Helping a 4yo learn to read (per their request) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 02-12-2012, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
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My 4y2m old doesn't know how to read.  We've taken an unschool approach to academics, and haven't "taught" her anything.  She has learned everything from the world around her.  I recently bought myself and the kids some books at the thrift store.. some really neat ones too.  I got an older pictorial dictionary set for the girls for when they're older.. it's a couple of decades old.  My grandma had something like it and I remember being a kid just paging through it and learning about everything.. I would spend hours reading the dictionary and encyclopedias!

As with all of our books, they are kept within reach so the girls have easy access to page through them.  DD fell in love with them and their illustrations.  She asked me what the letters next to the pictures said, and I told her that the words represent what the picture was.  She was really intrigued.. and has asked me to help her learn to read books on her own.  I explained to her that it could take some time to learn all of the sounds and how they work but we could certainly take some time out of each day to do so.


She already knows all of her letters.. she had a period when she was around 18 months where she wanted to know what EVERYTHING was.. so she memorized what they all were.


Today we worked on A, B, and C. and the sounds that they made.  I gathered a few toys of hers (toy apple , toy ball, toy car, for example) and showed her the sounds that they made.  We then talked about other words that started with sounds like that.  At first she didn't have the foggiest idea as to what I meant by the sound the word began with.. but she caught on and was very interested.  

She wants to learn more tomorrow... do I just go over the letters we already did?  Do I introduce the sounds of different letters?  How slow or fast do we take this?



She's just giddy right now.  She ran out of the bathroom and said, "Mama, guess what?! B-b-butterfly!  Butterfly is a buh sound B word!"  and she's now looking through her current favorite book (Corduroy) and picking out the words that start with A, B, and C.  I'm happy to see her in a good mood...


I don't want to make it too hard for her.  She's the persistent type, and even if she gets stuck she'll keep at it, even if frustrated.  The key to unschooling is to go at their pace and listen to them.. but I'm kinda worried she could take it too far and be too hard on herself. The same thing happened recently with pedaling a bike.  She has sensory issues, possible Aspergers (though i'm not so sure about that anymore), and motor planning delays.  With the motor planning delays, pedaling a bike was incredibly hard for her to grasp- there was crying and fits of rage, but her determination was just in your face!  She eventually got it because of her drive to learn.


She rarely says "I can't" (usually only at clean up time lol.gif )  so how do I follow her lead?  Advice?  Anyone have a child similar or a similar (or just general) experience? Tips?  Thanks!

Funny.. I'm so concerned about doing this "right" but there really is no "right" way, just "her way", which is the "right" way lol.gif

Me (27) DW (28) DD1 (9) DD2 (7) DD 3 (4)
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#2 of 10 Old 02-12-2012, 06:18 PM
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I am new to the idea of unschooling, but I think that you could keep going forward with the letters, but maybe after the initial 3 for that day (or whatever period) possibly just introduce one letter at a time so that she doesn't get overwhelmed. She might be able to handle 1 or 2 new letters, but going from 3 to 6 might be much. Use these next few days and feel it out. She might be a kid that benefits from learning all the letters at once and then constantly going over the whole thing instead of a little at a time. And if she gets overwhelmed, so be it, just backtrack.

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#3 of 10 Old 02-12-2012, 07:51 PM
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If you're okay on screen time, you could have her do They're a free, well-respected phonics/reading website. (They have recently added extra stuff you can pay for, but all the old stuff is still free.)


Our son knows his letter sounds (combo from us and from starfall.) However, he's apprehensive to read. I just got Happy Phonics You play games and learn phonics/reading skills. So far he's liking that.

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#4 of 10 Old 08-02-2012, 02:18 PM
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We read a lot and her first book she ever read to me was one of the simple BOB books.

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#5 of 10 Old 08-09-2012, 09:17 AM
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I like Starfall, as well. While a four year old may want to read, I find that many four year olds are not ready to read, even if they know their letter sounds, even if they have sight words, for a while, and when that clicks can really vary. I made sure I had early readers (Bob books) around and told my kid the sounds letters make fairly early on, but reading didn't click for her until she was almost five. We also played rhyming games, and I spy games with letter sounds.

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#6 of 10 Old 08-18-2012, 04:30 PM
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We like starfall too. And also Leap Frog videos. Those help as well.

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#7 of 10 Old 08-19-2012, 05:08 PM
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Lots of great suggestions here already, and WindyCityMom, it seems that you are already doing so well! So, I just delighted in your post, like having a little glimpse into your life with your little girl, and only then realised there was a question. :) 


I have a four yr old, too, and he wants to read as well. With him and the three older children, I sat down with a deck of alphabet cards (no pictures, just letters, and the majuscule and minuscule were not on the same card, so each letter is viewed twice) as per their requests that I help them learn how to sound out words. I handmade a set of common phonetic endings using the vowels, so each card had one of the following, with a space the size of the alphabet cards to fit in front of the endings: ab, ad, ag, ah, al, am, an, etc... and then the same with each vowel. So, the children say the sound of the alphabet card letter and then begin to say it with the endings afterward. I did this twice through with each of them, and then they just began reading on their own. By the time we've gone through the alphabet twice, they've sounded out a lot of word-bits! What's that...? 104 letter cards (52 from A-z) multiplied by the 30 or so endings cards... That's quite a few repetitions! 


Presently, my four yr old hasn't sat through the whole deck (I think J was his limit, but it was his first time through), but he also learns very differently, so I am not sure if this will be his preferred method anyway. Also, he is very shy to show progress, so every now and then, he reads a word aloud from a sign or a book, which is beyond the level of our alphabet card system, so he's learning it all somehow in his own way, but we don't see a linear progression, that's for sure. For him, I suspect there will have to be some obvious utility for reading that will inspire him into getting it all in order, like writing his own story, or a letter, or googling something on his own. He doesn't really go in for the learning for learning's sake idea; it has to have some purpose beyond it or it has to be something truly spectacular in its own right, for him to give it his attention.


I also spent countless hours writing words that my children requested, and letter-by-letter spellings for words they wanted to write on their own. They used writing to learn reading for the most part, I think. Their forays into spelling and writing came before their fluency in reading (I'm referring to the three older ones, who are fluent), but overall, it was very rapid once they were ready and seeking understanding on their own.


Anyway, four is so young still, and your little girl seems to really know what she wants and you are willing and able to be with her in all of it, so all there is to say, from me, is thank you for sharing this little tidbit of your experience with us; I smiled the whole way through your post. :)


I'm interested to read about what has inspired other children in decoding the written language.

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#8 of 10 Old 08-21-2012, 06:29 AM
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Yes I am doing start fall with my d aughter too. we just started and it is working great., she finished her letter and the vowels in one day and started reading the easy reader books same day,

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#9 of 10 Old 08-21-2012, 08:58 AM
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WindyCityMom, interested in posting an update? Did your dd's interest in learning to read continue? What did you end up doing with her? How did she react to what you did, and how did she direct the process? My own experience with young unschoolers learning to read is that it proceeds very much in fits and starts with an initial burst of enthusiasm, dramatic progress for a time, then a period of quiescence ... and eventually a new burst of progress that carries them almost or entirely to fluency. Interested in hearing how it's panning out in your home...



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#10 of 10 Old 09-03-2012, 01:35 AM
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When DD started to learn to read, I got tons of cute letter cards. They are cute and effective. Letter biscuit was also helpfull.


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