 3rd baby at the time!) However, I have been known to devour a John Grisham novel in a matter of days!! I haven’t had the pleasure of reading like this in a while, but I am about to embark on a book review that has already captured my attention!!! So look for me in 3-4 days!!! Hey…I have 4 kids now, it takes me a little longer! lol
What are the benefits of this structure?
***More proficient reading
***Faster reading (over time)
Some might ask, “Does this foster a love of reading, rather than making it an obligation?” Yes and no. As of right now, I don’t believe everyone will have a love of reading. In fact, in my own life I’m quite fickle about it. While I love to read a good book, I am not a “bookworm.” Do I want my children to have a love of reading – absolutely!! But, for now, we are working with Mister Bull where he is. On the other hand, my three younger children love reading time with Mommi – or anyone else for that matter!!! I am convinced that over time, Mister Bull will learn to love reading and may even at some point enjoy reading books. For now I encourage him to read books that interest him – mysteries, science-related books (his favorite magazine is Popular Mechanics and his Lego magazine) and anything else he finds fascinating at the time (with parental approval).
Do you have a slow reader? What are your tips for helping them read faster?