Our youngest child has gone from learning her letters and their sounds to reading easy beginner books (Hop on Pop
, etc.) to suddenly reading much more difficult chapter books. I'm at a loss to explain how she suddenly made so much progress; it seems like magic or a huge developmental leap. With years of reading exposure--I'm convinced any kind of repeated, basic exposure would have worked--she was simply developmentally ready to read. From what I hear, that's how it happens for most kids. But I should tell you about the exceptions, because other parents can learn from our experience.
Our two oldest kids, OTOH, have some degree of dyslexia--research shows that 20% of the population has this--so reading didn't come early or easily for them. I wish I had known how to recognize the signs of dyslexia earlier (as early as age 5), and I wish I'd known that because my BIL is dyslexic, this greatly increased the chances that my children might be. (Research shows that there is a strong genetic link.) Before we recognized the dyslexia, I tried a lot of things with our oldest ds, including unschooling (first), HOP (briefly), 100EZ Lessons, readers, but for awhile his progress was very slow and his spelling was awful. He did not choose to pick up books and read them on his own like other children. Then suddenly, just about or before age 10, something seemed to click and he read Tom Sawyer
and all the Harry Potter
books. I had also learned about Orton-Gillingham phonograms (for an example, see http://www.questforlearning.com/phonograms.htm
) and O-G spelling rules, and familiarizing ds with these really helped him with spelling. It could be that his reading got better, in part, because of O-G, or that much of it was developmental; he tests as gifted in some areas, so he might have learned to compensate. His dyslexia is probably mild; more severe dyslexics usually need more rote instruction.
Our middle dd was a lot like ds at first--she had trouble at first remembering or recognizing word families and non-phonetic words, and the progress seemed very slow to me. I already knew from ds that things like HOP wouldn't work for dd, but we still did not recognize the need for rote O-G instruction early (and, let's face it, rote instruction can be boring for both child and parent!). We did begin to incorporate O-G instruction earlier for her (she is almost 3 1/2 years younger than ds), but I did not do it on a very frequent or regular basis. As a relaxed homeschooler, I kept thinking that something would suddenly click for her as well. But she is now 10, and she is still struggling with spelling and rarely choosing to read on her own, so we began to implement more regular (albeit mercifully brief) O-G instruction. It seems to be helping her a lot. For us, the program All About Spelling
--while a spelling program and not strictly a reading program--is very user friendly, and it's not just for dyslexic children. Our youngest (age 7) sits in on the lessons and benefits from the phonograms and spelling rules as well. Some people say that dyslexic children instructed in O-G often become more knowledgeable about spelling rules than other "normal" school-instructed children. (For e.g., I found spelling easy, but before O-G I didn't know many of the reasons for spelling words the way we do. So I have been enlightened!)
Orton-Gillingham is strongly backed by research; not every spelling and learning-to-read method is.
Please excuse the lengthy post. I just hope this helps parents with children who fall among the 20% who do not learn to read virtually automatically.